Inaugural Erotic Sale Brings £5.3 Million
LONDON, 16 February 2017 – This afternoon at Sotheby’s in London, a unique sale comprising artistic representations of love and sex from antiquity to the present day, brought a total of £5,297,000 ($6,612,775), exceeding the combined pre-sale estimate of £3.1-4.6 million. The inaugural Erotic: Passion & Desire sale – featuring over 100 lots of fine art, photography, sculpture and design – saw almost half of the works sold achieve prices above the high estimate.
The sale was led by two sculptural masterpieces which established auction records. In an intense bidding battle, collectors clamoured to acquire Jacques Loysel’s La Grande Névrose, considered to be the sculptor’s definitive masterwork. This sensual marble, retained by Loysel in his Paris atelier until his death in 1925 and not seen on the market since, brought £1,868,750, soaring above its pre-sale estimate of £120,000-180,000. A rare surviving work by Sarah Bernhardt – a rediscovered marble relief of Ophelia – sparked frenzied bidding, driving the final sale price to £308,750, six times its pre-sale low estimate (£50,000-70,000). The highest price for a contemporary sculpture in the sale was achieved when Antony Gormley’s Pole II, one of the sculptor’s ‘Blockworks’, sold for £320,750. At the other end of the spectrum, a Roman Marble Group of Two Lovers, circa 1st/2nd Century A.D. – one of only four known examples of an ancient Roman marble depicting a couple engaged in lovemaking – brought £236,750.
Further highlights included works on paper by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, who forged a new path in fearless depictions of the naked figure. Schiele’s Akt (Nude), a prime example of the artist’s late work, fetched £224,750, succeeded by Klimt’s unambiguously erotic pencil drawing, Half-nude reclining to the right which sold for £175,000.
The masters of art photography were represented with a striking selection of powerful images. Condensing Robert Mapplethorpe’s search for aesthetic perfection, the highly stylised Bow and Arrow (Lisa Lyon), 1981 almost tripled its high estimate to bring £23,750. Helmut Newton’s Domestic Nude III: In the Laundry Room at the Château Marmont Hollywood, 1992 – an inimitably erotic and provocatively posed composition constructed in black and white – realised £43,750. Gunter Sachs’ Ascot, 1995 led the colour photographs on offer and achieved £50,000, over five times its low estimate (£8,000-12,000). In addition, a new auction record for Bob Carlos Clarke was established when Vanessa and Vicky Kissing, 2002 sold for £13,750.
The second-highest price achieved overall was for Pavel Tchelitchew’s Bathers, which fetched £368,750. Depicting the artist’s partner, the writer and publisher Charles Henri Ford, and the aggressively foreshortened figure of the New York City Ballet dancer Nicholas Magallanes, the painting once hung on the bedroom wall of one of the 20th-century’s most famous grands horizontals.
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No subject is more universal than that of passion and desire, and the success of today’s sale is testament to the broad appeal of the very best erotic art. We’ve seen unprecedented interest from collectors across the globe – perhaps best encapsulated by the fact that the catalogue has had a record-breaking one million page views – with bids flying in from eighteen countries. The auction has not only given us the opportunity to tell a story, with specialists from across the company bringing their own perspectives, but it has also been wonderful to witness the animated discussions that each work has sparked since the sale went on view.”
Constantine Frangos, Sotheby’s Specialist & Head of Sale