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Playboy art sold at NYC auction

December 9, 2010 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) — A Dali watercolor of a reclining nude that hung in Hugh Hefner’s bedroom was among 125 artworks Playboy magazine offered at Christie’s on Wednesday.

It was one of 11 works chosen for “The Playmate as Fine Art” pictorial for the magazine’s January 1967 Playmate review issue that asked artists to create Playmate-inspired art. The nude sold for $266,500, above its presale estimate of $100,000 to $150,000, to an anonymous buyer.

Another top draw was an iconic, sexually charged oil of a scarlet-lipstick mouth by pop artist Tom Wesselmann. “Mouth No. 8” sold for $1,874,500 to an anonymous buyer. The 1966 work had been estimated to bring $2 million to $3 million.

Aaron Baker, curator of the Playboy Art Collection, called it a great example of Wesselmann’s work “from his best period.”

The sale included 80 photographs, more than a dozen contemporary works and 24 cartoons. Nearly all the items in the sale have appeared in the publication, a cultural icon that helped liberate American sexual mores.


In an interview last month from his Los Angeles mansion, founder and editor-in-chief Hugh Hefner said the magazine that has entertained, titillated and informed with its commissioned art has blurred the lines between fine and popular art.

“Playboy helped to change the very direction of commercial art — breaking down the wall between fine art and commercial art,” the 84-year-old Hefner said. “Before Playboy and a few other places, commercial art was essentially Norman Rockwell, very realistic. And we introduced into commercial illustration the whole notion of everything from abstract to semiabstract to stuff that you found on a gallery wall.”

The sale represented only a fraction of Playboy’s historic art.

Baker said the Chicago-based Playboy houses an archive of 5,000 contemporary artworks and more than 20 million photographs in a storage building in the city.

Wednesday’s sale marked the second time Christie’s has sold items from Playboy. On its 50th anniversary in 2003, Christie’s offered memorabilia and ephemera from Playboy’s collection.

Not all the material focused on the erogenous.

A white plaster cast by George Segal of a pregnant woman seated in a folding chair that was part of the “Playmate of Fine Art” pictorial sold for $170,500.

Prices included the buyers premium.



(This version CORRECTS Corrects name of Wesselmann’s work in 3rd paragraph. This story is part of AP’s general news and entertainment services.)