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  • Press release
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  • New York
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  • For immediate release
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  • 19 September 2019

RELEASE: Christie's to auction Marilyn Monroe photos and Hasselblad camera used by Douglas Kirkland in the 1961 photoshoot

(left to right) Douglas Kirkland (b. 1934), MARILYN (Overhead), 1961.; Douglas Kirkland (b. 1934), MARILYN (Hugging Pillow), 1961.

New York – Christie’s announces the auction of the 1959 Hasselblad 500C camera (no. 36980) used by celebrated Hollywood photographer Douglas Kirkland (b. 1934) for his legendary 1961 Look Magazine photoshoot of Marilyn Monroe. The camera is being offered together with two magazine backs, two Carl Zeiss lenses, and two 40x60 in. limited-edition archival prints of Monroe taken during the shoot. The two photographs, Marilyn (Overhead) and Marilyn (Hugging Pillow), were taken at the pinnacle of Monroe’s fame and less than one year before her tragic death; they remain among the last professional images taken of the star. This seven-piece lot will be offered in The Exceptional Sale on October 29, 2019, and is estimated at $200,000 and $300,000 USD.

This fabled photo session with Monroe, which took place in Beverly Hills on a Friday evening in November 1961, is remembered with an almost mythical sensibility. It still lives on as one of the most quintessentially “Old Hollywood” moments of all time. With little other than a bedsheet, a bottle of champagne and Frank Sinatra’s voice crooning from a record player, the young Kirkland was able to capture on film the ethereal and transcendent beauty of a true icon with unmatched skill and intensity. The images taken of Monroe that evening exist as relics to the film industry’s heyday, an era defined by sensuality and glamour.

The 1959 500C was a pivotal product for Hasselblad. The model launched initially in 1957 and rocketed the Swedish camera company’s popularity. Kirkland was an early adopter of this model, who at the young age of 27 had just joined Look Magazine 18 months prior and was at the precipice of what was soon to become a long and illustrious career in photojournalism.

Becky MacGuire, Sale Director, The Exceptional Sale comments, “We are thrilled to be offering buyers the chance to own a piece of that magical Hollywood moment when Marilyn owned the silver screen. No one connected with the tragic star better than the young photojournalist Douglas Kirkland, who became the photographer of choice for film stars and top movie producers well into the 21st century.

Kirkland went on to photograph a multitude of stars and cultural icons, including Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve, Diana Ross, Billy Idol, Coco Chanel, and Andy Warhol. His work resides in permanent collections of some of the most prominent and recognized art institutions around the world, including the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian, the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, the Houston Center for Photography, the Eastman House in Rochester and the Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles.

About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi, 2017), for a single collection sale (the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, 2018), and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019).

Christie’s Private Sales offers a seamless service for buying and selling art, jewellery and watches outside of the auction calendar, working exclusively with Christie’s specialists at a client’s individual pace.

Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

Christie’s is dedicated to advancing responsible culture throughout its business and communities worldwide, including achieving sustainability through net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and actively using its platform in the art world to amplify under-represented voices and support positive change.

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