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Topless Beatrice Arthur painting part of record $495-million auction

May 16, 2013|By David Ng
  • Detail of "Bea Arthur Naked" by John Currin.
Detail of "Bea Arthur Naked" by John Currin. (John Currin/Christie's )

Did it come with a card attached that says, "Thank you for being a friend"?

A 1991 painting depicting a topless Bea Arthur that was created by artist John Currin has sold at an auction Wednesday for $1.9 million. The sale was part of a larger Christie's auction in New York of post-war and contemporary art that brought in a total of $495 million -- a record figure for any art auction.

The Christie's sale featured 72 items by many of the most coveted names in 20th century art. Works by Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat brought in record auction amounts. Among the collectors reported to be in attendance were Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad, J. Crew Chief Executive Millard Drexler and model Kate Upton.

ART: Can you guess the high price?

Pollock's drip painting "Number 19, 1948" brought in $58.4 million, easily exceeding the high end of expectations of $35 million. The New York Times reported the painting previously sold for $2.4 million. Lichtenstein's painting "Woman with Flowered Hat" brought in $56.1 million; it had been owned by Ronald Perelman, the New York billionaire.

Basquiat's painting "Dustheads" fetched $48.8 million. An Andy Warhol self-portrait went for $5.2 million.

Other artists represented in the auction were Urs Fischer, Cy Twombly, Bruce Nauman, Ed Ruscha, Willem de Kooning, Sam Francis, Frank Stella and Donald Judd.

Nestled among the highly valued works of art was Currin's "Bea Arthur Nude," an oil painting that depicts "The Golden Girls" actress, who died in 2009, with her breasts bared. The piece had been expected to bring in $1.8 million to $2.5 million.

Currin is known for his sexually provocative paintings, some of which depict famous women in various states of undress.

On Tuesday, a Sotheby's sale of contemporary art brought in a total of $293.6 million.

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