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'Bea Arthur Naked' Painting Sells for $1.9 Million

After currying massive interest online, John Currin's controversial portrait falls slightly short of expectations during a record-selling auction at Christie's.

"Bea Arthur Naked."
John Currin

John Currin's controversial portrait of a topless Bea Arthur has sold for $1.9 million in a record-breaking Christie's auction that netted a whopping $495 million for 70 lots on the block.

Despite heavy interest online -- ahoy, it's Dorothy from the Golden Girls as you've never seen her before! -- the Arthur sale fell short of expectations, having been projected to go for as high as $2.5 million. A secret bidder acquired the 1991 work, called "Bea Arthur Naked," at Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art Sale in New York City on Wednesday evening.

"Anonymous bids are frequent in the art world — and it was a busy night at Christie's, with the biggest sales of any night of auctioning, ever — but this person didn't even bother to show up," writes Alexander Abad-Santos over at The Atlantic Wire. "Were they embarrassed? Or so excited for some nostalgic living room nudity that they had to call in from afar?" 

Meanwhile, Jean-Michel Basquiat's Dustheads, circa 1982, notched a new record for the late legendary artist with a sale of $48 million to Warner Music Group Group mogul Len Blavatnik, GalleristNY reports.

Currin, whose polarizing artwork has drawn both admiration and outrage, "made a small stir with his commercial-gallery debut, in 1992, which featured acrid fantasy portraits of menopausal women -- images suspended, in his words, 'between the object of desire and the object of loathing,' " wrote Peter Schjeldahl in The New Yorker circa 2003. He is repped by the Gagosian Gallery.

Click through to see the full, NSFW image.

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Twitter: @ErinLCarlson; email: erin.carlson@thr.com

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