Alex Katz Study From East Village Billboard Heads to Auction

A study for a billboard that once hung over the East Village is to be auctioned tomorrow.

Study for billboard by Alex Katz.
Study for billboard by Alex Katz.

Remember this billboard? It’s hard to believe, but even in 2005, when it went up over the intersection of Bowery and East 4th Street, the image of two men kissing was still provocative.

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Now, you can own a piece of that history. Tomorrow, live and online, Christie’s is auctioning a study for the work, which is by the New York-based figurative painter and sculptor Alex Katz, with an estimate of between $100,000 and $150,000.

Katz, known for large, public paintings such as those that hung over Times Square in the 1970s, received a commission from Creative Time to paint the work, which was one of three funded by a corporate gift and erected in the city that year. (The company that provided the funds, United Technologies, reportedly held internal discussions over the content of the painting and decided not to “be squeamish,” in the end. Gee, how forward-thinking.)

The 88-year old artist has been painting gay men since the 1950s, especially famous poets, such as Frank O’Hara and Edwin Denby.

A private client is selling the work due to the excellent market for Katz work right now, Han-I Wang, a specialist at Christie’s overseeing the auction, told the Observer. “It was the perfect moment to have a sale,” she said. This is the painting’s first time at auction.

Katz painted the study himself, whereas for union and liability reasons, professional sign painters did the actual billboard painting, as the New York Times reported at the time. So in this sense, the study is more authentic than the billboard.

The 24 x 64-inch oil painting will be sold at 10 am Wednesday September 28.

Alex Katz Study From East Village Billboard Heads to Auction