Don’t be surprised if Matt, Meredith, Ann and Al quit their day jobs soon to pursue new careers in art.
Bidding on original nude paintings by the TODAY anchors today closed on eBay, bringing in a total of $14,451. That money will go to Feeding America, a domestic hunger-relief charity, and the New York Academy of Art, a not-for-profit institution devoted to the study of the human figure.
All the anchors contributed their share to the grand total, but Meredith Vieira’s painting led the pack, bringing in $4,550. Matt’ Lauer’s masterpiece followed with $3,551, while Ann Curry’s fetched nearly the same amount, $3,550. Finally, Al Roker’s work of art went to a very lucky bidder for $2,880.
Earlier this month, the hosts took a field trip to the New York Academy of Art to learn how to paint the “classic nude.” (Watch the artists put their skills — and maturity — to the test.) On March 29, the “forbidden fruits” of their labor went up on the eBay auction block.
Debate raged after the four canvases appeared on TODAY with censor tape covering the paintings' more sensitive parts. So the matter was put to an online vote: 74 percent of viewers wanted to see the tape come off, while 26 percent wanted it to stay on.
So off it came: “All of a sudden it’s a Brazilian,” Al joked as he removed the tape from his painting on today’s show. “Now we’re auctioning off the tape!”
“See, was that such a big deal?” Meredith asked as she gleefully stripped the censors off hers.
“They’re telling me that people are taking back their bids,” Matt quipped.
In the eye of the beholder
Last month, the anchors found themselves going back to school — art school. They seemed excited but unsure of what to expect as they arrived for their lesson. “I’m a little nervous about this, I gotta say,” confessed Meredith.
“I’m worried that I'm going to end up with a stick figure with boobs,” Matt fretted.
However the hosts’ teacher for the day, New York Academy of Art professor Catherine Howe, was encouraging, telling the team to “loosen up.” “Learning to draw the nude is the best way to learn to draw, period. And it's a heck of a lot more exciting than drawing an apple or a box,” she said.
Matt, Meredith, Ann and Al began their artistic exploration with a two-minute exercise in drawing still lifes of a bowl of fruit.
Their next assignment was to depict a male and female model representing Adam and Eve — in the buff. The TODAY hosts dove in, and professor Howe offered her feedback as they painted.
“Don’t avoid ... certain areas of the figure,” she told Ann. (New female students tend to skip drawing the genitalia, Howe explained, because they don’t want to stare.)
In contrast, Howe observed that Meredith was “bravely moving into the male figure” and Al was placing “an overemphasis on certain parts of the female anatomy.”
Meanwhile, Matt — like Meredith — was avoiding the genitalia completely. “I'm going back there,” the budding artist insisted.
A display of naked talent
After the canvases were complete, the work was anonymously displayed at Soho’s Martin Lawrence Galleries. Hidden cameras were set up to capture feedback from visitors — and while some of the critiques were positive, others were downright cruel.
Later, however, Ann shrugged it off.
“Even if our art is bad, so what? I don’t think any of us have ever painted naked people before. Bucket list, check.”