Auctions | September 26, 2019

Irving Penn Leads October Photographs Auction at Swann

Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Irving Penn, Cuzco Children, Peru, December, platinum-palladium print, 1948, printed 1978. Estimate $80,000 to $120,000.

New York — Swann Galleries will offer Classic & Contemporary Photographs on Thursday, October 17 with a selection that explores the way fine art and vernacular photography create a dialogue influencing visual culture.

Irving Penn leads the sale with a platinum-palladium print, Cuzco Children, Peru, December, 1948, printed 1978, at $80,000 to $120,000. In 1948, after finishing an assignment for Vogue, Penn stayed in the city of Cuzco where he rented the studio of a local photographer. There he paid the locals to pose for photographs, taking an astonishing 2000 negatives over the course of three days—including multiple images of the children in the portrait on offer. Penn’s image captures the children as simultaneously innocent and knowing, childlike and mature, conveying a gravitas that belies their ages. Further works of note by Penn are a platinum-palladium print American Ballet Theatre, 1947, printed 1968 ($15,000-25,000), as well as portraits of American artist John Marin, platinum-palladium print, 1947, printed 1977 ($8,000-12,000), and fellow photographer Horst P. Horst, silver print, 1945-46 ($5,000-7,500).

Peruvian photographer Martín Chambi is present with a collection of 54 silver prints on carte-postale paper from the 1920s-30s. The images, depicting the architecture of Cuzco and archaeological sites and Incan ruins on the outskirts of the city, are expected to bring $10,000 to $15,000.

W. Eugene Smith’s important 1971-73 silver print of Tomoko Uemura in her Bath, which broadcasted to the world the seriousness of the outbreak of Minamata disease, caused by mercury poisoning, is available at $10,000 to $15,000. Further examples of artists working at the cross section of art and activism include Dorothea Lange’s San Francisco Waterfront (demonstration), silver print, 1934, and Walker Evans’s Store Near Moundville, Alabama, silver contact print, 1938, printed 1960, at $10,000 to $15,000 apiece, as well as selection of works by Lewis W. Hine: Greaser in a coal mine, Bessie Mine, Alabama, silver print, 1910 ($2,500-3,500); A Western Union Messenger, Nashville, Tennesee, silver print, 1910, printed 1920s ($2,000-3,000); and Old-time freight brakeman, N.Y. Central, silver contact print, circa 1923 ($2,500-3,000). 

Contemporary photographs include White Christ, cibachrome print, 1989, by Andres Serrano ($15,000-25,000); Five Prints, 1983-86, printed 1987, a complete portfolio of dye-transfer prints by John Divola ($8,000-12,000); Clemens in my bed with saris, Paris, oversize Cibachrome print, 2000, by Nan Goldin ($6,000-9,000); and Ron Athey / Human Printing Press with Darryl Carlton, from Four Scenes, chromogenic print, 2000-01, by Catherine Opie ($4,000-6,000). Artists utilizing early photography techniques include Chuck Close’s whole-plate daguerreotype Hand II, 2000, at $8,000 to $12,000, and a unique 1987 silver-print phantogram by Adam Fuss at $10,000 to $15,000.

An archive of artist’s books by Ed Ruscha includes a selection of first editions, as well as ephemeral material documenting his early career. The highlight of the archive is a first edition of Twentysix Gasoline Stations, 1962, signed and inscribed “Love, Ed.” Further first editions include Royal Road Test, 1967, and Edward Ruscha (Ed-werd Rew-Shay), Young Artist, 1972. The archive is expected to bring $10,000 to $15,000. A run of photobooks by Robert Frank includes a first American edition of the artist’s iconic work, The Americans, 1959 ($1,400-1,800), a signed limited-edition issue of New York Is., 1959 ($2,000-3,000), and a signed limited edition of Flower Is…, 1987 ($3,000-4,500).

The house’s notable vernacular photography section includes a robust offering of collections and albums documenting the lives of women throughout the last century. A group of 11 photographs circa 1910-20 includes images of suffragists ($1,500-2,500); a 1969 archive entitled The Yearbook from Skidmore College that dates to one of Skidmore’s final years as a women’s college ($400-600); and a binder with 31 images, including nine group photographs, of African American women ($1,000-1,5000).

Exhibition opening in New York City October 12. The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at and on the Swann Galleries App.