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Monroe Nude Photos Back on the Market

September 14, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

The so-called "Red Velvet" series of nude photographs of Marilyn Monroe is back on the market.

After several failed attempts to sell the series that helped rocket Monroe to stardom, Ventura photographer Tom Kelley said this week that he is once again seeking a buyer for the images of Monroe lounging against a red velvet curtain.

The offer includes the six pictures shot in 1949 by Kelley's father, Tom Kelley Sr., that produced the centerfold for Playboy magazine's inaugural issue. It also includes the intellectual property rights--negatives, copyrights and Monroe's signed model's release--that will allow the buyer to use the images for trade and advertising purposes. In a move that generated international attention, Butterfields Auctioneers in Hollywood and its then-parent company, Ebay Inc., simultaneously put the images and rights on the auction block in March 2001.

As a collection, the photos fetched $475,000, an offer rejected as too low. Offered individually, the photos drew bids totaling $840,000, still below a minimum price set by Kelley of $1.25 million.

No sale was made, and the photographs remained in Kelley's possession.

Then, this past March, Kelley and his agent Gary Saal found a private buyer for the collection.

But that deal recently fell through, prompting a lawsuit to be filed on behalf of Tom Kelley Studios alleging beach of contract.

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