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Nureyev's ballet slippers sold at auction for $18,619.

London - When would someone pay $18,619 for a pair of ballet slippers that even a sale catalogue described as "considerably soiled and worn, patches and repair's at the toe"? When the slippers were worn by the man considered the greatest male ballet dancer of his time. For that is indeed what a pair of slippers worn Rudolf Nureyev sold for at the second sale of the late dancer's belongings, held at Christie's auction house in November.

The sale included the slippers and other items from Nureyev's sumptuously decorated Paris apartment at 23 quai Voltaire, on the Left Bank of the Seine. The apartment, the ballet star's principal home from the mid-1980s, was designed in the style of a nineteenth century French salon - "very cozy at night," recalled one of his friends present at the auction, "but rather too theatrical for the morning."

In all, twenty-one pairs of Nureyev's footwear were sold for a total of $123,337. Most of the shoes and dance boots were bought up by Albert Cohen of Long Island, New York. Cohen had bought some of the dancer's shoes in the first auction, in New York, and was evidently determined to corner the market. According to officials at the auction house, Cohen told Christie's he and his wife would be willing to lend the ballet slippers to dance schools and institutions.

The proceeds of the London auction are earmarked for the Liechtenstein-based Rudolf Nureyev Foundation, which assists dancers and promotes classical ballet. However, because of legal problems with two Nureyev relatives who are contesting his will, the proceeds of the auction will be frozen until a court hearing in Monaco expected to be held early this year.

The results of the latest auction were modest compared to those of the earlier sale. The London auction of the contents of Nureyev's Paris apartment brought in $3.1 million, while the New York sale of the contents of his Dakota apartment got $8 million. [See Presstime News, May 1995]

The $18,619 brought by the slippers was more than twenty times the pre-sale estimate of $465-$775. Also underestimated was a bowl-shaped Dance Magazine Award Nureyev received in 1973. The auction house predicted it would bring in about $540; it went for $1,079. A silver salver, presented to Nureyev by Royal Ballet in celebration of his La Bayadere production, sold for $7,447. Two silver-framed photographs of Erik Bruhn and Margot Fonteyn made $1,692. Exceptional bids were made for a brown leather wallet stamped with the initials "RN" and containing Nureyev's membership and credit cards ($3,386), and a medallion of Kermit the Frog given to Nureyev by the producers of The Muppet Show after he appeared on the show in 1978 ($1,550).

The prices reached by the well-worn ballet shoes and boots created the biggest surprise in the auction hall, and the greatest disappointment for British fans hoping to buy a memento of their favorite performer. A spokesperson at Gamba, which supplied much of Nureyev's footwear, said, when told of the auction prices, "Unbelievable, quite unbelievable."

One group of items did not fare well. Four paintings by Theodore Gericault, billed as the artistic highlight of the sale, did not get a bid meeting their reserve price, and were withdrawn from the auction, to be sold privately.

Also at the auction, the Nureyev Foundation announced that a scholarship in Nureyev's name was awarded to an eighteen-year-old South African, Warren Adams, to continue his dance studies at the Rambert School in London.
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Title Annotation:Rudolf Nureyev
Author:Parry, Jann
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Biography
Date:Feb 1, 1996
Words:587
Previous Article:Milwaukee Ballet.
Next Article:Issues: the Nureyev Foundation.
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