Arts & Culture

An Upcoming Auction of Elton John’s Treasures Is a Love Letter to Atlanta

At his last concert in Atlanta, the venerated musician bid his home city of three decades goodbye, saying, “I will take you with me in my heart.” Now, fans can take a piece of John with them as his iconic collection comes up for auction

A photo of young Elton John in a white suit and hat holding a staff by a piano


Photographer Terry O'Neill's portrait of the singer from 1974 is up for auction.

As a young pop star, Sir Elton John never considered photography a serious art form because he was constantly on the flashing end of the camera. But when the newly sober singer moved to Atlanta in 1991, he began to see the medium with fresh eyes. Under the guidance of a local gallerist, Jane Jackson of Jackson Fine Art, John began to amass a serious art collection, one that quickly outgrew his 2,500-square-foot condo in the Park Place building of Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. So he did what any true art collector would do and acquired the neighboring units. 

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The resulting residence was an amalgam of six connected units “full of things that I loved, mementos from everywhere in the world, things that gave me inspiration every day,” as John told Christie’s, which is preparing to sell many of those treasures in an upcoming auction, “Goodbye Peachtree Road” (February 9–21). It’s fair to say the inspiration worked: John wrote his twenty-seventh album, Peachtree Road, and the music for Broadway’s Billy Elliot and Aida, at a Yamaha piano (lot 10) in this condo.

Besides being a feast for the eyes, the Christie’s auction tells the story of the musician’s thirty years in Atlanta, where he was charmed by the vibrant art scene and Southern hospitality. There’s Dazzle, an original Butterfield horse sculpture bought at a local gallery, which was lifted into his two-story salon via crane (lot 32). There are two Braves baseball jackets and a baseball jersey (lot 321) customized for John, a die-hard fan. And there’s the 1990 Bentley Continental (lot 49) in which John caused “quite a stir” cruising around town. “The balmy Atlanta weather and the sweet smell of the magnolias were the perfect accompaniments for Southern roof-down driving,” he told Christie’s.

John enjoyed a close friendship with Gianni Versace, so it is no surprise that the Christie’s collection boasts hundreds of individually printed silk shirts (the closet at Peachtree Road was lined with them) as well as a set of kaleidoscopic velvet chairs upholstered by the designer (lot 45). Bright costume pieces such as a neon satin tailcoat (lot 307) and many pairs of John’s unmistakable signature sunglasses are among the accoutrements up for sale. 

Among the collection’s notable photographs—featuring works from Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, and Diane Arbus—is a variation on Richard Avedon’s widely known work for Harper’s Bazaar magazine, Dovima with Elephants, with the original notes in red crayon on the verso (lot 42). Robert Frank’s portrait of a woman and child (lot 179) was snapped in Charleston, South Carolina, as part of his series The Americans.

The spread of jewelry is full of standout pieces, including a leopard watch John called one of his favorites (lot 9), but this author’s eye is on a charming globe necklace (lot 20) with diamonds marking each city around the world where John resided, including Atlanta. See that and more highlights from the auction below. 

A sculpture of a horse made of steel

John bought this steel sculpture by Deborah Butterfield, titled Dazzle, from Atlanta’s Fay Gold Gallery in 1995. Estimated $200,000–$300,000.

A blue, pink, and green satin stage costume with a cape

This circa-1971 beaded satin ensemble is one of John’s earliest custom stage costumes. Estimated $8,000–$12,000.

A vintage black and white photo of a woman holding a baby

Robert Frank’s Charleston, South Carolina, 1955, is part of the photographer’s seminal 1958 series The Americans. Estimated $150,000–$250,000.

An Atlanta Braves jersey

The Christie’s collection includes two Atlanta Braves baseball jackets and a jersey (with Elton John, 1 on the back). Estimated $600–$800.

A sapphire and diamond gold necklace

This sapphire and diamond pendant necklace features five diamonds set around the globe in the cities where John resided: London, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Venice, and Nice. Estimated $15,000–$20,000.

A leopard print rolex

This 2001-made, leopard-print Rolex features 18-karat gold, orange sapphires, and diamonds. Estimated $40,000–$60.000.

A photo of young Elton John in a white suit and hat holding a staff by a piano

Photographer Terry O’Neill documented John’s career in thousands of photographs—including Elton John (Album Cover Variant), 1974—over the years. Estimated $6,000–$8,000.

Seven silk shirts on a bar

These seven silk shirts almost certainly originated from the Gianni Versace 1993 Spring/Summer Signature collection. Estimated $4,000–$6,000.

Velvet printed armchairs in rich colors

These nineteenth-century Italian cream-painted and parcel-gilt armchairs are upholstered in Atelier Versace velvet. Estimated $3,000–$5,000.

White glasses with retro colored patterns on the lenses

John wore these prescription sunglasses from Sir Winston Eyeware (circa 1975) during a London performance. Estimated $2,000–$3,000.

Silver and red platform boots

John wore these silver leather platform boots, embroidered with the letters “E” and “J,” during several stage performances in the 1970s, with the scuffs to prove it. Estimated $5,000–$10,000.

A painting of Elton John on a brown background

Julian Schnabel’s Portrait of Elton graced the cover of the singer’s 1997 album The Big Picture. John sat for this large-scale painting in the artist’s New York studio. Estimated $200,000–$300,000.

A vintage photo of a woman in a dress posing with two elephants

John purchased this vintage print of Richard Avedon’s Dovima with Elephants, 1955, from Atlanta’s Fay Gold Gallery in 1994. The photograph first appeared in a 1955 issue of Harper’s Bazaar alongside the more widely known vertical variation. Estimated $100,000–$150,000.

A black Bentley convertible

John drove this 1990 Bentley Continental convertible around California, Monaco, and Atlanta, where he used it to travel to his favorite local photography gallery. “Decades later, the car still has the most gorgeous smell from the butter-soft black leather seats,” he said. Estimated $25,000–$35,000.

A black grand piano

John composed the music for Broadway’s Aida, among other projects, on this 1992 Yamaha grand piano. Estimated $30,000–$50,000.

 All photos: CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2024