As you stepped off the elevator on the 36th floor, Sir Elton John’s overflowing art collection greeted guests before you even reached the front door. Like the pieces inside his Park Place condo on Peachtree Road in Buckhead, the hallway artwork was routinely rotated by curators. Stepping inside the massive 13,000-square foot home was a sensory-overloading experience as your eyes struggled to take in all of the winding staircases, the floor to ceiling windows spotlighting the city’s tree canopy, walls of photographs, and colorful glass sculptures. Nestled next to a window with a skyline view sat his prized Yamaha grand piano where he would spend hours creating melodies to accompany the latest lyrics being faxed to him (from California and England respectively) by songwriting partners Bernie Taupin and Tim Rice.
The scent of dozens of softly glowing citrusy, floral-forward Slatin & Co. candles, created exclusively for the performer and benefiting the Elton John AIDS Foundation, perfumed the air. And while he had rooms and rooms of expensive ornate Versace-designed furniture, the singer always preferred to do his press interviews at the kitchen table where he created the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992, the nonprofit that has now raised over half a billion dollars for HIV/AIDS advocacy and care. His longtime housekeeper Lucy treated visitors like royalty, making sure you had a bottle of chilled Evian water and copies of the latest imported albums from John’s CD room (When in town, John, an insatiable music fan, turned up dutifully each Tuesday to buy new releases in bulk down the street at Tower Records).
Fresh out of rehab in 1991 and first introduced to the charms of the city by his then-boyfriend Atlantan Hugh Williams, John immediately gravitated to the slower pace of the American South. For starters, it was a coast away from the celebrity glare of Los Angeles, where he had spent many of his drinking and drugging days. Shortly after his arrival in Atlanta, he began volunteering for Project Open Hand, the city’s meals on wheels program for people living with HIV/AIDS, delivering hot meals to ailing shut-ins. He introduced his friend Elizabeth Taylor to the Buckhead Diner when she came to town to promote her White Diamonds fragrance at the Lenox Square Macy’s. His emotional experiences volunteering with POH and his friendship with Taylor, who had just started the first celebrity AIDS charity, inspired the pop star to use his global fame to combat HIV/AIDS. Ultimately, Atlanta became a refuge where John felt safe.
“It’s quiet for me here,” Elton once told me in a 2007 interview. “I can hear and I can breathe and I can write here.” As he toured nearly nonstop throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the global pop star could also fly home each night to sleep in his Buckhead bed. Throughout the decades, John eventually acquired six units at Park Place, knocking down walls to create a single spacious dwelling. But at age 76 with his 2023 retirement from the road; his filmmaker husband, David Furnish; and two growing boys to dote on back in England, Sir Elton sold his Buckhead home of 30 years last fall for $7.2 million.
Turns out, when you’re a wealthy shopaholic with 13,000 square feet to decorate, you tend to accumulate a few things. For John, those keepsakes included iconic photographs by Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, and Annie Leibovitz, and bedroom closets filled with clothing designed by Gianni Versace, a half-century of glitzy stage costumes, dozens of pairs of designer eye glasses, and millions of dollars of prized artwork.
Thanks to Christie’s in New York City, the contents of Sir Elton’s Buckhead home will be auctioned off both live in person and online beginning February 9. A focal point of the nearly month-long sale will be selling the singer’s massive photography collection—hundreds of priceless images John collected through the years with help from Jane Jackson, then-owner of Buckhead’s Jackson Fine Art. Many of the pieces will be familiar to longtime Atlantans who first saw them during John’s Chorus of Light: Photographs From The Sir Elton John Collection exhibition at the High Museum of Art in 2000.
“Jane Jackson became my teacher and helped guide me as I began laying the foundations of my collection,” reflects John in the introduction to Goodbye Peachtree Road: The Collection of Sir Elton John Christie’s catalog. “Seeing life through newly clean and sober eyes, a passion was lit for me for my appreciation of the photographic medium. [With Jackson], we staged our first photography exhibition at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, which was my way of thanking Atlanta for making me feel at home.”
Sir Elton’s 30 years as an Atlantan has resulted in hundreds of auction items to unload. And there’s something for Elton fans across many price ranges, from a pair of red Prada sunglasses (opening bid: $200) to a $2,000 Bob Mackie-designed track suit, a pair of retro Deakin & Francis aluminum rocket cufflinks (opening bid: $2,500) to an autographed and personally inscribed punching bag signed by Muhammad Ali in 1990 with an opening bid of $2,000. The most expensive item in the auction, with an opening bid of $1 million, is also one of John’s most recent acquisitions, purchased in 2017—the massive 135-inch by 117-inch Flower Thrower triptych created in 2007 by street artist Banksy. (Art collectors will need to break out the AmEx Black Card for this one: Banksy’s pieces have fetched up to $25.4 million.)
Below are five items from the upcoming Christie’s auction that bear a special connection to John’s decades spent in Atlanta. As Sir Elton himself sums up in the catalog introduction: “My apartment in Atlanta was my mancave full of things. I got up every day and they all gave me inspiration. So if you buy anything at the sale, just remember it is going from one incredibly eager collector who got so much pleasure out of what you are going to buy.”
Yamaha conservatory grand piano (opening bid: $25,000)
His quiet secluded life in Buckhead was where Elton John could concentrate on his writing. On this piano, John wrote the music for Aida, his hit Broadway musical with Tim Rice (which had its world premiere at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in 1998), his recorded-in-Atlanta 2004 album Peachtree Road, and his 2005 London West End and Broadway smash musical Billy Elliot.
Floating Man painting by artist Todd Murphy (opening bid: $20,000)
Just as Elton was making Atlanta his home in the early 1990s, Marist School and UGA grad Todd Murphy was becoming one of Atlanta’s hottest visual artists, selling out his debut exhibition at the Bill Lowe Gallery (now the Johnson Lowe Gallery) in 1992. Since Murphy’s death from cancer in 2020 at age 57, his trademark large scale paintings have only increased in value. John is auctioning a total of four Murphy pieces, including a 1990s portrait of himself created by the artist.
Atlanta Braves personalized jersey and jackets (opening bid: $600)
Elton was such a die-hard Braves fan he had a member of his tour road crew keep track of the score while he was on stage each baseball season. As a thank you to their most famous fan, the Braves organization had this Elton John No. 1 jersey and personalized letterman jacket and windbreaker sent to the pop star.
Silver leather platform boots (opening bid: $5,000)
Even as he toned down the sequins on his stage wear after moving to Atlanta (okay, toned down by Elton John standards anyway), the pop star hung onto these weathered relics from his 1970s glitter rock beginnings. The platform heeled boots are highlighted with signature red leather letters E and J.
Bentley Continental 1990 convertible (opening bid: $25,000)
More than once, Atlantans reported pulling up to a red light on Peachtree Road near Phipps Plaza or Tower Records, startled to see the city’s most famous resident casually idling next to them with the radio blasting. “It caused quite a stir whenever I took it out in town,” John recalls in the Christie’s catalog. “The balmy weather and the sweet smell of magnolias were the perfect accompaniments for Southern roof-down driving.”
Goodbye Peachtree Road: The Collection of Sir Elton John will be held live in person at Christie’s New York and online from February 9 through 28. For more details, visit the Christie’s website.