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Beatles Painting Made in Tokyo Sells for $1.7 M. at Christie’s

The Beatles are best known for their iconic albums, not necessarily for their visual art. But a painting made and signed by all four members of the band recently auctioned at Christie’s seems sure to help change that.

Titled Images of a Woman (1966), the piece sold for $1.7 million with fees last week, nearly tripling its high estimate of $600,000.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison collaborated in making the acrylic and watercolor painting when they were confined in the Presidential Suite of the Hilton Hotel in Tokyo for 100 hours between June 29 to July 3, 1966. Japanese authorities decided that was the safest place to keep the band between their five concert performances at Budokan Hall.

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Beatles Painting Made in Tokyo Sells for .7 M. at Christie’s

Visitors dropped by the grand hotel room during their sequestration there. Some came bearing gifts, including high-quality art materials the musicians would use for this painting.

The two-day process of producing the work, photographed by Robert Whitaker, shows the four musicians sitting in chairs around a table. A table lamp weighted the paper in place, leaving behind a large circle in the center of the piece, in which all the musicians signed their names.

All four members of the band had some previous art experience. Lennon, for his part, attended art school for three years and published two books of writing featuring “lightning-fast caricatures.”

According to Whitaker, the four “never discussed what they were painting” and the image “evolved naturally.”

While Whitaker captured images of the band creating other art pieces made in that Tokyo hotel room in 1966, a lot essay from Christie’s said that “Images Of A Woman is the only known substantial piece of art made by the four Beatles in their years together – an extraordinary and unique item that has the best of provenance.”

The work was initially given to the president of the official Beatles Fan Club in Japan, Tetsusaburo Shimoyama. Record store owner Takao Nishino purchased it in 1989. Nishino consigned it for sale at Philip Weiss Auctions in 2012, and the Atlantic reported that he had, for some years, stored the piece under a bed. The Christie’s sale was consigned by Tracks Ltd., UK, a Beatles memorabilia dealer.