Multiple auction houses were interested in the vast collection of Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione’s erotic treasures, recently acquired by entrepreneur Jeremy Frommer via the late media mogul’s storage lockers and creditors. After Vice Magazine devoted their entire September issue to the Guccione archives, Frommer was approached by several auctioneers about collaborating on a wide-reaching exhibition. After curating the items and nearing the beginning of the sale, said Frommer, “we heard the same excuse over and over – the higher-ups were concerned about Guccione’s history with erotica.”
Especially hypocritical was Christie’s, who were prepared to run a massive auction of never-before-seen Guccione items but without anything erotic – Caligula memorabilia, fine art, Omni pieces – yet pulled the plug at the last minute due to internal pressure. Apparently their sale of Jeff Koons’ intimate photo of he and then-wife Cicciolina – an Italian porn star – was fine for the Christie’s brand, especially when the image sold for $525,000. The battle echoes the discrimination Guccione faced throughout his life; for example, when Penthouse magazine was banned from stores like 7-Eleven after the Meese Commission’s report on pornography. As documented in the upcoming film Filthy Gorgeous, the Italian magnate fought tirelessly for both his own rights and those of others to enjoy whatever erotic materials they so desired. In a recent interview, famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz commented, “Bob Guccione did more for the First Amendment in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s than the Supreme Court”.
Looks like Frommer will have the last laugh. His current online auction, viewable at: http://guccionecollection.com , has already broken records for the Live Auctioneers website. While bids are still being accepted for Saturday’s event, the totals have already far surpassed what the take would have been at any of the top houses. Surely Guccione himself would have appreciated the irony.
Words: Guccione Collection CEO Jeremy Frommer Photo: © Artlyst 2010