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Swann Photographs Auction Hits Its Target

Adam Clark Vroman’s Arizona and New Mexico, Volume II, 1897, an album of more than 165 platinum prints, was the top lot at Swann Galleries’ March 24 photography sale, selling for $62,400, well above the $30,000/40,000 estimate.

NEW YORK—Adam Clark Vroman’s Arizona and New Mexico, Volume II, 1897, an album of more than 165 platinum prints, was the top lot at Swann Galleries’ March 24 photography sale, selling for $62,400, well above the $30,000/40,000 estimate. Consigned from an estate in Mt. Desert Island, Maine, the portfolio was the subject of “tremendous competition” among prospective buyers and was ultimately bought by a phone bidder, according to Daile Kaplan, who heads Swann’s photography department.

Many other lots exceeded their estimates as well: Linnaeus Tripe’s Photographs of the Elliot Marbles; and Other Subjects; In the Central Museum of Madras, 1858–9, an album of 75 prints, sold for $57,600 (estimate: $35,000/45,000); Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Children at Puppet Theatre, Paris, 1963 (printed in 1991), realized $48,000 (estimate: $25,000/35,000); Alvin Langdon Coburn’s New York, 1910, a first edition, signed by the artist in 1912, of a book of 20 photogravures hand pulled by Coburn, sold for $45,600 (estimate: $20,000/25,000); and eleven issues (from 1905–8 and 1912) of Alfred Stieglitz’s journal Camera Work, earned $43,200 (estimate: $20,000/30,000).

Other lots that performed well included Margaret Bourke-White’s untitled image of a TWA plane in flight, 1934–35, which sold for $31,200, (estimate: $5,000/7,500); Susan Derges’s The Observer and the Observed #6, 1992, which took $28,800 (estimate: $9,000/12,000); Harry Callahan’s Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Fall, 1958, which also sold for $28,800 (estimate: $14,000/18,000); and Bert Stern’s enlarged contact sheet of nine portraits from “The Last Sitting,” Marilyn Monroe, 1962 (printed in 1979), which sold for $22,800 ( estimate: $14,000/18,000).

Kaplan said a large percentage of the winning buyers were bidding over the telephone rather than sitting in the gallery. “Increasingly, we are seeing a more global audience that relies on images and condition reports, and they may follow up with a curator or colleague coming to see a particular piece in advance,” she said.

In all, the sale took $995,094, falling within the estimate of $794,600/1.1 million; 120, or 74 percent, of the 162 lots found buyers.

Among the works that failed to sell were Irving Penn’s Alexandra Beller, New York, 1999, which was estimated at $18,000/22,000, and a contact sheet of 28 World War II images by Edward Steichen and others, which was estimated at $9,000/12,000.

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