Sex Sells: Passion, Desire and Erotic Art at Sotheby’s

“There’s just no getting away from the illicit, compelling power of sex.” Sotheby’s showcased the depiction of carnal desire from across art history, in its second erotic art sale.



Sex sells, so the saying goes, and it certainly seemed to apply to Sotheby’s, where its second erotic art sale saw bidders clambering for various visions of flesh. Erotic: Passion & Desire took place on 16 February at 2pm at the auction house’s London location, and reached a total sales figure of £5,297,000. Much like the original (billed as the first sale of its kind in London) this edition was an homage to the nude, with something of a testosterone-fuelled obsession with the naked female form, spanning classical sculpture and contemporary photography by way of a fair selection of paintings depicting porcelain-skinned women reclining on chaises––it is worth noting that less than a handful of female artists were represented.

That being said, the homoerotic gaze was far from absent. There were some wonderfully x-rated depictions of men in various compromising positions, including Robert Mapplethorpe’s portraits of anonymous men exposing their crotches, Pavel Tchelitchew’s sketches of boys in the buff and Keith Vaughan’s painted fantasies of BDSM orgies. There were also some entirely comical examples, such as Man Ray’s absurd image of two artist mannequins going at it, or Mel Ramos’s bizarre sculpture of a naked woman astride a gigantic cigar. Ranging from the smutty to the sensual, there’s just no getting away from the illicit, compelling power of sex, and this sale celebrated it in all its glory.


Erotic: Passion & Desire

Sotheby’s London