Forking out a 'Fortuyn' for Dutch politician's artefacts

NIJMEGEN, Mariette le Roux - A lighter, pen and cellphone that Dutch far right politician Pim Fortuyn had on him when gunned down in 2002 are popular targets for an auction on Saturday.
"We have a high bid of 300 euros (about 420 dollars) for the lighter, 500 euros for the pen and 150 euros for the phone," auctioneer Richard Hessink told AFP as he guided buyers through some 10,000 items due to go under the hammer.

Forking out a 'Fortuyn' for Dutch politician's artefacts
"It is pure nostalgia, certainly not a sound investment," he said at his auction house in Nijmegen in the eastern Netherlands. "Fortuyn was like a film star."
An exhibition of the flamboyant, gay, populist, rightwing politician's effects gives a glimpse into his personal life and final hours, seven years after his death shattered the Netherlands' self-image as a secure and unified society.
One glass cabinet holds the stub of a hand-rolled cigarette snuffed out in an ashtray next to Fortuyn's bed -- said to be the last he smoked at home before he was shot. A bidder has offered 100 euros.
Another displays a pair of slippers. Even his toiletries are there to be inspected -- razors, face cream, anti-perspirant and eye makeup remover.
The typewriter on which Fortuyn formulated some of his controversial, anti-immigrant ideas is for sale, as is the diary that lists the last appointment he kept -- a radio interview.
Clocks and watches are all frozen at seven minutes past six to mark the time of his assassination at age 54 on May 6, 2002.
Fortuyn was shot five times at close range by an animal rights activist in the central town of Hilversum 10 days before general elections in which his far-right party made sweeping gains.
Hessink said about 800 people had visited the exhibition since it opened on June 12 -- displayed as they had been in Fortuyn's house in Rotterdam. Another 30,000-odd people visited the online auction site.
The auctioneer hopes the items, including paintings, photographs, furniture, a racing bike, cigars and some 7,000 books and 1,000 bottles of wine, will fetch about 475,000 euros.
The contents of Fortuyn's house, sold by his family after he died without a testament, were being sold by the owners, two businessmen, because of the high maintenance costs, said Hessink.
The house is to be sold through a property broker despite objections by a foundation that lobbied the Rotterdam city council to turn it into a museum. A council-appointed investigation found this would not be financially viable.
"We have a bid of 250 euros for a set of six coasters, 200 euros for a small statuette that is probably not worth more than three euros, 250 euros for a box with two cigars," said Hessink.
"People are willing to part with a lot of money for nostalgia."
Museums have shown an interest in some of the furniture and art, and Dutch university libraries in Fortuyn's books and diaries, the auction master said.
Historian Han van den Horst said Fortuyn was one of the most charismatic politicians in the Netherlands' recent history: a voice for ethnic Dutch who believed immigrants threatened their jobs and culture.
"He heard, and responded to, their fears. He was seen as a saviour -- then he became a martyr. There is an almost religious element to his celebrity."
Sascha Schilder, a secretary who works nearby, visited the auction house out of curiosity.
"Pim Fortuyn was not someone to be ignored," she said, eyeing a bird sculpture from the collection.
"It would be nice to own something of his, a piece of history. But it will depend on the price."

Friday, June 26th 2009
Mariette le Roux

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