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Sotheby’s hosted the 20th annual Take Home a Nude art auction and dinner party to benefit the New York Academy of Art on Monday night. The art was literally flying off the walls.

“Well, they don’t lie, you actually take home a nude,” Arden Wohl said, indicating a nearby reveler making for the elevators with a bundle under one arm. The piece had been covered in Sotheby’s-branded paper wrapping, like a gift or a cut of meat from the butcher.

This story first appeared in the October 19, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Padma Lakshmi waited by the stage where the live auction would take place after cocktails, nestled between a Jeff Koons portrait of a cartoon monkey and a Nan Goldin photograph that depicted a blonde naked woman surfacing in a body of water. The focus of the photograph was the woman’s bust.

“It’s hard not to laugh when cameras are in your face,” Lakshmi explained of her dissolution into giggles. “It’s not the nipples that are making me laugh, for the record.”

The party was patrolled by a handful of performers clad in nude-colored body stockings (akin to those that top control-minded hosiery) that stretched across their frames and occasionally their faces. Some were on stilts and brandished informative signs, while a male announcer wandered through the gallery on foot, topped by a hat lined with neon green fluorescent piping like curling glow sticks. Mary-Kate Olsen, who arrived shortly before dinner, surveyed the scene with an air of confusion.

“It looks like one of them…might fall?” Olsen murmured of the wobbling stilt-walkers, before heading toward a beckoning Peter Marino, who stood in the crowd by the live auction.

Sante D’Orazio, who knows a thing or two about nudes, had donated a photograph to the auction.

“I take terrific nudes?” the photographer said, cocking an eyebrow, “I take terrific things. Not nudes, things.

“I don’t do it for the sale, sweetheart,” the photographer added of his craft.

D’Orazio burst into laughter as he made his way over to André Balazs, who had his arm loosely looped around the leg of a woman on stilts.

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