Jonathan Ames: The Mystique and the Mistake of the First Person
interview by Jason Mojica

Jenny Hart: Mistress of the Stich
by Sarah Coffee

Fornasetti: La Follia Pratica
by Jason Mojica

The Registrators
interview by Eric Ottens

Fashion Archive
Chicago '96

Alexander Girard
By Jason Mojica

Plaster Caster
DVD review

Playboy at 50: Selections from the Archives
By Jason Mojica

Cock In The Henhouse
By Jennifer Waronker

 

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LeRoy Neiman
LeMans, 1969. (Estimate $20,000-30,000)

Playboy at 50: Selections from the Archives
Auction, December 17, 2004
Christie's New York

"LeRoy Neiman is the Norman Rockwell of our generation," a Playboy staffer says as a young lady laughs heartily in his face. Granted, for those of us who's first exposure to Mr. Nieman's work was the freeze-frame-turned-painting at the end of Rocky III, this can be a little hard to swallow. To make matters worse, that Playboy is one of the worst magazines on newsstands today doesn't make an auction touting "selections from the archives" sound too promising. However, in a different context, at a different time, Playboy magazine and its artists were at the top of their game.

On December 17, 2004, Christie's New York will hold Playboy at 50: Selections from the Archives. Christie's beautifully produced 190 page catalog ($45 U.S.) truly captures the legacy of Playboy, reminding us that it truly was one of the most important cultural insitutions of the 20th century.

From its inception through the 80s, Playboy made an odd habit of purchasing the originals of all its commissioned artwork. A habit that should prove very profitable given the body of work being offered at this sale. Over 300 lots of artwork, manuscripts, and letters from the likes of Vladamir Nabokov, Roger Brown, Nelson Algren, Ed Paschke, Shel Silverstein, Art Paul, and, oh yes... LeRoy Neiman.

The most celebrated lots in the sale include Hugh Hefner's Little Black Book (estimate $8,000-12,000), Jack Keroac's typed manusript for Before the Road (estimate $20,000-30,000), Ian Fleming's marked advance proofs for the first American appearance of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (estimate $18,000-24,000), LeRoy Neiman's Le Mans (estimate $20,000-30,000), Tom Wesslemann's Study for the Great American Nude #87 (estimate $40,000-60,000) and an illustration of the Rabbithead logo in the shape of a butterfly by Vladamir Nabokov (estimate $15,000-20,000).


Tom Wesslemann's Study for
the Great American Nude #87
(estimate $15,000-20,000)

For those on a smaller budget, there is a fantastic selection of undervalued and/or underappreciated art from the archives. A georgeous, somewhat haunting painting of Hefner by Jacob Burck, which hung for years in the Chicago mansion has a very reasonable estimate of $3,000-5000. One of Bea Paul's Mr. Playboy collages which adorned many of the magazine's covers has a low estimate of $800. A pair of paintings by Howard Mueller which illustrated Ian Fleming's Man with the Golden Gun are estimated at $6,000-8000. Two kitchy David Dragon paintings of Humphrey Bogart & John Wayne have a very reasonable estimate of $2,000-$3000.


Jacob Burck Hef (estimate $3,000-5,000)

Is irony your game? If so, you could be the envy of all your friends when you show of an original Nagel. Five orginal works are offered with estimates between $3,000-5000. Seriously. Think about it. You know he's going to be back in fashion any day now.

If you're looking to forget the horror of Frank Gehry's "New Playboy Bachelor Pad," consider Humen Tan's illustrations from the long-running Playboy Pad series. Done between 1962 and 1963, these are a steal with estimates ranging from $1,000-7000.


Humen Tan
Street View of the Facade
(estimate $2,000-$3,000)

An interesting assortment of letters is also up for sale. Whether it's Barry Goldwater's letter to Hugh Hefner, praising an article titled Who Runs the Government, or Fred Astaire's persnickity page-long clarification that he REALLY DOES NOT HAPPEN TO LIKE CHAMPAGNE, there's nothing quite like reading other people's mail, is there? For instance, don't you want this letter from Peter Sellers?

Playboy at 50: Selections from the Archives is not the first Playboy auction to be held. Butterfield's in Los Angeles had a Playboy auction of their own in June, 2002. While the Butterfield's auction was exciting, the quality of material offered by Christie's is in a differnt league altogether, leaving us to wonder: what other treasures are hiding in the Playboy Archives?

--
Jason Mojica likes art.

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