Robert Mapplethorpe, Bow and Arrow’(Lisa Lyon), 1981. Estimate £6,000–8,000. Courtesy of Sotheby’s
Sotheby’s London are cutting out the romance this Valentine’s day and getting straight down to business with their auction Erotic: Passion and Desire (16 February). The sale includes over 100 works that look at representations of love and sex from antiquity to the present day. “Art has always existed to tell a human story, and sex has always been a part of that story—whether it is there to compel, to shock or to seduce,” says Constantine Frangos, a senior director at Sotheby’s and the head of the sale. The carnal offerings range from furniture, design and fine art to photography and contemporary sculpture, featuring artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Wim Delvoye, Antony Gormley and Lucian Freud. Nudes dominate the sale and there are a number of drawings depicting woman baring all, including Pablo Picasso’s Nu couché (1972; est £60,000-£80,000); Egon Schiele’s Akt (Nude, 1917; est £180,000-£250,000) and Gustav Klimt’s Liegender Halbakt Nach Rechts (Half-nude reclining to the right, 1914-15; est £120,000-£150,000). But if your Valentine’s Day gift budget won’t stretch that far then the phallic-shaped Shiva Vase (1973) by the Italian designer Ettore Sottsass is both practical and estimated at just £200-£300. Who needs roses and chocolates?