French businessman Pierre Bergé, who died on Friday at 86, will forever be associated in the public imagination with his former protégé and companion, Yves Saint Laurent, with whom Bergé founded his eponymous fashion label.
The pair met in 1958 and were joined in a civil union days before the designer’s death at 71 in 2008. Bergé was due to inaugurate an Yves Saint Laurent museum in Paris next month and another this year in Marrakech.
The businessman had said that his husband Madison Cox, a 58-year-old American landscaper and vice president of the Fondation Bergé-Saint Laurent, was already in charge of the museums and would succeed him in that work. Bergé and Cox were married in March.
But as a patron of the arts, philanthropist, fashion and media tycoon, and tireless champion of progressive political causes including gay rights and the fight against racism, Bergé’s partnership in life and in business with Saint Laurent is only part of his legacy.
Bergé had been head of the Opera de Paris from 1988 to 1993. A major patron of the arts and culture, he financed the purchases of works for the Louvre Museum and renovations at the National Gallery of London and Paris’s Pompidou Centre.
He became a major shareholder of the French daily Le Monde in 2010, having previously founded the gay magazine Têtu. Bergé also purchased the weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, now L’Obs, in 2014.
“He was a magician who made his life and those whom he loved a symphony of happiness,” Lang said. “Pierre Bergé was, above all, a marvelous and loyal friend… who was there to take on all the good fights, the noble causes, in particular to provide the means for research to defeat AIDS,” Lang said.
Bergé died in his sleep early Friday at his country home in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, in the South of France, following a long illness. FRANCE 24 takes a look at facets of his life in pictures.
Born on an island off France’s Atlantic coast in 1930, Bergé came to Paris aged 18. By chance, he met the poet Jacques Prévert, who had accidentally fallen off a balcony, Le Monde recounts, and soon befriended French cultural luminaries, like Cocteau, Camus and Sartre. © AFP
In 1958, Bergé met Yves Saint Laurent, the brilliant young designer who had succeeded Christian Dior. Bergé is perhaps best known for helping Saint Laurent build his own highly successful fashion house, which the pair founded in 1961. © Vladimir Sichov, courtesy Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris | Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in Paris, 1982.
Seen as the brains behind the Yves Saint Laurent empire, the fashion tycoon Bergé directed the design house until 2002. © Martin Bureau, AFP | France's President companion Valerie Trierweiler (C), Pierre Berge, French businessman and President of the Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent (2L) and US Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour (R) attend the Saint Laurent Spring/Summer 2013 ready-to-wear collection show on October 1, 2012 in Paris.
An extraordinary art collector, Bergé decided in early 2009, shortly after Saint Laurent’s death, to put up for auction the collection the pair had assembled. Dubbed the “sale of the century”, the works including Goyas and Picassos brought 373 million euros. © François Guillot, AFP | A man looks at the "Luis Maria de Cistue y Martinez" by Francisco de Goya, on February 21, 2009 at the Grand Palais in Paris before a Christie's auction of Bergé’s art collection.
Politically, he was a supporter and confidant of Socialist former President François Mitterrand. He later backed Socialists Bertrand Delanöe for Paris mayor in 2001 and 2008 and Ségolène Royal’s failed 2007 presidential bid. For 2017, he endorsed Emmanuel Macron. © Pascal George, AFP | President François Mitterrand, accompanied by Jack Lang (R) and Pierre Bergé (L) ascend the Roche de Solutré on May 30, 1993.
Le Monde director Jérôme Fenoglio says the newspaper has lost not only a shareholder who helped save the title without asking for anything in return, but also “a reader, a defender of quality journalism, and someone who was passionate about public debate". © Thomas Samson, AFP | Bergé with fellow Le Monde Group shareholders, Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse.
Bergé was well known for his philanthropy and had donated a large share of his fortune to AIDS research. In 1994, he co-created the French organisation that would become Sidaction, which Le Monde calls one of the most active AIDS-fighting groups in Europe. © Alain Jocard, AFP | Bergé at his AIDS charity Sidaction’s call centre in Chatillon, during a fundraising week-end on April 6, 2014.
(With AFP, AP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2017-09-08