Naomi Watts Nabs Four Racy Portraits at ‘Take Home a Nude’ Auction
It was a star-studded evening.
The fall gala season’s most fun event just might might be “Take Home a Nude,” the New York Academy of Art‘s annual fundraiser. After all, at what other benefits do actresses Brooke Shields and Naomi Watts vie for paintings while begowned women on stilts inform guests the bidding will soon come to an end?
Such was the stage at Sotheby’s New York headquarters, where friends and supporters of the Andy Warhol-founded school gathered on October 24 for the 25th annual auction and party. Sotheby’s auctioneer Courtney Christensen commanded the sale, and Factory star and film producer “Baby” Jane Holzer was the evening’s honoree.
“She’s kind of a phenomenon,” academy president David Kratz told artnet News about Holzer, pointing out that beyond her Warhol fame, she is “an incredible collector.”
For her part, Holzer praised the event as “great party,” and the school in general, telling artnet News that Warhol was “prescient” in founding an institution that put such an emphasis on figure drawing.
“There’s just real fundamental rigor of that type of an education—it’s like learning grammar, and then you can write any kind of poetry you want,” added Shields, an academy board member who has been encouraged to explore her own artistic side by Kratz, who enlisted her to curate the school’s booth at the most recent edition of Art Southampton. Shields is perhaps especially drawn to “Take Home a Nude” because the very first work of art she ever owned was a 19th century etching of a nude, a gift from her husband.
“I’m telling you, I was very hesitant at first [to get involved at the Academy], because I don’t have an art history background,” she said. “But this school has zero pretension.” The actress has no plans as of yet for a repeat curatorial performance, but, she said, “I know I’m on the hook again!”
Other guests included dealers Bill Powers, Emmanuel DiDonna, and Vito Schnabel, writers Glenn O’Brien and Bob Colacello, designers John Varvatos, Cynthia Rowley, and Nicole Miller, the Art Production Fund’s Yvonne Force Villareal and Casey Fremont, artists Damian Loeb and Will Cotton, Princess Alexandra of Greece, and new Sotheby’s hire and former Andy Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner.
Also in attendance was celebrity chef and fledgling collector Bobby Flay, who was also spotted at Frieze New York this year. Shields, for her part, admitted to partaking in some pre-auction online bidding, to help “jack up the prices” on the over 180 works that took over the auction house’s seventh floor galleries.
Watts was also proud of her haul, telling artnet News that she was taking home not one nude but four: a Sebastian Black, a Hugo Guinness, an Adam Lupton, and a “beautiful portrait” of actress C.Z. Guest by Liz Markus, which went for $14,000.
Did she have to engage in any spirited bidding wars to secure her favorites, we asked? “I did the ‘buy it now,'” Watts admitted. “I don’t like wars.”
Introducing the live auction portion of the evening was Shields, who described the sale as a “twofer,” offering buyers the chance to not only bring home an amazing work of art, but also to support a vital New York arts institution.
The first lot was Nicole Eisenman‘s Reign, a pastel drawing the artist created during a party and live figure drawing session hosted by Cotton last month in anticipation of tonight’s sale.
At the time, Eisenman told artnet News she wasn’t planning on contributing what she drew that night to the benefit, but she obviously changed her mind.
Other highlights from the sale included commissioned portraits from Nan Goldin and Cotton. When a two-person bidding war stalled at $60,000 for the Goldin photograph, Christensen offered the bidders a rare opportunity to both win, cleverly raising double the amount from the sale.
For the latter lot, Christensen pointed out that you’d be getting a portrait from the man who painted Katy Perry on the cover of her Teenage Dream album. Before the auctioneer got things started, Sotheby’s director of strategy Joe Dunning chimed in threatening to sing the pop anthem if the bidding didn’t get “high enough.”
Luckily, his warning was heeded, and Cotton’s was the top lot of the night, hammering down at $80,000. Altogether, the Take Home a Nude auction raised a record total of over $1.1 million.
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