Two culturally important pianos are shortly coming up for sale. On September 6th (2023) Sotheby’s is auctioning Freddie Mercury’s Yamaha grand piano. And on September 30th Alex Cooper Auctioneers is selling a Baldwin concert grand once belonging to John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Both instruments are estimated to sell for several million dollars.
The Lennon-Ono-Green-Warhol Piano
This piano’s title, the Lennon-Ono-Green-Warhol Piano, indicates the celebrity past of the instrument. The piano itself is a 1929 Baldwin Concert Model D piano, which John Lennon purchased from the Baldwin factory store (NYC) in 1978.
Lennon and Ono subsequently gifted it to Sam Green who installed it in one of his cottages on Fire Island (just off the southern shore of Long Island, New York). Samuel Addams Green was a contemporary art curator known for his support of the American pop art scene. He was past Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania
Green was originally friends with Yoko Ono and subsequently with Lennon. After Ono, Green was named in John Lennon’s will as his son Sean’s legal guardian.
Lennon had an engraved plaque attached to the piano’s nameboard. It reads, “For Sam / Love From / Yoko and John / 1979”.
“I, Sam Green, had a professional and personal relationship with John and Yoko. They would often visit and stay at my house in Fire Island, NY. Yoko thought the creative atmosphere here would help inspire John in writing songs for their new album*.”Notarised letter from Sam Green.
*The album referred to is “Double Fantasy”
In 1983 Green lent the piano to close friend Andy Warhol who had it placed in his offices at 158 Madison Avenue, New York City. This was the home of Warhol Studios, The Factory, and Warhol’s Interview Magazine, Following Warhol’s death in 1987, Green loaned the instrument to the New York Academy of Art.
But it was in 1999 that the piano was “lost”. It had disappeared from the New York Academy of Art. Green had wanted his piano returned, but it seems it had been sold and was in Alabama. Legal proceedings ensued, but Sam Green never got his piano back.
The Lennon-Ono-Green-Warhol Piano was bought by Mansoor Emral Shaool in 2003. He, along with other family members, donated it to Mercersburg Academy in 2018. The academy, a prestigious private boarding school located in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, is now selling the piano to raise funds for a student scholarship program.
The piano is a Baldwin Model D 9ft concert grand serial number 59596 with an ebony finish. This premium-quality instrument is similar in design to the early Steinway Model D.
The sale estimate is $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 (£1,550,000 to £235,0000), with bidding opening at $1,000,000 (£780,000).
Auctioneers: Alex Cooper Auctioneers
Online pre-bidding: begins Friday Saturday 15 Sep at 5:00pm ET
Live auction date: Saturday 30 Sept at 10:00am ET
Location: 908 York Road, Towson, Maryland, USA.
WPN would like to thank Karen Lile and Kendall Ross Bean at Piano Finders for their help in compiling the above.
Photography of the Lennon-Ono-Green-Warhol piano by Kendall Ross Bean.
Freddie Mercury’s Yamaha Grand Piano
Also coming up for auction in September is Freddie Mercury’s much-loved Yamaha baby grand piano.
Following the success of Queen’s first three albums, Freddie was eager to replace his rather tired upright piano. He wanted a more professional instrument with which to compose and entertain. It had to sound and play just the way Freddie wanted it to, but the main caveat was that it had to fit into his living room at 100 Holland Road, London.
Eventually, after many weeks of searching Freddie settled on a Yamaha baby grand, which he purchased for around £1,000 (then approx. $2,100). This was back in 1975.
The piano was delivered to Freddie’s apartment and immediately put to use. And it was this instrument that Freddie used to complete Bohemian Rhapsody.
Freddie continued to compose many of his and Queen’s hits using this Yamaha baby grand right up until 1988 when he penned Barcelona with Mike Moran. Freddie Mercury died in 1991.
The piano itself is a standard 5ft 7in Yamaha Model G2 baby grand, serial no. E1683689 and built in 1973. The casework has a bright ebonised polyester finish raised on square tapered legs, terminating in brass capping and castors.
Over 1,500 other items from the Freddie Mercury estate are also being sold across six different auctions. Lots include stage costumes, musical instruments, hand-written lyrics, works of art by the likes of Goya, Picasso, Fabergé and Miró, and various personal possessions. This sale is expected to raise approaching £10,000,000 ($12,500,000).
The items being auctioned are the property of Mary Austin, Freddie Mercury’s former fiancée and long-time confidante, to whom he left most of his estate. Ms. Austin will be donating a portion of the proceeds to both the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
The auctioneer’s sale estimate for the piano (Lot 44) is £2,000,000 to £3,000,000 ($2,500,000 to $3,800,000).
Auction title: Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own
Auctioneers: Sotheby’s, London
Viewing: 4 Aug — 5 Sep, Sotheby’s, New Bond Street, London (free)
Live auction date: Saturday 6 Sep at 5:00pm BST (major items, ticketed).
Location: Sotheby’s, 34-35 New Bond Street, London, W1S 2RP, UK.
Lennon/Baldwin v. Mercury/Yamaha
It will be interesting to see which piano achieves the greater sale price. Let us know what kind of sums you think the two pianos will sell for in the comments box below.
WPN will publish the sale results here once they become known.
UPDATE 6-Sep-2023: Freddie Mercury’s grand piano sold for £1,742,000 (approx. $2.2 million), slightly below the estimated price.
UPDATE 1-Oct-2023: The Lennon-Ono-Green-Warhol Piano failed to sell at auction.