[Update: The painting Bea Arthur Naked did indeed sell at last night's auction. An anonymous buyer bid an astonishing $1.9 million US via telephone for the portrait of the late actress.]
[Update II: Comic Jeff Ross posted a photo of himself holding the portrait on Twitter, stating, "Biggest surprise of my life. Thank you @jimmykimmel - the most generous guy in the world! #BeaArthur,", implying the late night talk show host had purchased the painting as a gift. Jimmy Kimmel responded with his own tweet, "Bea is watching over all of us, especially you," confirming he had bought the painting, before later tweeting, "Contrary to "news" reports, I didn't buy the Bea Arthur painting - not even for @realjeffreyross - but I did buy the Mona Lisa Lampanelli."]
So did Kimmel actually purchase the painting? My guess would be yes, as I don't think Ross has that kind of money!
The theme song lyrics to the classic Norman Lear 70s sitcom Maude starring the late, great Bea Arthur did mention Lady Godiva being a freedom rider, but I didn't see this one coming!
A nude portrait of Golden Girls actress Bea Arthur will be going under the gavel at Christie's Auction House in New York City this evening...and the stunning painting is anticipated to bring in as much as $1.5 to $2 million US!
The portrait by regarded artist John Currin is of Arthur from the time she was on the controversial series Maude. The actress did not sit for the artist, and was completely rendered from clothed photographs of the actress, with the naughty bits derived from the artist's imagination, we hope. The portrait was initially blasted by art critics when it was first unveiled in 1991, with some calling it sexist and misogynistic.
Art critic Peter Schjeldahl once dubbed Currin's art work his “acrid fantasy portraits of menopausal women”. Currin writes in the lot notes for tonight's auction at Christie's, “I had a vision in my head of Bea Arthur, and I found a picture of her. I was going to put a scarf ensemble on her like that from her Maude days, and I drew the body just to drape it. It was then that I realized that the painting was fantastic as it was." Arthur died of cancer in 2009.
The Arthur portrait joins works from other famed artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Jackson Pollock that will be up for bid tonight during the house's Post War & Contemporary Art Sale.
You may view the entire, uncensored Bea Arthur portrait over at Entertainment Weekly's website.