Sotheby’s Goes Risqué in First-Ever Erotic Art Auction

The auction house is stepping out of its comfort zone.

Marc Quinn Siren (2008). Photo: courtesy of Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s is stepping out of its comfort zone by staging its first ever erotic art sale in London later this month.

The auction encompasses a variety of pieces surrounding the themes of love and sex, which span the entirety of art history from antiques to contemporary artworks. Additionally, the venerable auction house tapped Rowan Pelling, editor of the erotic periodical Erotic Review as guest editor for the sale catalogue.

A total of 107 risqué artworks will go under the hammer, including racy sketches, paintings, sculpture, and design pieces, which will be on view at Sotheby’s London headquarters February 11–15, ahead of the February 16 sale.

Highlights include a French 19th-century carved mahogany bed, featuring a two-tailed figure of a topless mermaid, which has been estimated at £500,000–800,000 ($624,250–$998,800)—the most expensive lot at the sale.

French, second half 19th century, An exceptional carved mahogany bed. Photo: courtesy of Sotheby's.

French, second half 19th century, An exceptional carved mahogany bed. Photo: courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Demonstrating the broad range and eclectic nature of the sale, the item with the lowest estimate, a phallic Shiva Vase, has carries a pre-sale estimate of just £200–300 ($250–375).

“This sale creates a stage on which we are able to bring together a fascinating array of artworks and objects across many disciplines,” sale head Constantine Frangos told the Daily Mail. The auction is “charting a history whilst also presenting stunning works by artists as eclectic as Picasso, Man Ray, Ettore Sottsass, and Marc Quinn.”

Quinn’s Maquette For Siren (2008) a gold statue of Kate Moss in a sensual yoga pose is estimated at £70,000–90,000 ($87,395–112,365). The British sculptor told Sotheby’s that the piece “represents everything that lures people to wreck themselves on the rocks: money, perfection, unattainable images—all these things.”

Mel Ramos Tomato Catsup, Tobacco Red; Lola Cola; and A.C. Annie. Photo: courtesy of Sotheby's.

Mel Ramos Tomato Catsup, Tobacco Red; Lola Cola; and A.C. Annie. Photo: courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Also included in the sale are series of four pin-up style Mel Ramos prints, estimated at £5,000–7,000 ($6,243–8,740).

Not to be forgotten are a selection of photographic works by some of the biggest names in contemporary photography. Works by Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Hans Bellmer, and Thomas Ruff are all included in the sale.

“Art has always existed to tell a human story, and sex has always been part of that story—whether it is there to compel, to shock or to seduce,” Frangos concluded. “Indeed, eroticism in art has appeared in whatever for art has taken, an our exhibition will take the viewer on a journey through the centuries.”

Erotic: Passion & Desire” takes place on February 16, 2017 at Sotheby’s London.


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