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Sotheby's Presents BENT. | Auction Coinciding with WorldPride NYC & Stonewall Uprising Anniversary This June in New York

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    Sotheby's Presents BENT. | Auction Coinciding with WorldPride NYC & Stonewall Uprising Anniversary This June in New York

NEW YORK, 12 June 2019 – Sotheby’s is pleased to announce BENT., a live auction on 27 June 2019 in New York celebrating the LGBTQ experience through a diverse and wide-ranging selection of art and artists. The exhibition and auction not only coincide with New York’s annual Pride celebration, which this year includes WorldPride as well, but also the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising – six days of rolling street protests by gay, lesbian and transgender individuals that became one of the defining moments of the modern gay rights movement.

Comprised of works spanning photographs, Contemporary art, antique and rare books, prints and drawings, the sale offers outstanding pieces dating from the 19th Century to today by both celebrated and lesser-known artists alike who made significant contributions to the representation of LGBTQ artists in the public sphere, including Andy Warhol, Catherine Opie, David Wojnarowicz, David Hockney, Francis Bacon, Gillian Wearing, Peter Hujar, Robert Mapplethorpe and Martin Wong, among others.

A portion of Sotheby’s buyer’s premium will be donated to The Center, providing programs for health, wellness and community connection for New York’s LGBTQ community.

All of the works from the BENT. sale will be on public view in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries from 19 – 26 June.

Benjamin Doller, Chairman of Sotheby’s Americas commented: “Among the  of things that make me proud to work at Sotheby’s is the early and continued support the company has shown towards the LGBTQ community. Throughout the AIDS crises, Sotheby’s routinely hosted charity events to raise money and awareness. Tragically, like so many others, we lost numerous colleagues to this epidemic, however our management and staff could always be counted on for comfort and support. And I am proud to note that the tradition continues today, with the community well-represented across our global organization – from executive leadership to recent graduates embarking on their careers. Perhaps most importantly, we are pleased to offer a portion of our proceeds from the sale to support The Center, which has provided programs for health, wellness and community connection for the LGBTQ community of New York City since its founding in 1983. We do this in the memory of the many colleagues we lost to AIDS, and to help promote diversity and tolerance in all aspects of life.”


Robert LaVigne’s powerful and historically important Nude with Onions (Peter Orlovsky) is among the stunning paintings on offer in the June sale (estimate $150/170,000). Executed in 1954, the colorful portrait is one of the most recognizable images of the 20th Century Gay Liberation movement and bears witness to the romantic relationship between LaVigne, Peter Orlovsky, and famed Beat poet Allen Ginsberg.

After meeting LaVigne on the street in San Francisco, Ginsberg visited the artist’s apartment where he saw the rendering of Orlovsky, who was living with LaVigne at the time, and remarked: “I looked in its eyes & was shocked by love.” Ginsberg moved in with the pair, and in short order, stole Orlovsky from LaVigne, causing a rift in their relationship, though the trio ultimately resumed their friendship. In 1955, the couple commemorated their relationship with a commitment ceremony in San Francisco. Shortly after meeting Orlovsky, Ginsberg composed his important autobiographical poem Malest Cornifici, tuo Catullo, in which he addresses Jack Kerouac – one of the poet’s muses, along with Orlovsky. Similarly, LaVigne served as inspiration for characters in two Kerouac novels: Robert Browning in Big Sur and Levesque in Desolation Angels.

Ginsberg and Orlovsky inevitably became symbols of the Gay Liberation movement. The well-known Richard Avedon photograph from 1967 that captures the two men nude and embracing, was widely circulated at the time as a poster and appeared on the cover of the Evergreen Review. Orlovsky, a poet and actor in his own right, was at Ginsberg’s side when the poet died in 1997. Although Ginsberg several times expressed his desire to own the present work, it remained in LaVigne’s possession until 2008.

Further highlights of the paintings on offer include Ludwig von Hofmann’s Bathers (estimate $40/60,000), one of several works in the sale on offer from the collection of music mogul and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Mr. Seymour Stein. The oil on canvas is further distinguished as once being in the collection of another music legend: Sir Elton John. Stein is best known as the co-founder of Sire Records and former Vice President of Warner Bros. Records. Over the course of his illustrious career, the Brooklyn-born entrepreneur signed some of the biggest names in music to the Sire label: the Ramones, Madonna and Depeche Mode, among many others.

The June sale also presents an impressive selection of rare books and manuscripts, including an important presentation copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. New York: (William E. Chapin for the author,) 1867 (pictured left, estimate $70/100,000). The present work is inscribed to the poet’s companion, Peter Doyle, Washington, 29 April 1868. Whitman likely met Doyle in Washington, D.C. sometime in early 1865 while Doyle was a streetcar conductor, and despite a number of dissimilarities  – Whitman was already 45, an accomplished literary figure and an ardent Unionist, while Doyle was just 21, virtually illiterate and a Confederate veteran — they remained friends, lovers, and correspondents for many years.

  • 27.06.2019
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    All of the works from the BENT. sale will be on public view in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries from 19 – 26 June.

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