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Ryan Murphy Curates Selected Paintings From Upcoming Sotheby’s Art Auction (Exclusive)


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Ryan Murphy has linked up with top auction house Sotheby’s on the latest iteration of its Contemporary Curated series of sales. The program, launched in 2013, engages top names in the fields of everything from film to fashion and food to pick their favorite works of art from an upcoming auction and share why the pieces resonate with them.

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Ryan Murphy.

Robert Trachtenberg/Courtesy of Subject

As guest curator of Sotheby’s March 11 Contemporary Curated sale in New York, Murphy, an avid art collector himself, chose 13 works from the auction, including two works by the late Wayne Thiebaud (the first of his paintings to hit the auction block since the artist’s death in December) and pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cecily Brown, John Baldessari, Louise Bourgeois, Alma Thomas, Stanley Whitney, Maureen Gallace, Alex Katz and Nathaniel Mary Quinn.

Of Basquiat, Murphy told Sotheby’s, “I love Jean-Michel’s printing and his word usage almost as much as his imagery. I think he’s always sending a message about who he was and his place in time; what it was like to be a minority in this very white art world of the ’80s, and how deep his struggle was.”

Rounding out his selections are two works by Andy Warhol, who is also the subject of Murphy’s latest producing project, The Andy Warhol Diaries, a six-part docuseries about the hugely influential pop artist and filmmaker. Directed and written by Andrew Rossi and using AI technology to recreate Warhol’s voice, it premieres March 9 on Netflix.

“The series really examines Warhol’s life as an artist in a new way, unveiling the man behind the work through a queer sensibility, and exploring the man as his own work of art,” Murphy told Sotheby’s. “I see a lot of myself in Andy Warhol, particularly in the idea of reinvention. In my career, I’ve gone through many different phases, which are very much influenced by the people I am surrounded by.” The Warhol artworks in the sale include a painting of the Japanese composer and singer Ryuichi Sakamoto (with an estimate of $500k-$700k) and a 1981 piece titled Superman.

Previous guest curators of Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated auctions include Oprah Winfrey, philanthropist Agnes Gund, DJ Steve Aoki, singer Ellie Goulding, record producer Swizz Beatz, actress and singer Cynthia Erivo, chef Massimo Bottura and fashion designer Kim Jones.

Continue reading to see some of Murphy’s favorites and his commentary on the works.

Andy Warhol’s Ryuichi Sakamoto, 1984

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Andy Warhol’s “Ryuichi Sakamoto,” 1984


“Jerry Hall sat many, many times for Andy Warhol, and in the documentary she said, ‘You can always tell who Andy Warhol liked and who he didn’t like. If he made your lip line in the portraits very sloppy, he didn’t like you. But if he made it very precise around your lips, he thought you were a good person.’ I think he must have been very impressed with Mr. Sakamoto in 1984,” Murphy told Sotheby’s vice president of contemporary art Ashkan Baghestani.

Wayne Thiebaud’s Cantaloupe, 1962

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Wayne Thiebaud’s “Cantaloupe,” 1962.


“I must admit that personally I was very late to the Wayne game. I remember when I first saw them, I thought they were so strange and adolescent. They looked very childlike to me. But as time has gone on, I’ve become more and more obsessed with them. Like Warhol, there’s a mass consumer culture appeal here,” said Murphy.

Cecily Brown’s Girder and Joist, 2009.

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Cecily Brown’s “Girder and Joist,” 2009.


“I really love the subtle sexuality and hidden erotic elements that are buried within Cecily Brown’s paintings. There’s a naughtiness that you have to really search for — but you can find it, if you’re looking,” said Murphy.

Maureen Gallace’s Untitled, 1999.

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Maureen Gallace, “Untitled,” 1999.


“Maureen Gallace’s works evoke memories of postcards and days gone by. There’s a lot in common with some of the artists who I really love and have collected, including Fairfield Porter and Giorgio Morandi,” said Murphy.

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