Property’s Morning Obsession: “Bea Arthur Naked” Spurs Home Decor Mystery (NSFW)

The first part of our obsession with this story is the very fact that there is a painting in this world of Bea Arthur naked. Painted in 1991 by artist John Currin, it depicts the very recognizable star of the pathbreaking TV show Maude and The Golden Girls during her 1970s heyday. But rather than wearing one of her trademark caftans, Arthur wears nothing at all. The painting went up for auction at Christie’s on May 15th, and in the lot notes, Currin is quoted from various sources explaining his process:

In the eighties, I didn’t have TV for, like, a whole decade. When I started watching again in the nineties, The Golden Girls was in syndication. When I had a loft with Sean and Kevin Landers, we’d always take a break in the afternoon and watch The Golden Girls. …

One day I was hearing voices in my head rant about how bad my paintings were and I thought, ‘I might as well paint a picture of Bea Arthur, instead of these masculine abstract pieces. …

I was going to put a scarf ensemble on her like that from her Maude days, and I drew the body just to drape it. It was then that I realized that the painting was fantastic as it was. I loved being repelled by those two black eyes and falling back into these wonderful, soft breasts, which draw you back in.

Arthur reacted with her characteristic dry wit: “Maybe he was attracted to the feminist movement of the 1970s. Because of Maude, I was the Joan of Arc of feminism. He certainly couldn’t have done anything with Marlo Thomas of That Girl.”

The painting sold to an anonymous bidder on May 15th for $1,915,750. Now a related obsession: trying to figure out who owns it. The latest guess was that Jimmy Kimmel bought it as a gift for comedian Jeffrey Ross, a rumor started by Ross on Twitter. Kimmel played along briefly but then admitted they’d both been kidding around. So who has Bea Arthur Naked hanging on the wall? We many never know. Below is the actual painting in all its glory.

bea arthur naked

Bea Arthur Naked by John Currin