Sale of the week: Playboy collection

Sale: The Playboy Collection

Location: Christie’s, 20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, tel: +1 212 636 2000

Date: Wednesday (December 8) 2pm. On view on Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 1pm-5pm; Monday and Tuesday 10am-5pm; day of sale 10am-noon. Catalogue at

Need to know: Hugh Hefner compiled the inaugural issue of Playboy on his kitchen table in 1953, decorating its cover with rising star Marilyn Monroe. Its combination of tastefully arranged nudes, well-written articles and an open-minded attitude soon made it the world’s top-selling men’s magazine, with 15m readers a month. Playboy Enterprises built a corporate collection of more than 5,000 artworks, photographs and literary manuscripts. It marked its 50th anniversary with a Christie’s auction of archive items that fetched $2.75m. This second sell-off features 124 lots and could raise $4.5m.

Highlights: Top billing goes to Tom Wesselmann’s 1966 oil “Mouth #8”, commissioned for Playboy’s January 1967 issue. Eleven contemporary artists were asked to interpret “the provocative gatefold girl”; Wesselmann’s 8ft red-lipped mouth is tipped to fetch up to $3m. Salvador Dalí also contributed to the issue and his watercolour, gouache and acrylic depiction of a “Playmate After Rokeby Venus” has an estimate of $100,000-$150,000. Other high-value lots include Roger Brown’s $50,000 “Rabbit Head Logo” which graced the Chicago headquarters, and Larry Rivers’s Plexiglass sculpture of 1965 Playmate of the Year Jo Collins ($60,000-$80,000).

But it is the bare and beautiful women, captured by great photographers, that will attract most bidders: Brigitte Nielsen and Elle Macpherson by Herb Ritts; Marilyn Monroe by Earl Moran; Carré Otis by Antoine Verglas and Anita Ekberg by André de Dienes, to name but a few. The illusion of perfection is shattered, however, by the brutal notes of the magazine’s art editors. Laura Cover looked flawless in the October 1998 issue, but we find that the original image was retouched to remove “spots, stubble and veins” and give a “better curve to butt”.

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