Auction Preview: Photographs from the Polaroid Collection, June 21 and 22, 2010 @Sotheby’s

Ansel Adams has probably rolled over in his grave and is likely shouting up to the ears of anyone who will listen that the imminent dispersal of Polaroid Collection is both an unmitigated disaster and a personal insult. After having energetically supported Polaroid throughout his career and having donated literally hundreds of his best prints to a collection that was designed to be a museum-quality historical record/archive of the breadth of art produced with the company’s products, the collection is now being broken up, the victim of a bizarre and depressing series of unexpected turns and switchbacks. I’m pretty certain Adams didn’t provide such a vast archive of his prints with the thought that they would one day be placed up for auction to benefit a group of defrauded creditors – it was an investment in the history of the medium. Other living photographers (both famous and forgotten) who have contributed works in the collection are equally outraged and disappointed; this just wasn’t what was supposed to happen, but no white knight rode in to save the day.

The whole sordid story, with its corporate buyers, Ponzi schemes, legal wranglings, bankruptcy proceedings, and angry artists has been faithfully investigated and recorded by esteemed critic A.D. Coleman in the past year and a half on his blog, Photocritic International (here). While the rest of the media generally ignored the Polaroid story, Coleman has produced 19 meticulously researched posts covering its many facets, with particular attention paid to tracking down where all the pictures have gone. It’s well worth the time to read through the entire series to see how this drama has unfolded over the past months.

Next week, like it or not, a large slice of the collection will go up for sale at Sotheby’s in New York. For museums and collectors, it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to access top quality works that were never intended to find their way to the open market (and while the circumstances are unfortunate, this won’t prevent plenty of sharks from circling the bait). For the rest of the photographic community, the previews later this week and weekend will be the last time to see this portion of the collection together in the same place – as such, the previews will rival the best shows of the year in terms of what’s on view, particularly if Ansel Adams is one of your favorites. There are over 200 lots of Adams’ work up for sale, an astounding compendium of known and unknown works, in all sizes, shapes, and colors. I’m also thoroughly looking forward to seeing the group of manipulated Polaroids contributed by Lucas Samaras.

Overall, there are a total of 482 lots available, many containing multiple prints, with a total High estimate of an eye-popping (at least for photography) $10774200. Without a doubt, this is the photography auction “event” of the year. (Catalog cover at right, via Sotheby’s.)

Here’s the statistical breakdown:

Total Low Lots (high estimate up to and including $10000): 295
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): $1961700

Total Mid Lots (high estimate between $10000 and $50000): 159
Total Mid Estimate: $3902000

Total High Lots (high estimate above $50000): 28
Total High Estimate: $4910500

The top photography lot by High estimate is tied between three lots, all by Ansel Adams: lot 94, Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, Mexico, 1941/1950s or 1960s, lot 97, Ansel Adams, Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada, From Lone Pine, California, 1944/1950s or 1960s, and lot 100, Ansel Adams, Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, 1938/1950s or 1960s, each at $300000-500000.

The following is the list of photographers represented by three or more lots in the sale (with the number of lots in parentheses):

Ansel Adams (204)
William Wegman (49)
Lucas Samaras (15)
David Levinthal (14)
Minor White (14)
Paul Caponigro (12)
Andy Warhol (10)
Robert Heinecken (9)
Robert Mapplethorpe (9)
Walter Chappell (8)
Valeriy Gerlovin/Rimma Gerlovina/Mark Berghash (8)
Luigi Ghirri (8)
Robert Frank (6)
Carrie Mae Weems (6)
Harry Callahan (5)
Imogen Cunningham (5)
William Garnett (5)
Pirkle Jones (5)
Aaron Siskind (5)
Brett Weston (5)
Peter Beard (4)
Les Krims (4)
Helmut Newton (4)
Jan Saudek (4)
William Christenberry (3)
Chuck Close (3)
Walker Evans (3)
Laura Gilpin (3)
Lorna Simpson (3)

The complete lot by lot catalog can be found linked from here.

Photographs from the Polaroid Collection
June 21st and 22nd

1334 York Avenue
New York, NY 10021

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Read more about: Ansel Adams, Sotheby's


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    Well it seems quite interesting to see Polaroid images to be auctioned.

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    I think that was very tremendous moment when dated on June 21 and 22 the collection photographs of Polaroid were in auction. Being an auction lover, I'll never miss such moment in future. Thanks for your post, just make new updates if any occur.

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