Auction Results: A Grand Vision: The David H. Arrington Collection of Ansel Adams Masterworks, December 14, 2020 @Sotheby’s

If forced to choose just one photographer who can be called a reliable secondary market performer, Ansel Adams would be a solid selection. Even though Adams was prolific, his prints consistently sell well in all kinds of auctions, especially his mural sized prints, which routinely reach into six figures. In the past decade, single artist sales of his work have performed well (at Christie’s in 2014, results here, and at Christie’s in 2019 and 2020, results here and here), even when much of the material was later prints.

So it isn’t a surprise that this single collector sale at Sotheby’s offering a range of Adams’ work did so well. All our usual metrics pointed in the right direction – a small Buy-In rate (just 6.50% overall), lots of positive surprises at various price points, and one lot which reached up to near $1M, a new record for an Adams print. When the dust settled, the Total Sale Proceeds came in above $6.4M, above the high end of the aggregate pre-sale estimate range.

The summary statistics are below (all results include the buyer’s premium):

Summary Statistics
Total Lots 123
Aggregate Pre Sale Low Estimate $4146000
Aggregate Pre Sale High Estimate $6131000
Total Lots Sold 115
Total Lots Bought In 8
Buy In % 6.50%
Total Sale Proceeds $6433714

Here is the breakdown (using our typical Low, Mid, and High definitions):

Detailed Breakdown
Low Total Lots 34
Total Low Lots Sold 32
Total Low Lots Bought In 2
Low Buy In % 5.88%
Aggregate High Estimate of Low Lots $291000
Total Proceeds from Low Lots $460026
Mid Total Lots 65
Total Mid Lots Sold 61
Total Mid Lots Bought In 4
Mid Buy In % 6.15%
Aggregate High Estimate of Mid Lots $1530000
Total Proceeds from Mid Lots $1568448
Total High Lots 24
Total High Lots Sold 22
Total High Lots Bought In 2
High Buy In % 8.33%
Aggregate High Estimate of High Lots $4310000
Total Proceeds from High Lots $4405240

The top lot by High estimate was lot 29, Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941, estimated at $700000-1000000; it sold at $685500. The top outcome of the sale was lot 53, Ansel Adams, The Grand Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942/1960s, estimated at $400000-600000, sold at $988000 (image above, via Sotheby’s.)

79.13% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above the estimate range and there were a total of 18 positive surprises in the sale (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate) (images above via Sotheby’s):

Lot 3, Ansel Adams, Thunderstorm, Yosemite Valley, California1945/1975, estimated at $7000-10000, sold at $30240

Lot 20, Ansel Adams, Sunrise, Mt. Whitney, Moon, Sierra Nevada, CA1927/later, estimated at $3000-5000, sold at $16380

Lot 30, Ansel Adams, Dawn, Autumn Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee1948/later, estimated at $7000-10000, sold at $37800

Lot 38, Ansel Adams, Half Dome, Merced River, Winter, Yosemite Valley1938/1970, estimated at $200000-300000, sold at $685500

Lot 39, Ansel Adams, Merced Peak From Red Peak, Yosemitec1920, estimated at $5000-7000, sold at $27720

Lot 54, George Fiske, Snow Fall1880/1930, estimated at $3000-5000, sold at $13860

Lot 58, Ansel Adams, Dogwood Blossoms, Yosemitec1938/later, estimated at $6000-9000, sold at $20160

Lot 60, Ansel Adams, Pinecone- Eucalyptus Leaves, San Francisco, Calif., 1932/1950-1962, estimated at $6000-9000, sold at $31500

Lot 61, Ansel Adams, Boulder and Trees, Autumn, Yosemite Valley, 1936, estimated at $8000-12000, sold at $31500

Lot 68, Ansel Adams, Cedar Tree, Winter, Yosemite Valleyc1935/1944, estimated at $7000-10000, sold at $23940

Lot 82, Ansel Adams, Oak Tree, Autumn, Yosemite Valley, CAc1935, estimated at $10000-15000, sold at $30240

Lot 85, Ansel Adams, ‘Trees And Cliffs of Eagle Peak, Winter’ (horizontal), 1935/1973-1977, estimated at $6000-9000, sold at $18900

Lot 94, Ansel Adams, Juniper Tree Detail, Sequoia National Park1927/1930s, estimated at $15000-25000, sold at $60480

Lot 105, Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Joshua Tree, The Nat’l. Mo., CA1948/1963-1970, estimated at $5000-7000, sold at $18900

Lot 113, Ansel Adams, Tenaya Lake, Mount Conness, Yosemite National Park, Californiac1946/later, estimated at $6000-8000, sold at $18900

Lot 115, Ansel Adams, Frozen Lake and Cliffs, Sierra Nevada, California19372/1981, estimated at $15000-25000, sold at $60480

Lot 118, Ansel Adams, Barn, Cape Cod, Massachusetts1937/1970s, estimated at $5000-7000, sold at $15120

Lot 123, Ansel Adams, Self-Portrait, Monument Valley, Utah1958/1971, estimated at $10000-15000, sold at $32760

The complete lot by lot results can be found here.

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