Monica Lewinsky, art icon of the 21st century? Could it be possible?
In search of good long-term investments in the Thrift Store Art category, the artnet.com editorial team recently conducted an exhaustive search for Monicaniana on the leading online auction sites.
To our surprise, more than 180 objets de Monica were for sale on eBay alone. Most are novelty items priced under $10, apparently produced by joke-shop entrepreneurs in the wrong line of business.
One thing quickly became apparent. Few people want this stuff.
On the other hand, a Monica portrait on black velvet, ostensibly painted in Tijuana by Jorge Terrones, did catch our eye. For the 18 by 24 inch picture, the artist copied one of the familiar tabloid images of the infamous intern wearing her blue dress and a pearl necklace. After two weeks, no one had offered more than the $50 opening bid. Just as we were about to take the plunge (and write it off as "office décor"), the auction ended and the lot disappeared. We're all over it if it comes back up.
On the other hand, a less expensive pastel portrait of Monica sold on eBay a few weeks ago. The bidding started at $1, and three bidders fought tooth-and-nail, raising the price to $4.01. How do they stand the pressure?
Our favorite item is a set of hand-painted Russian nesting dolls for sale right now on the Auction Network and Yahoo! auctions. A President Clinton doll opens to reveal a Monica doll, which holds a Paula Jones doll (pre-nose job), which contains a Gennifer Flowers doll, which opens to reveal the final, innermost doll, a sickly looking, Kathleen Willey. The wobbling-weeble shape of the dolls lends an appropriately kinky twist to the subject -- none of the figures have hands and their arms seem to be sewn to their sides. The bidding starts at $40, and so far seems to have gone nowhere.
If you like bad puns, rush to eBay and get the "Head Intern" doll, a ceramic Monica with a bobbing head. At least her mouth is closed! Given its provenance -- the seller claims to have picked it up right near the Capitol in Washington, D.C. -- the item seemed a bargain at an opening bid of $9.99. Others thought so too -- it sold for $36.01.
Among the other items is "Monica Lewinsky's Down on Your Knees HOT Sauce," offered in the Yahoo! Auctions "Cookbooks" category at an opening bid of $8 and seeing absolutely no interest. A phony eight-dollar bill on uAuction, bearing a photo of Monica with a white upper lip and captioned GOT MILK?, was drawing no bids at $4 to start. Sheets of fake stamps, illustrated with "Starr Wars" caricatures of Bill and Monica posed as Luke Skywalker and Princess Lea, are variously priced between $2 and $7.95. For those who'd prefer a more svelte Monica, there's a sticker of Wonder Woman's body with Monica's head attached to it for $1.
One joker even went to the trouble to list "Monica Lewinsky's sense of dignity" for sale on eBay. The opening bid was listed at one cent, but immediately after the auction began, the "Description" box read "Oops! Sold!"
Books seem to have the most appeal as collectibles in online auctions. Signed copies of Monica: My Story are also on offer, with auction results gyrating wildly. Top price at present is $182.50.
The rage for Monicommodities found at least one winner. A feverish bidding war broke out over a copy of the 1990 Beverly Hills High School yearbook, when Monica was a junior. Almost 30 bidders duked it out, raising the price from $20 to $449 in $5 increments.
MEREDITH MENDELSOHN is associate editor of Artnet Magazine.