Yves Saint Laurent's art collection up for auction

PARIS (Reuters) - The private art collection of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge, has been put up for auction and will be sold in February 2009, auction house Christie’s said on Wednesday.

Saint Laurent, one of the leading figures in 20th-century French fashion, died in Paris in June at the age of 71.

Christie’s, which will organize the auction in partnership with auction house Pierre Berge and Associates, said it would announce the items to be sold at the end of September.

The auction house declined to estimate how much the collection was likely to fetch until those items had been identified, but experts have put the figure between 300 and 500 million euros, (235.6 million-392.6 million pounds).

Sources close to Christie’s said the figure was “not wrong.”

French daily Le Figaro said the collection features several hundred pieces, including Renaissance jewellery, paintings by masters such as Picasso and Matisse, and manuscripts of the works of French authors Gustave Flaubert and Andre Gide.

Berge, who had amassed the collection with Saint Laurent over a period of almost 40 years, told Le Figaro he “couldn’t carry out the sale until after his (Saint Laurent’s) death,” adding that “the page has turned.”

Antique dealer Alexis Kugel, who told Le Figaro his relation with the collectors was the closest a dealer could have with his clients, said: “For Yves Saint Laurent art was a vital need, indispensable for his inspiration, like water to survive. It soothed his depressive character.”