Erotic art sells for £5 mn at London auction

AN employee of Sotheby's auction house poses with an artwork entitled 'Ophelia' by French artist Sarah Bernhardt with an estimated price of 50,000-70,000 GBP (60,000-80,000 EUR; 60,000-90,000 USD) during a photocall in London on February 10, 2017 to promote Sotheby's forthcoming Erotic: Passion & Desire sale in London on February 16. / AFP PHOTO / Justin TALLIS

A SALE of erotic art through the ages topped more than £5 million at Sotheby’s auction house in London on Thursday, with one marble nude fetching nearly two million pounds.

The “Erotic: Passion & Desire” auction followed a six-day exhibition of more than 100 works, from the sensual to the explicit.

Collectively the works sold for £5.3 million ($6.6 million, 6.2 million euros), with the star of the show, “La Grande Nevrose,” a female figure in marble by French sculptor Jacques Loysel, going under the hammer for more than £1.8 million.

The work, kept in the Loysel family since his death in 1925, had been estimated to fetch less than £180,000.

The sale was a record for the artist at auction, Sotheby’s said, as was a sculpture from French actress and artist Sarah Bernhardt, of the same era, whose marble “Orphelia” sold for just under £310,000.

Nearly a quarter of the artworks being offered went unsold, including a painted coffee table with male members serving as “legs”. The item was inspired by a similar piece of furniture said to have been found in the collection of Russian empress Catherine the Great.

The auction of sexually charged works from around the world showed the universal fascination with sexuality, according to Sotheby’s head of sale Constantine Frangos.

“A lot of it is depictions of the human form, some of it more graphic than others. What we see is a subject that has repeated itself throughout history,” he told AFP ahead of the exhibition.

“What we’ve seen is a huge appreciation of the human form and erotica,” Frangos added.

— Agence France-Presse