A topless painting of the late actress Bea Arthur sold for $1.9 million at an auction in New York Wednesday night, far less than it was expected to fetch.
Created in 1991 by artist John Currin, the oil painting was part of a larger Christie's auction of post-war and contemporary art that netted a record $495 million.
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Titled "Bea Arthur Nude," Currin's painting shows "The Golden Girls" star topless from the waist up. According to lot notes on Christie's website, the painting was derived from a photograph of the actress with clothes on. It was expected to fetch as much as $2.5 million.
Arthur, best known for her Emmy Award-winning roles in the 1970s and 80s television series "Maude" and "The Golden Girls," died in 2009 from cancer.
The painting has been causing controversy since it was created. Peter Schjeldahl wrote in The New Yorker in 2003 that the portrait was part of Currin's "acrid fantasy portraits of menopausal women."
Currin is widely known for depicting his subjects in provocative poses. Some writers even urged art lovers to boycott Currin's shows in the early 90s. But his work is now widely acclaimed and hangs in museums such as the Whitney.
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A Christie's spokesperson called the Arthur painting "visually lasting."
"It's historically significant
— it’s radical to sexualize someone people think of as asexual," spokesman Koji Inoue told the New York Post. "The painting has a visual toughness to it — but it’s also fun."
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