Bonhams Explores- and Exposes -The Male Form in Thematic Sale this June
Along with a catalogue essay by renowned American novelist Edmund White, the presentation spans periods of time, distinct locations, and a variety of mediums celebrating the male body in art

New York – The Male Form, a thematic sale celebrating the male body in art comes to New York on June 7. The sole subject matter is explored across categories from Old Master and 19th Century paintings to sculpture, decorative arts, and contemporary art, with each work having a unique context and significance in the history of art. Other highlights include a monumental mural of a classical dancing athlete by Frederic, Lord Leighton once housed in London's historic Belgrave Square (estimate: $200,000 - 300,000), a provocative pigment print on canvas of nude footballers by Pierre et Gilles (estimate: $40,000-$60,000), an 18K gold wristwatch of moving figures in lovemaking (estimate: $60,000 – 80,000), and multiple Andy Warhol works including a rare print of drag queen Wilhelmina Ross (estimate: $10,000 - 15,000).

Exploring these works in one setting, it's essential to contextualize how such depictions were perceived at its respective time or place. A Japanese handscroll from the Edo period (1615-1868) portrays erotic lovemaking in ten various scenes with multiple people, mostly men with other men. Despite the acceptance of male-male coupling in Japan at that time, such art is rare to come by. The precious work by Miyagawa Chōshun (1683-1753) in ink and color on silk, is estimated at $25,000 - 35,000. This celebrated, normative behavior in Japan at the time is in stark contrast to the US during the mid-1900s when homosexual relationships were illegal and highly stigmatized. Looking at works created at this time by men of other men in a vulnerable context, adds a level of depth by understanding the fortitude to create such work. Portrait of Jon F. Anderson (1987) by Paul Cadmus (1904-1999) is a quiet portrayal of the singer and actor, Jon Farquhar Anderson, who was Cadmus' lover and muse during the latter half of the twentieth century, (estimate: $4,000 – 6,000). Additionally, Duncan Grant's (1885-1978) Two Lovers in an Embrace, depicts what would have been a highly controversial act at that time. The work is featured in the sale and is estimated at $5,000 - 7,000.

Leading up to the 21st Century, artists and activists continue to push back on convention and censorship. Known for transgressive views in art, Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) stirred controversy with his photography often depicting gay BDSM and challenged topics of censorship in art. Three black-and-white photographs in the sale by the artist show various angles of the male form, from the back of Dennis Morgan (estimate: $8,000-12,000) to the "front" of Patrice (estimate: $10,000 – 15,000).

The sale will also include a selection of works from female artists that took inspiration in the male form and flipped the narrative to expose the underrepresented female gaze. As questioned by Edmund White in the foreword to the sale's catalogue, "Why did prudishness accept naked women but not men? Because most connoisseurs were men not women?" Vulnerability in the male form is captured in works by artists Laure Albin-Guillot (1879-1962) and Sheila Metzner (b. 1939) in Untitled Male Nude (estimate: $3,000 – 5,000) and the Rick Dynamo Series (estimate: $1,500 – 2,000), respectively. Also in the sale is Rudolph Nureyev, a painted chair, by Edith Simon (1817 – 2003), which depicts the celebrated Soviet-born ballet dancer and choreographer, Rudolph Khametovich Nureyev (1938-1993). This work, which was once in the dancer's private collection, is estimated at $2,000 – 3,000.

The Male Form is organized by Matthew Haley, Head of Books and Manuscripts at Bonhams London; Aaron Anderson, Associate Specialist of American Art at Bonhams New York; and Anastasia Orfanidou, Specialist in Greek Art at Bonhams London. An essay by Edmund White, renowned American novelist, memoirist, and essayist on queer literature accompanies the sale catalogue.


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