Rare 1986 Matthew Rolston portrait of Madonna from his new book, “Hollywood Royale,” commands top price at benefit auction in Los Angeles

Earlier this month at a glamorous benefit auction for PHOTO17: The AIDS Monument hosted by Paddle8 in Los Angeles, art collectors were presented with the first opportunity to buy a portrait featured in Matthew Rolston‘s upcoming monograph and exhibition, Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles.

The piece in question was an extremely rare 1986 portrait of Madonna as film idol Marlene Dietrich, an image that Rolston had printed at monumental scale. Madonna as Marlene had the highest reserve and sold for the highest price of the evening—$14,000.

The enthusiastic response is a sure sign that demand for this body of work—which will go on view this month at Berlin’s Camera Work Galerie and in March 2018, just in time for the Academy Awards, at Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles—will be high.


Madonna as Marlene, Los Angeles, 1986, by Matthew Rolston. This striking portrait of the pop icon starts the book Hollywood Royale off with a bang, appearing as the first image after the introductions.


“We put Matthew last in the live bidding because he had that highest reserve. So I thought, we’ll end on a high note,” says Bobby Heller of OPUS Reps, who organized the auction. “His image was placed as you entered the main room, facing the VIP section, and it was big. A lot of people were taking selfies in front of it.”


A selfie that Abdi Nazemian, associate producer of the critically acclaimed new film Call Me by Your Name, took in front of Rolston’s image at the auction.


Proceeds from the auction will support the creation of STORIES: The AIDS Monument in the City of West Hollywood. Fittingly, the buyer was David Cooley, founder and CEO of the Abbey, perhaps the best-known and longest-running gay bar/restaurant in LA. Cooley has long been a tireless supporter of the LGBTQ community. He cofounded Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing and hosts an annual Christmas in September event and toy drive for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He has also hosts an annual Oscars viewing party that over the years has raised nearly $2 million for AIDS Project Los Angeles.

Among the covetable works on offer at the auction, which featured a performance by Rufus Wainwright, were prints by Dennis Hooper, Jim Marshall, Ed Ruscha, and Ellen von Unwerth. Adding to the allure of Rolston’s Madonna as Marlene was the fact that it is a unique print, not part of any edition. Accompanying the piece was a personalized copy of Hollywood Royale.

“Matthew personally selected it considering the crowd,” notes Heller. “He was confident that this would be a top-selling piece.”

Read more about the auction here. To learn more about Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles, please visit hollywoodroyale.com.



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