Bonhams is to hold the first-ever sale by an international auction house dedicated exclusively to a celebration of the male form in art. It will span centuries and genres, from Antiquities and Old Master Painting to Sculpture and Decorative Arts, from Contemporary Art to Photography. The sale will take place in London on Wednesday 16 June and has already attracted major consignments including The Pride Cups, estimated at £180,000-220,000. A substantial donation from the proceeds of the sale of the Pride Cups will be shared by the LGBT+ charity Stonewall and the British Museum.
Unveiled in July 2019, the eight Pride Cups represent more than a year’s work by the silversmith Hal Messel who has reimagined, in a contemporary setting, explicit scenes of homosexual lovemaking from the Warren Cup. The original Roman cup is more than 2,000 years old and has been on public display at the British Museum since 1999.
Working alongside the world-famous Pangolin Editions foundry and using a unique mould of the Warren Cup commissioned by a previous owner, Messel faithfully rendered the scenes on each of the eight differently coloured Pride Cups; the colours represent those of the Rainbow Flag. He developed a unique process for adding a translucent colour treatment that allowed the polished silver to shine through. The process was drawn out and complicated, and the artist decided to keep the process and formulation a secret.
The LGBT+ charity Stonewall said of the cups at their launch in 2019, “This project has helped spark an important conversation about how attitudes have changed and how much work there still is to do.”
The sale is co-curated by Bonhams Head of Books and Manuscripts, Matthew Haley, and Greek Art specialist Anastasia Orfanidou. Matthew said: “We are particularly pleased that the Pride Cups, which were launched to such acclaim at the British Museum two years ago, will be taking centre stage in our Male Form sale. Just as the Warren Cup offers unprecedented insight into the sexual mores of the Ancient world, so Messel’s Pride Cups speak to the importance of diversity today.”
Anastasia Orfanidou added: “This exciting new concept challenges a market that has traditionally been centred around the western concept of the male gaze. It will explore how women look at men and how men look at other men, introducing a fresh context and platform that will spark new discussions on an historically unspoken market.”