LeRoy Neiman LeMans, 1969. (Estimate $20,000-30,000)
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
Paul, and, oh yes... LeRoy
The most celebrated lots in the sale include Hugh Hefner's
Little Black Book (estimate $8,000-12,000), Jack
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
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
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,"
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.
Street View of the Facade
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
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
this column in The Modernist's forums.