February 4, 2011 / 5:12 PM / 8 years ago

Stephen Colbert sells his portrait to benefit the arts

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Political satirist Stephen Colbert is selling himself, but it is all for the children.

The host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” a popular program that mocks self-important pundits, will auction off “Portrait 5, Stephen(s)” next month.

This “noted work of portraiture attributed to the host,” Comedy Central said on Friday, was “enhanced by the artistic contributions of Shepard Fairey who spray-painted it, Andres Serrano who Sharpie’d it, and Frank Stella who glanced at it.”

“Turns out I’m an artist,” said Colbert, staying in character, in a news release. “That finally explains why I cut off my ear.”

He went on to thank the prestigious auction house Phillips de Pury & Company, where the portrait will hit the block on March 8 at its “Under the Influence” auction of contemporary art, photographs and design.

“I am honored to be sold in the prestigious manner usually reserved for foreclosed homes and champion hogs,” he said.

The portrait, in which Colbert stands saluting in front of several more images of himself, was first shown on a December 8 episode of “The Colbert Report” during an interview with comedian Steve Martin, a noted art collector who was discussing his book “An Object of Beauty.”

Stella, an artist whose works have sold for millions of dollars, declared the portrait a work of art. Fairey subsequently spray painted “OBEY” on the canvas in large letters, and provocative artist Serrano used a Sharpie to add horns and a mustache to Colbert’s stern visage.

The work will be on view at Phillips de Pury’s exhibition space in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea starting on February 25. The auction house said the portrait will be the first lot in the March sale.

Proceeds from the portrait’s sale will benefit school arts projects through DonorsChoose.org, an online charity connecting donors to classrooms in need.

Comedy Central described the portrait, the fifth in a series, as “at once a celebration of the attainment of immortality through fame, and a memento mori, with each iteration of the portrait unveiling a step on the subject’s inexorable march to death.”

An earlier version was exhibited in 2008 at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, while others have graced a Saudi prince’s palace and a South Carolina BBQ restaurant.

Editing by Greg McCune

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