Marcel Marceau auction

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LISA MULLINS: The renown French mime artist Marcel Marceau died nearly two years ago, but his estate remains far from settled. Marcel left behind a mountain of debt, much of it to the French tax authorities. Well, today, Marceau's belongings were auctioned off in Paris to help pay off his debt. Genevieve Oger, attended the auction and sent us this report.

GENEVIEVE OGER: Marcel Marceau was what you might call a pack rat. He saved a lifetime of performance mementos and memorabilia in his country home. Today, collectors and Marceau fans gathered at a Paris auction house to see his things one last time before they're disbursed. Auctioneer Rodolphe Tessier says handling the sale was like landing on planet mime.

RODOLPHE TESSIER: The auction involves all of Marceau's possessions, which are hugely diverse. In addition to props, there is silverware, an art collection, and all the things he kept from his 300 international tours.

OGER: That includes Marceau's trademark costumes such as the sailor suit and the hat worn by his character Bip. The auction was ordered by a judge to settle the artist's large debts. Michele Merowka, his second cousin, says Marceau put all his money into his shows.

MICHELE MEROWKA: He was an artist, a veritable artist and the money was not his problem. So perhaps he made some mistakes. It's possible but the art was his life, and the material thing was not important for him.

OGER: For his family, the auction is a painful end to a life devoted to art and work. Relatives sat in the front row of the auction room silently watching each piece go on the block. They tried to turn his home into a museum, but tax authorities refused to cut a deal. Fans joined forces to buy some of the objects, hoping to save some of Marceau's cultural legacy, which they say belongs in a museum. Apparently, the French government agrees. It opted buy some of the items for France's National Museum Collection. For The World, I'm Genevieve Oger in Paris.

MULLINS: And by the way, Marceau's iconic Bip costume complete with the beflowered but battered opera hat went for about $12,000. The entire auction raised nearly $700,000.