This fall, Christie’s New York will offer prints of photographs from Madonna’s controversial 1992 coffee table book “Sex” for sale for the first time, marking the 30th anniversary of its publication. Over 40 prints originally featured in the book will be part of a special auction, with each print being a unique edition signed by Madonna and fashion photographer Steven Meisel, and prices ranging from $50,000 to $300,000. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Raising Malawi, a non-profit organization founded by Madonna in 2006 to support vulnerable children in southeast Africa.
“Sex” was a commercial success, despite being banned in countries such as Ireland and Japan, and drawing condemnation from the Vatican. The book included photographs of Madonna and others in the nude, as well as depictions of simulated sexual acts, featuring stars such as Naomi Campbell and Tatiana von Fürstenberg. Despite its controversy, Darius Himes, Christie’s deputy chairman and international head of photographs, described “Sex” as a body-positive, sex-positive book that still resonates as both shocking and titillating today.
The photographs up for sale were chosen by Madonna, Meisel, and Anthony Vaccarello, creative director of Saint Laurent, which released a limited second run of “Sex” last year to coincide with Art Basel in Miami Beach. All 800 signed copies sold out, and a pop-up exhibition of the photographs drew large crowds. Himes described the photographs as “both playful and erotic,” saying that Meisel’s images have stood the test of time and resonate across multiple generations.
“Sex” was released during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the US and included frank depictions of homosexuality, which was less accepted in mainstream culture at the time. Despite facing backlash for the book’s controversial content, Madonna believed that it helped pave the way for other female artists to express their sexuality.
Last year, Madonna collaborated with digital artist Beeple to release three NFTs based on a 3D scan of the singer in the nude, depicting her giving birth to creatures like butterflies and centipedes. The project received criticism, with some accusing Madonna of pandering to the male gaze. However, she defended the project, saying that it depicted something that women have been doing since the beginning of time.
Before the auction, the photographs will be exhibited in Christie’s London and Paris, with the New York exhibition running from September 30 to October 6.