Unique Marilyn Monroe lot to star in Christie’s auction

Douglas Kirkland (b. 1934), ‘Marilyn (Hugging Pillow),’ 1961, 40-by-60-inch limited-edition archival print. Images courtesy of Christie’s

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 medium format camera is being offered together with two magazine backs, two Carl Zeiss lenses, and two 40-by-60-inch 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 Oct. 29 and is estimated at $200,000 and $300,000.

Douglas Kirkland (b. 1934), ‘Marilyn (Overhead),’ 1961, 40-by-60-inch limited-edition archival print. Images courtesy of Christie’s

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.

Douglas Kirkland’s 1959 Hasselblad 500C camera (no. 36980), with two film magazine backs and two Carl Zeiss lenses. Images courtesy of Christie’s

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.

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.