Peter York: At home with YSL

The Way We Live Now
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The Independent Online

There is an interior style we intellectuals and design policy wonks know as Haut Euro Pooftastic, which really takes the biscuit. It's the style of very rich hyper-civilised European art-literate gay collectors now in their 70s and 80s. They have, or had, masses of stuff, most of it museum quality.

I'm thinking of men like Yves St Laurent (it's his Paris apartment, right), who died last year at 71, and his business partner/former boyfriend Pierre Bergé – or YSL's contemporary Karl Lagerfeld, or Rudolph Nureyev (whose Paris flat was full of expensive things, especially Old Masters and 19th-century paintings of whopping great muscular men). Lagerfeld went Modern at the same time as he got thin, but that generation generally built Baroque refuges against the world, when gay men kept the faith.

St Laurent was talented, hard-working but legendarily fragile. As he became richer, iller and more reclusive, his houses became chock-full. Now Bergé, who's 78, is selling the lot at Christie's in Paris. He says it became "meaningless" after St Laurent died. They were lovers for 18 years from 1958 until 1976, but friends and business partners ever after, and Bergé obviously still feels it intensely because the proceeds – estimated to be round the thick end of £300m – will go to charity.

Auctions like this one – and there aren't many with this astonishing range and quality – are a bit like Paris couture shows. They attract glamorous friends who have to be seated, and rich people who'll pay a premium for the provenance.

This is just one side of one room, and it's not as overpowering as some of the others. The smart wooden box is simple, Millionaire Modern with no cornices or Aubusson. But it's still so full you'd have to pick your way round carefully. And every flat surface is so rafted with inexplicable things you couldn't put a book down anywhere, let alone a tray of coffee. There is – there has to be – a pair of huge and extraordinary Haut Deco vases (by Dunand), a tendency to the Baroque in the hefty bronze and parcel-gilt and silver-gilt knick-knacks – and, above all, important 20th-century pictures on the two walls we can see. And you could have a competition to count the classical representations of lightly clothed men.

The auction is at The Grand Palais, Paris, 23-25 February, details at christies.com

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