Auctions | September 27, 2017

Scarce Vernacular & Fine Art Highlights in Swann’s October Photo Sale

11-Thomson.jpgNew York—On Thursday, October 19, Swann Galleries will offer Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks, an auction celebrating the narrative qualities of vernacular and fine art photography. Just over 400 lots range from early experimental works to contemporary objets d’art.

The top lot of the sale is a scarce 1960s print of Ansel Adams's monumental Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, valued at $80,000 to $100,000. It is extremely rare to find this photograph, originally taken in 1941, printed before the 1970s.

Early highlights include an extraordinarily scarce 1862-72 album of 67 photographs depicting South Asia and China credited to John Thomson, with an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. Also available is Volume 10 of Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian, 1915, with 74 photogravures documenting the Kwatiutl peoples ($10,000 to $15,000); and a set of 54 plates from Animal Locomotion, 1887, by Eadweard Muybridge, valued at $40,000 to $60,000.

Much of the sale is devoted to twentieth-century art and documentary pieces by American photographers, with works by Margaret Bourke-White, Imogen Cunningham and Harold Edgerton. Highlights include Shop, Le Bacares, Pyrénées, France, 1951, by Paul Strand, valued at $25,000 to $35,000, and Irving Penn’s Les Garçons Bouchers, 1950-51, with an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. 

Midcentury counterculture is alive and well with Robert Frank’s gritty Fishkill, N.Y. (Newburgh), 1955, printed circa 1969, and Diane Arbus's Teenage Couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C, 1963, each valued at $15,000 to $25,000. The dramatic silver print Dancers, 1956, by Roy DeCarava, printed 1981, is expected to sell between $15,000 and $25,000.

Vernacular works have become a hallmark of Swann photographs auctions: this sale includes a vast array of daguerreotype and tintype portraits from the nineteenth century, and a collection of more than 2,000 mugshots from Arizona dated 1918 to 1928 ($7,000 to $10,000). Also available are dye transfer prints of mid-century food spreads, and an American ice cream archive with 350 photographs.

An encyclopedic selection of portfolios and photobooks includes the complete BAM Portfolio, with 11 photographs by major artists including Richard Avedon, Nan Goldin, Annie Liebovitz, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman and William Wegman, 1993-2000, printed 2000, valued at $20,000 to $30,000. The limited first edition of Mr. Knife, Miss Fork, 1931, with 19 black and white photograms by Max Ernst, carries an estimate of $5,000 to $7,500. Also available is a self-titled portfolio by Brassaï of ten iconic silver prints of Paris, 1932-51, printed 1973 ($20,000 to $30,000).

An illustrated auction catalogue is available for $35. For further information and to make arrangements to bid, visit

Additional highlights can be found here.

Image: Lot 11: John Thomson, album with 67 albumen prints of South Asia and China, 1862-72. Estimate $40,000 to $60,000.