Auctions | March 27, 2019

Classic & Contemporary Photographs at Swann

New York - Classic & Contemporary Photographs will be on offer Thursday, April 18 at Swann Galleries. The auction features diverse images from twentieth-century artists pushing the limits of the medium and its intended use, including Wilson A. Bentley, Dorothea Lange, Robert Mapplethorpe and Alfred Stieglitz.  

Robert Mapplethorpe’s oversized silver print of Lisa Lyon, 1980-82 is a stunning example of the artist’s portraiture. Mapplethorpe met Lyon in 1980 after she became the first World Women’s Bodybuilding Champion; the duo would collaborate on numerous sittings in the following years, which included portraits as well as full and fragmented body studies. The photograph captures a confident Lyon in profile as she holds her veiled head high and flexes her right arm, and is estimated at $50,000 to $75,000. Additional Mapplethorpe silver prints include a 1981 Untitled male nude, and Boot Fetish, 1979 (Estimates: $7,000-10,000 and $5,000-7,5000, respectively).  

Contemporary photography is well represented with Sarah Charlesworth’s 1989 laminated Cibachrome print Subtle Body, from the Academy of Secrets series, which alludes to an esoteric system of universal symbols associated with transmutation and transcendence ($15,000-25,000); abstract works by Barbara Kasten: Architectural Site 7: The World Financial Center, July 14, 1986, an oversized Cibachrome print, and Construct X-B, transfer print, 1982, ($6,000-9,000 apiece), and a choice suite of five silver prints from Mujeres de Juchitan, 1979-89, printed circa 1990, by Graciela Iturbide ($5,000-7,500).

Photographs that have transcended their original documentary purpose include images by Walker Evans, Lewis W. Hine and Dorothea Lange. Highlights among the selection include Lange’s silver print Korean Child, 1958, printed 1960s, taken during her 1958 trip throughout Asia ($20,000-30,000). Walker Evans’ Corner of Havana building with decorative iron grillwork, silver print, 1933, is offered with an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. The silver print was initially for Carleton Beals’ Crime of Cuba and marks a key moment in the evolution and refinement of the artist’s style. Lewis W. Hine’s Spinner in Carolina Cotton Mill, silver print, 1909, comes across the block at $5,000 to $7,500. 

A run of Alfred Stieglitz’s Camera Work, originally from the collection of Stieglitz’s brother, comes across the block. A photographic journal published by the artivest and issued quarterly from 1903-17, the publication was created in an effort to elevate the medium and consisted of high-quality photogravures from notable photographers. Among those featured in the sale are Stieglitz’s Camera Work, Number 36, 1911, complete with 17 photogravures including The Steerage ($18,000-22,000), and Camera Work, Number 49-50, 1917, with 11 images by Paul Strand ($12,000-18,000). 

Sublime images that capture nature include Ansel Adams’ Portfolio Three: Yosemite Valley, 1926-59, printed 1960. Complete with 16 silver prints, including Monolith, the Face of Half Dome and El Capitan, Sunrise, the portfolio carries an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. Also of note is Wilson A. Bentley’s 1888-1927 album of 55 silver prints, including 51 of his iconic snow crystals, with an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000, as well as Paul Caponigro’s haunting silver print Running White Deer, Country Wicklow, Ireland, 1967, at $3,000 to $4,500. 

Vernacular photography features Herbert Heard Evans’ 1920s album of 118 silver prints, 16 of which are attributed to Martín Chambi, depicting the city and region of Cusco, Peru, as well as Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras and Guatemala features in the sale at $6,000 to $9,000. Evans was the Assistant Superintendent of the Mechanical Division of the Panama Canal from 1919-42, during his station he and his wife traveled extensively throughout South America. Photographs capturing American culture include a collection of 48 silver prints showing the charm and décor of diners in the 1940s and 50s ($1,200-1,800), and an album assembled by a female member of a motorcycle club in Florida includes approximately 190 photographs showing the daily lives and comradery of the club during the 1970s and 80s ($1,500-2,500).