The Elizabeth Taylor exhibit at Christies closed on Sunday. It’s hard to keep yourself from shedding at least one crystal tear when picturing the lights going out over the Bulgari suites, the lavender leather-bounded scripts, the Taj Mahal diamond, the psychedelic Pucci.
There was a close-to-perfect re-creation of her accessories closet, with a good fraction of Taylor’s bags and shoes inside (one would be hard pressed to believe that the entirety of any one of her closets could fit into just one of Christie’s single, giant rooms). One floor was taken up solely by her jewels, the next floor housing memorabilia and an extensive collection of fashion. There was home décor, costumes from movies and plays, letters, books, and priceless art. Every thinkable designer was represented in the fashion mix—from those you’ve never heard of to those who live on in a sartorial Mount Olympus.
It was hard, at first, to move past the pervading sense of excess and materialism that loomed in the air at the exhibit. But rather than a glitzy portrait of a woman who had too much, a softer one emerged. It was the portrait of a very successful woman who, though she was able to provide for herself, was adored and very much taken care of by every man in the world—from lovers to friends to jewelers to designers. And the very gifted curators at Christie’s made surprisingly clear the fact that their reasons for adoring her were simple and unadulterated: she was wildly intelligent, intensely eclectic, and loving. There was a breadcrumb trail left by Taylor’s inner-child that laced its way through the collection. One could notice a love of animals (she had a thing for monkeys and tigers), a fondness for matchy-matchy suits. And who could resist the set of Louis Vuitton luggage with a big, purple tag reading “MINE!” tied to every piece?
One of the exhibit’s biggest draws was the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond. She wore the 33.19-carat Asscher-cut, potentially flawless diamond ring nearly every day. But diamonds weren’t this girl’s best friend. No, for friends she had Valentino, Versace, Malcolm Forbes (who famously presented her with a set of paper jewels). And diamonds weren’t her lovers, either—we all know who her lovers were, and they were very much living and breathing. Instead, it seems that for Taylor diamonds and rubies and sapphires and pearls struck the perfect balance between friend and lover, something it seems she never found completely in a man.
It’s a hefty order for human warmth, joy, and talent to outshine a collection as giant as the one displayed at Christie’s. But it was most definitely Taylor’s human warmth that took center stage at the exhibit, and undoubtedly the auction as well. Last evening, the first night of the auction at Christie’s, smashed expectations when it took in nearly $116 million. It broke the world record for a private collection of jewels.
A portion of the profits from the exhibit, as well as a select part of the collection which is being auctioned on a charity site online, will go to The Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation.