The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Playboy is likely naked ladies, not art. But the magazine’s historical ties to the art world—specifically within the realm of pop art—are actually quite rich, with artists from Keith Haring and James Rosenquist to Patrick Nagel and Salvadore Dalí (who once posed for the rag in 1973) having created work for Playboy‘s pages. Founder Hugh Hefner, who passed away in September, was a cartoonist himself before launching his empire in 1953, and Art Paul, Playboy’s founding art director and the man behind the iconic bunny logo, commissioned tons of illustrators and artists to contribute works to the publication throughout his 30-year career. Now, Playboy, currently helmed by Hefner’s son, Cooper, can add another artist collaboration to its roster: Burton Morris. The American pop artist known for putting his own unique twist on logos for corporate giants like Coca Cola, Kellogg’s, Ford, Chanel, and Shake Shack was commissioned to dream up different works that incorporate and reinterpret Playboy’s bowtie-clad bunny—64 works, in fact (one for each issue of the magazine)—for a new exhibition called Painting Playboy, now on display at Taglialatella Galleries in Manhattan.
“The Playboy bunny is one of the most recognizable logos in the world,” Morris told Fashion Unfiltered at a party celebrating the new installation. “It’s like the McDonald’s arches or the Nike swoosh. Being that I paint icons of popular culture, my idea was to embrace the bunny in new, creative ways.” His vibrant works run the gamut from an acrylic-on-canvas portrayal of what Hefner’s nightstand might have looked like (martini glass, pipe, and silk robe included) to glitter-coated bunnies in seemingly every color imaginable. In addition to paying tribute to Hefner, Morris said he hopes the installation touches on the magazine’s evolving aesthetic—the glossy just featured its first-ever transgender Playmate, Ines Rau—while honing in on its lesser-known relationship with art. “Playboy’s core philosophy has remained the same, but it’s adapted to the times,” he said. “I think it’s always done a good job at mixing the current culture with Hefner’s vision. He was a brilliant visionary, and he gave a lot to the arts.” Morris added that he feels particularly excited to be in the company of Andy Warhol, the artist who “opened the door to what I do.” The king of pop art was a regular contributor to Playboy and even designed the cover of its iconic 35th anniversary issue. Morris’ inner 12-year-old boy, naturally, is rejoicing. “I first discovered Playboy with a group of my friends in an attic,” he said. “We were like, this is crazy! You always remember your first Playboy.”
Painting Playboy: Burton Morris is now open to the public at Taglialatella Galleries until December 8. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is located at 229 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10011.