A hand-written French sign reading "L'Amour Et La Paix" that was taped to the wall above John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their famous 1969 bed-in at a Montreal hotel is to be auctioned in Britain next month for up to $70,000 — a startling estimate showing how the simplest of artifacts from the couple's bizarre Canadian peace mission 40 years ago have acquired enormous value as pop culture icons.
The placard — its message and the pyjama-clad couple's signatures scrawled in black marker — is also being billed by auction house Christie's as a sign of Lennon's "acute political sensitivity" given his use of the French phrase at a time of growing separatist agitation in Quebec.
"It's notable that of all the peace slogans which John and Yoko used to decorate the walls of their hotel suites in both the Amsterdam and Montreal bed-ins, 'L'Amour Et La Paix,' if not the only one, is one of the very few prominent ones in which Lennon used a language other than English," Christie's states.
"His choice of the French language for a placard in Canada reveals his acute political sensitivity in the light of the brewing separatist FLQ crisis at the time."
The sign — along with a photo clearly showing the placard behind Lennon and Ono on the bed in Suite 1742 at Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel — is to be sold in London as part of Christie's pop culture and entertainment auction on July 1. It's a Canada Day sale featuring what the catalogue describes as a "unique" and "historic" piece of Canadiana with "rare, irrefutable provenance."
The sign was given by Lennon to writer and antiwar activist Ben Apfelbaum, who had visited the couple frequently during their Montreal bed-in. The Beatles legend apparently handed it over while packing up his things at the end of the week-long publicity stunt for peace, which ended on June 2, 1969.
The 40th anniversary of the bed-in is currently being marked by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in collaboration with Ono, in an exhibition of photos and other artifacts associated with the event.
A new book featuring rare photographs and reminiscences by visitors to the celebrity couple's Montreal suite — Give Peace a Chance: John and Yoko's Bed-In for Peace — was also launched earlier this year.
And photos, audio tapes and the scribbled lyrics of the antiwar anthem Give Peace a Chance written by Lennon during the bed-in and recorded in the suite, have all fetched huge prices at auctions in recent years.
Last summer, former Montrealer Gail Renard — a teenager when she and a friend snuck past guards at the hotel in 1969 and were welcomed into the couple's room — earned more than $800,000 at a Christie's auction for the Give Peace a Chance lyrics that Lennon had written on a placard for the hotel recording session and later gave to her.
"Adorning the walls and windows of their hotel suite were numerous John Lennon artworks, mottoes and slogans, all of which acted as visual aids to promote their message of peace," Christie's says in its catalogue entry for the French sign. "It's particularly significant that this placard features in the footage which John and Yoko organized of the Montreal event. In their film (not released until 1990), Yoko Ono can be seen signing this very placard, while John playfully signs her white nightdress, shortly before the couple are filmed leaving the hotel room."
I now sanction a Beatles gif party