Boldness Becomes the Playboy
One of the few Hugh Hefner fun-facts not frequently laid bare is that prior to starting Playboy in 1953, he was a cartoonist. A strong sense of line? An appreciation of the graphic, the colorful? You betcha.
The Pajama-ed One, in fact, channeled a longstanding interest in the arts into the magazine, collaborating with artists, illustrators and photographers to create an aesthetically distinctive magazine followed by an equally distinctive brand. With that goal, he charged Art Paul, Playboy’s art director from 1953-1985, to commission premiere artists, illustrators and photographers to infuse the magazine with, er, penetrating depth and vibrancy. And from these commissions The Playboy Art Collection was born, which now stands at approximately 5,000 works of commissioned art—paintings, drawings, watercolors and sculptures—most of which have been published in the mag.
Which brings our bunny hop to “The Year of the Rabbit” sale at Christie’s on December 8, which Hefner says is, for him, “a walk down memory lane.”
Included in the auction of more than 125 works are Tom Wesselmann’s Mouth #8 (above), the most expensive piece with an estimate of $2,000,000-3,000,000), and Salvador Dali’s Playmate (left), which until recently hung in Hefner’s bedroom in the famed Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills (both works are from 1966 and appeared in the magazine’s landmark pictorial, The Playmate as Fine Art: Eleven Famous Contemporary Artists Interpret the Provocative Gatefold Girl in the January 1967 issue).
The sale will also feature several iconic photographs of Marilyn Monroe, such as Marilyn Monroe, the first Playboy cover, December 1953 (estimate: $10,000-15,000) and Earl Moran’s Marilyn Monroe, 1953 (estimate: $20,000-30,000, as well as the work of photographers such as Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, peter Beard, Sante D’Orazio and Patrick Demarchelier.
Too much subtlety might not become playboys generally, and discretion is situational, but boldness, be it ballsy or downright badass, is a requisite—as this slideshow of various lots from the sale demonstrates.
Full info and credits for Mouth #8 and Playmate, as well as for works in the slideshow:
oil on canvas
77 x 94 in.
Painted in 1967.
Playmate after Rokeby Venus
watercolor on paper
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