Spectators and bidders packed Dom Aukcyjny Desa Unicum house in Polish capital city Warsaw, hosting more than 230 photos by acclaimed late fashion and celebrity photographer Milton H. Greene.
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 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 who died in 1985.
Over 600 auction-goers from around the globe including the United States, Saudi Arabia and Ecuador vied for the prized images in a six-hour auction that ended on Nov.9. 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.
The proceeds will go to the Polish government because the photos come from a collection of some 4,000 Greene pictures the nation obtained from Chicago businessman Dino Matingas in the mid-1990s as the result of a complex communist-era embezzlement scandal linked to the buy-out of Poland’s state debt.
Other greats in the portraits included Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, Liza Minnelli, Marlene Dietrich, Paul Newman, Alfred Hitchcock and Marlon Brando. However, photographs of Minnelli, Dietrich, Kelly and Hepburn sold briskly.
For the time being, Poland’s state archives will hold onto the remainder of the collection.