It’s been over 30 years since Freddie Mercury passed away, but his legacy lives on. And now, a new auction conducted by Sotheby’s sheds more light on the iconic rock singer’s fondness for Japan.
Freddie Mercury and Japan
Born in 1946, Freddie Mercury rose to prominence as the lead singer of Queen. Fans remember the group for its string of iconic hits, including “We Will Rock You,” “We Are The Champions,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Sadly, Mercury passed away in 1991, a victim of the AIDS crisis at a time when treatment options were limited and stereotypes abounded. Today, fans universally love him for his musical talent, including his four-octave vocal range and powerful stage presence. Many in the LGBTQ community (including myself) also embrace him as a bisexual icon.
However, fewer people know that Mercury also had a love affair with Japan. According to NHK, Queen first came to Japan as a group in 1975, performing multiple concerts across the country on the release of their album Sheer Heart Attack. (The album contained “Killer Queen,” the group’s first international hit.) The band toured Japan six times between then and 1985.
In 1986, Mercury made his own solo visit to the country, touring the Kyushu Museum and buying traditional Japanese lacquerware (漆器; shikki) from Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture. However, Mercury’s love for Japan reportedly stopped short of sushi and sashimi; the singer reportedly hated eating raw fish.
What was in Freddie’s collection?
Over the years, Mercury collected a large amount of art related to Japan. According to Sotheby’s, the singer was a huge fan of auctions and said Sotheby’s would be the one thing he’d miss if he ever left London.
Mercury’s Japan collection was so big he kept it all in a specific room – the “Japan room” – to which he only invited special guests. “To be invited into that space was a big honour,” says David Macdonald, senior director at Sotheby’s in charge of single-estate sales.
Now, the world has a chance to see what he had. And, hey – if you’re rich, maybe you can put in a bid for some of it yourself.
To celebrate his knack for collecting, Sotheby’s is holding six Freddie Mercury auctions in the first week of September. According to the auction house, it’s the most auctions they have ever dedicated to a single individual.
One of the collections, “Freddie Mercury: In Love with Japan,” is dedicated to everything the Queen frontman collected from auctions and his own sojourns to the country. The items include the aforementioned lacquerware, as well as woodblock (ukiyo-e) prints, tansu (chest of drawers), furisode, and other items.
Some items are more personal. For example, there’s Freddie’s Japan Tour bomber jacket from 1979. Other items include a collection of photos from Queen’s A Night at the Opera World Tour, and books and magazines that Mercury collected related to Japanese art.
The Sotheby’s auction runs until September 11th, 2023.
What to read next
Freddie Mercury’s Passion for Japan. Sotheby’s
Freddie Mercury. Wikipedia