The Art of Playboy: It Could Be Yours

Tom Wesselmann's 1966 oil painting Mouth No. 8 is one of 125 items of original art from the Playboy Enterprises

By Charlotte Bumstead
What do Marilyn Monroe, Pamela Anderson and Salvador Dali have in common? All three will be starring in the Playboy art auction, taking place on Dec. 8 at Christie’s in New York. The auction—dubbed The Year of the Rabbit—will be offering a selection of 125 prestigious and scandalous artworks. Almost all the items for sale have appeared in the publication. The items chosen represent a historic timeline of interesting, entertaining and revolutionary commercial art.
Hugh Hefner’s ambition to liberate the taboo of sexual expression in his day has transformed over a period of nearly 60 years, into a cultural phenomenon. There is no doubt high bidders will bring in some serious cash for the event. Prominent pieces up for sale include: a photograph of Anderson in a bunny suit, posing with cone-headed Dan Aykroyd; Monroe’s 1953 debut cover shot; sex kitten Brigitte Bardot photo from the early 1960s; as well as three Alberto Vargas pinup girl watercolour and pencil illustration boards.
Predicted to start an expensive bidding war—of $2 million to $3 million—is popular artist Tom Wesselmann’s display of a woman’s open, lipsticked mouth, titled Mouth No.8.
Among the many photographs and cartoons, there will be several works of contemporary art—specifically of which, includes Dali’s Playmate. This 1966 watercolour of a reclining nude was recently removed from its secured spot where it used to hang over Hefner’s bedroom mantel in the Playboy Mansion. “I’m a fan of Dali’s and happy to be sharing it,” the 84-year-old Hefner said, with a wide grin. “It’s a reclining nude, so that made it easy to personally identify with it.” Though such an item would certainly stand out in the average home, it shouldn’t be too difficult for Hef to find a comparable replacement.