Christie's may have set a record for the most art sales in auction history last night, but its bidders didn't live up to the viral hype around the price for John Currin's already notorious portrait, Bea Arthur Naked. An anonymous bidder paid a cool $1.915 million at the auction house, but that's decidedly (and disappointingly) on the low end of the official Christie's estimate, which was between between $1.8 million and $2.5 million. Sorry, Internet: Your new favorite painting isn't quite as golden as its bare-breasted Golden Girl of a subject. (But you can scroll down for another look at the NSFW art — for free!)
Currin's work this week turned into something of a perfect storm of Internet: older lady bosom, beloved TV actress, and the hard-to-explain seven-figure whims of the art world. Everyone was sharing this painting — at least when they weren't getting banned: Posting Arthur's imagined toplessness (she never sat for the portrait) got The Daily Beast's editors kicked off Facebook. "Out of nowhere, I—along with 22 of my colleagues—were given a 24-hour ban, which affected not just our ability to post to the company’s Facebook page, but to our personal pages, too," Daily Beast Social Media Editor Brian Ries wrote this morning. Yes, Bea Arthur's boobs have the power to get you banned from the biggest social network on the planet. So the Internet can take some solace in that, at least.
Yes, the Bea Arthur Naked meme will live on in online infamy, but we may never know the painting's new owner. The painting "was purchased by an anonymous bidder over the phone for $1.9 million," the New York Post reports. 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. Were they embarrassed? Or so excited for some nostalgic living room nudity that they had to call in from afar? Either way, the mystery collector now owns a bigger piece of history than he or she did a couple days ago.
Here's the perhaps NSFW portrait (depending on where you work):
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.