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Wading Through Lauren Bacall's Vast Collection

In the picture above is a pile of Lauren Bacall's Louis Vuitton and Goyard luggage, which is, in fact just a small sampling of the extensive luggage collection belonging to the late actress. Over the weekend, potential auction buyers and movie fans streamed into Bonhams' Madison Avenue showroom to check out her stuff, and there was a lot of it. We aren't sure how much room she had in her apartment in the Dakota, but it seems apparent that she filled it to capacity. The walls were covered with framed pictures and surfaces were covered with any number of objects from African tribal figures to small sculptures from friends like Henry Moore and Robert Graham (the artist and late husband of Anjelica Huston, not the maker of colorful shirts). Combing through her possessions was less like entering Elizabeth Taylor's mind boggling vault of treasures at Christie's a couple of years ago, than examining the taste of a woman of great means who lived a big life with luxury, but not necessarily ostentation. There were some beautiful jewels including some fine Jean Schlumberger pieces, but compared to the rest of her stuff, it was a more smaller collection of more modestly scaled pieces as Hollywood glamor goes. Bacall was known to have a huge, spectacular wardrobe, most of which was reportedly donated to the Fashion Institute of Technology, which has its own, small Bacall centered exhibition running through this week. Bonhams still had a small sampling of clothes available from Bacall's favorite designers including an Yves Saint Laurent couture cape which looked like it came from his 70's heyday, a glittering black beaded Halston cardigan and two versions of a Jean Muir jumpsuit in different colors. Ever practical, she tended to favor sleek Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren pantsuits and sweaters for everyday, so the draw here is not so much the clothes and personal adornments, but all the rest of her home furnishings including an eclectic collection of antique furniture , mostly from Europe and Scandinavia and Asia. She was a fan of American quilts as well, and clearly favored more rustic antiques over sleek, modern style. Of the art, there was an abundance of smaller pieces, mostly prints and lithographs from Moore, Graham and others, and while she seemed to have few large, statement making paintings, she had a penchant for huge, framed antique posters. There was silver both decorative and practical including a damaged oil Hannukah menorah waiting to be purchased by a true fan. For the casual shopper looking for a souvenir, there were collections of books and less valuable knickknacks like bookends and whose main value may be that they belonged to a great star. At times, it seemed like Miss Bacall may have been amassing such items just so fans could one day get a piece of her possessions at a reasonable cost. And then there was all that luggage. At the center of it was a pair of Hartmann steamer trunks that appeared to date from the mid-century days when people of a certain class traveled with such things, but surrounding them were stacks of Vuitton and Goyard, and even a humble little Prada carry-on with wheels that made one wonder exactly how many suitcases one person —even a famous Hollywood star— could need to travel with at one time? Three, four, maybe five, but thirty? That's a mystery that only her family might be able to answer. For the rest of us stargazing shoppers, Lauren Bacall's collections will be Auctioned off tomorrow and Wednesday.

The Lauren Bacall Collection (Bonhams)


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