Playboy's 'Year of the Rabbit' art sale features the softer side of Salvador Dali

He was known best for painting melting clocks and burning giraffes, but artist Salvador Dali also turned his hand to something a little less surreal - a Playboy Playmate.

The painting, a reclining nude entitled 'Playmate After Rokeby Venus', was commissioned by the magazine for a pictorial in their 1967 Playmate review issue called 'The Playmate as Fine Art' and had until recently hung in Hugh Hefner's bedroom in the Playboy mansion.

It was sold in New York on December 8 as part of Playboy and Christie's 'The Year Of The Rabbit' auction, which featured more than 125 works from the corporate collection of Playboy Enterprises.

The sale included photographs by the likes of Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, Peter Beard, Sante D'Orazio and Patrick Demarchelier, as well as watercolours by famed pin-up artist Alberto Vargas and a selection of classic cartoons from the magazine.

But the Dali work was one of the stars of the show, selling for an impressive $266,500 (more than double its low-end estimate of $100,000).

Magazine founder and original playboy Hugh Hefner had described the sale as "a chance to pay tribute to our greatest contributors and to share some of our finest moments with collectors." And for many collectors, the chance to invest in a Playmate was too hard to turn down.

The auction was deemed a success by Christie's, selling 69% by lot and 94% by price. Top seller of the evening was Tom Wesselmann's 'Mouth #8 1966', another piece commissioned for the Fine Art pictorial which sold for $1,874,500. The top ten lots also featured iconic images of Marilyn Monroe, Bridget Bardot, Stephanie Seymour and Cindy Crawford.

Cathy Elkies, Christie's Senior Vice President, Director of Corporate and Private Collections said of the sale: "We are very pleased with the success of The Year of the Rabbit: The Playboy Collection. The top lot, Tom Wesselmann's Mouth #8 from 1966 achieved a strong result at $1.8 million, reflecting the passion of contemporary art collectors as well as Playboy followers."

"This auction featured something for everyone — from avid contemporary art collectors to photograph aficionados and fans of Playboy."


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