More than 50 years after her death, the world remains intrigued by the iconic Marilyn Monroe. And at Freeman’s Photographs & Photobooks auction on September 10, an editioned portfolio of “The Last Sitting” by photographer Bert Stern set an auction record by selling for $41,250—more than four times the estimate. The portfolio of ten photographs had received quite a bit of media attention over the summer due Stern’s recent death in June 2013 and because of the photographs’ subject matter.
In the summer of 1962, only six weeks before her death, Bert Stern was commissioned by Vogue magazine for a photo shoot of Marilyn Monroe. Over three days, he took more than 2,500 photos of the actress, which became known as “The Last Sitting.” “What’s interesting about the photos is that they were taken before any of the Vogue makeup artists or editors arrived on the set. It was just Bert and Marilyn. While it’s fairly common to see one of these photos sell at auction, a complete portfolio of ten portraits is more rare,” said Photographs & Photobooks Department Head Aimee Pflieger.
Another highlight from the Photographs & Photobooks sale was the single-owner section featuring “Works from the Avon Collection.” More than 90 lots attracted bidders from around the globe. Thirty-five percent of the proceeds from the sale benefited the Avon Foundation for Women, the company’s charitable organization dedicated to breast cancer research and ending domestic violence. Among the highpoints was Sandy Skoglund’s dynamic, surreal print “The Green Room,” which ultimately brought $26,250 after spirited bidding.