In the elegant duplex situated on the Left Bank?s rue de Babylone, works of art are being placed in wooden boxes before they are whisked away to their potential new owners. Similarly to the artworks, the apartment comes with a spectacular history: It is here that Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge spent a good portion of their half a century together, pivoting between their private and very public lives.
When Saint Laurent died in June, 2008, Berge promptly decided to let go of the entire art collection. Within a few months, auctioneering firm Christie?s was putting together a catalog of works for what was soon to be dubbed ?the sale of the century.?
The story of the designer extraordinaire and his business and — for many years — life partner, is well known to those both in and outside the fashion world.
?Right from the start the territory was well defined, without either of us ever having to decide anything. Yves was the creative one and I took care of business,? Berge, now 81, told Kathimerini English Edition in Athens earlier this week. ?I had complete confidence in Yves, I would have gone anywhere with him and I knew that from the very first day.?
Their long-lasting relationship is now the subject matter of a film directed by Pierre Thorreton. The idea developed when Thorreton found himself working on a documentary about private art collections.
?I saw the rushes and I knew that the film would be beautiful, if somewhat boring,? the director explained to Kathimerini English Edition. ?There were interviews with art dealers telling stories of Yves passing by their galleries and kindly asking if he could use their phone. He would then call Pierre and say to him, ?Come right over, I just came across something great.? This was not about making an investment, but about a collection developed by two people who loved each other.?
Thorreton informed Berge that he wanted to make a film about his love story. He had known Berge for a number of years and had met Saint Laurent on several occasions. Within a few days Berge gave him carte blanche and access to vast amounts of archive material.
The result is ?L?Amour fou,? a documentary blending together the worlds of fashion and art, a movie depicting a world of high-flying friendships, excess and success. There was Yves, reserved and creative, and there was Pierre, managing his lover?s emerging business and turning it into an empire. The film is part of the ongoing 12th edition of the Francophone Film Festival and Berge and Thorreton are two of the event?s guests.
?I was interested in the people and their life,? noted Thorreton. ?There are so many films to be made about their life, it could have been about finances, about success, but I was after the story of two people who lived together for 50 years and of the one person who was left behind. I was interested in how one goes through grief, but also in what you have to do in order to love someone for 50 years. I wanted the story to be universal.?
While living surrounded by Brancusi, Picasso, Leger, Matisse and Mondrian works, among so many others, is not an option for most, ?L?Amour fou? does show that the two men were no different from the rest of the world in terms of their emotions and reactions: Yves?s bouts of depression were painful to both, as was the decision to close down the Yves Saint Laurent couture business.
The marathon three-day Paris sale in February, 2009, proved a spectacular success, fetching 373.9 million euros — though a Picasso painting was left unsold. Is Berge working on developing a new collection?
?I?m not buying artworks, just books,? he said. ?I?m a bibliophile, and I didn?t sell any books, that?s me, not Yves, I have a nice library. It?s something which has to do with myself.?
In the meantime his multiple activities keep him busy. Besides carrying on the legacy of his partner through the Pierre Berge – Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, he is a staunch supporter of French socialist Segolene Royal, the president of French AIDS charity Sidaction and recently found himself at the helm of a consortium that gained control of a media group which includes prestigious daily Le Monde.
?I don?t know if I?m influential or not,? he said. ?But I do hold my convictions, political and social, for as long as I can. The most serious thing going on today is that people no longer have convictions.?