At Large  April 3, 2024  Carlota Gamboa

Marilyn Monroe Items and Playboy’s Art Collection Bring In $4 Million

Courtesy Julien's Auctions

One print in the After Andy Warhol Sunday B Morning Portfolio Of Ten Prints.

Julien’s, the “record-breaking auction house to the stars,” has brought in upwards of $4 million over the past weekend, March 28-30, with the sale of Icons: Playboy, Hugh Hefner & Marilyn Monroe. Though they never met in person, Marilyn Monroe was the first person to grace the front-cover and centerfold of Playboy Magazine after Hugh Hefner, the magazine's founder, paid $500 for the rights of a nude photoshoot she’d done for $50 in 1949.

courtesy Julien's

A Marilyn-Monroe-owned and worn Pucci dress.

From there the Playboy media empire took on a life of its own, but Hefner’s obsession with Monroe never waned. Even in death he pursued her, and bought the crypt at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery neighboring Monroe’s in 1992. Late last week, someone bought their own adjacent crypt to both Hollywood figures on the Corridor of Memories for $195,000.

Julien’s offered a mixture of personal items, costumes, and a large amount of art from Hefner’s collection as well as pieces that were once displayed around the Playboy headquarters, coming to a total of 600 lots. A lavender boned leotard worn by Monroe during the 1958 photoshoot by Richard Avedon for Life magazine sold for $29,250. A pink silk jersey Pucci dress owned by Monroe, “Exclusively for Saks Fifth Avenue” as per the label, made the record sale price for the Florentine designer at $325,000. Monroe’s studio notes, checkbooks with their leather covers, letter correspondences, and several annotated scripts were also on offer during the auction.

Courtesy of Julien's Auctions

Richard Hunt, Bird.

As for Hefner’s estate, Stalk (1962) by Richard Hunt (who currently has an exhibition up at White Cube in New York) sold for $127,000 and was reported by artnet as the highest selling lot of fine art during the auction. The piece was pictured in an issue of Playboy alongside an article, "The Fine Art of Acquiring Fine Art: On the principles, pleasures and prices of artful connoisseurship and modern living." More recently, it had been on display in the lobby of Playboy Enterprises in Beverly Hills. 

Another bronze piece by the Chicago-born abstract sculptor, Bird, went for $63,500, a total that quadrupled its high estimate. A signed Pablo Picasso etching entitled Raphael et la Fornarina I (1968) sold for $13,000, and the color lithograph Woman, Moon Stars (1963) by Joan Miró sold for $16,250.

Courtesy of Julien's Auctions

Leroy Neiman, Femlin Grieving Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The artist and sport illustrator LeRoy Neiman, whose femme-fatal ‘femlins'— a portmanteau of ‘female’ and ‘gremlin’— were a Playboy party-page staple, had 17 drawings up for sale. The highest priced of the bunch was a femlin mourning the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. that sold for $16,250.

About the Author

Carlota Gamboa

Carlota Gamboa is an art writer based in Los Angeles.

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