WARSAW – Marilyn Monroe fans snapped up over 230 photos of the tragic star and other big Hollywood names by acclaimed celebrity photographer Milton Greene for $740,000 at a rare auction in Poland.
A black-and-white portrait of a barefoot Monroe posing in a tutu fetched the highest price — $18,000. In other photos, the blonde actress was captured dressed in jeans, fixing her lipstick and hair, eating a meal and coyly chatting on the phone.
“The interest in this photo auction was unprecedented,” said Michal Olszewski, sales director at the Dom Aukcyjny Desa Unicum auction house in the Polish capital.
He said he had expected the sale to fetch only around half of its final tally.
The auction was also the largest-ever single sale of images by Milton Greene.
Around 600 bidders from around the globe including the United States, Saudi Arabia and Ecuador vied for the prized images in a six-hour auction which ended in the small hours of Friday. Buyers were also able to place bids via the Internet and by phone.
Polish bidder Piotr Kolasinski told AFP he had planned to buy seven photographs but had to settle for just two with his budget of $3,060.
An image of Marilyn Monroe posing with Marlon Brando he had hoped to acquire was out of his price range, but he did manage to buy a picture of the “Some Like it Hot” actress having an injection.
“It’s the only photo here of Marilyn while she’s ill, certainly an original,” he said.
Poland’s state treasury obtained the Monroe shots among a collection of nearly 4,000 Greene photographs it received as part of a complicated 1995 settlement with a Polish foreign debt management agency.
Photographs of other Hollywood stars including Liza Minnelli, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn also sold briskly.
The collection was stored in boxes for two decades in New York. They were plucked from obscurity in March and shipped to Poland, auction officials said.
For the time being, Poland’s state archives will hold onto the remainder of the collection.