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Louche decadence

As far as cultural commentary goes. I realize that I’m really grabbing at the low-hanging fruit to point out that Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch auction is a long-awaited glimpse at the sheer, unadulterated crazy that is the King of Pop's approach to life. The gallery of selected offerings scratches the surface of a story about questionable taste, obscene wealth, stunted maturity, and an attempt to keep reality at bay.

Michael Jackson's auction

The thing is, the story of the Yves Saint Laurent auction has a lot of parallel themes, although I’d venture to say Laurent's taste was infinitely better, and there's a very different vibe to an estate auction in comparison to a living person auctioning off the trappings of a chapter in his life he wants to forget. (And honestly, Michael, I can sympathize with that.)

Yves Saint Laurent auction

There's something very enticing about this description of Laurent's things from a photographer reviewing them: "I have an affinity for louche decadence, which is one of the things on view here," Pierson says. "There is a very opium-den quality -- all those tables full of objects one can peruse in a haze." It's less enticing to picture Jackson's "armour, display cases of custom-made crowns and an ornately carved throne with red velvet upholstering in his bedroom." However, reading about the two auctions made me feel a bit sad, and I saw some eerie parallels in the way two very different, very wealthy men seemed to rely on so much stuff to keep at bay an overwhelming world around them.

"The innumerable representations of serpents and birds that Saint Laurent amassed, symbols of an obsession with a natural world from which, toward the end of his life, he became increasingly removed" do not seem so altogether different from Jackson's infamous menagerie. "Saint Laurent was not the first person to apprehend that genius can often be a curse. Neither was he the first to withdraw from society, in all its disappointing dimensions, into the fixed and reassuring company of things." Also, clearly, he was not the last.

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