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Beatles painting trebles estimate in NY auction sale


Images of a Woman, painted by The Beatles
Image courtesy of Christie's.

A legendary work of art created by all four Beatles has crashed through estimates to sell for $1.7 million at auction in New York.

The piece, usually called Images of a Woman, was created over two or three nights in a Tokyo hotel in July 1966.

The Fab Four were confined to their hotel not just by the usual mobs of fans but by a hostile reception from traditionalists that saw 35,000 police on duty to protect them.

Bored between shows they were entertained by gift-bearing visitors.

The Budokan in Tokyo, where The Beatles controversially performed in 1966. Image courtesy Wikimedia Wii.

Among the bounty they received were the art materials with which they jointly painted this abstract work, working on a flat table. A lamp at the centre of the paper left the blank space in which all four band members signed their names.

This unique piece of work is a staple of Beatle mythology. It was first bought by Tetsusaburo Shimoyama, chairman of Tokyo’s Beatles fan club. It was sold in 1989 to a record shop owner, Takao Nishino. Another sale in was reported in the mid-1990s for $191,000. For many years it was listed on eBay, though never sold through that route. It was auctioned in New York in 2012 for $155,250, when a specialists Beatles memorabilia dealer bought it. The seller bought it from them.

The auction in New York sold the piece for $1.7 million against an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. The buyer’s name has not been released.

There’s no doubting the pieces authenticity, and this sale made much of provenance via photographs taken by Robert Whitaker, who was the tour photographer.

Is it a good work of art? That’s a matter of personal taste, but it would certainly not reach a price anything like this on its own merits.

The lustre of The Beatles, as reflected in prices paid for artefacts related to them, shows little sign of dimming. This piece has risen in value by something like a factor of seven since those early sales. An extraordinary return.

In December, a reverb and echo unit used by John Lennon made nearly £60,000 at auction in London. Though a recording console failed to sell.

Last year a release of a Beatles song topped sales and streaming charts around the world, a good half-century after the band split.

Will this demand ever end? New acts, notably Nirvana recently, will challenge The Beatles for the most fashionable or collectible band, but the Liverpool musicians are firmly established as all-time greats in both the artistic and popular sense, and, will endure in the way that Shakespeare or Mozart have.

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