Auctions | December 27, 2013

Spirit Photography, Warhol Polaroids Top Swann Galleries’ Auction of Photography & Photobooks


NEW YORK—The results of Swann Galleries’ December 12 auction of Classic Photographs & Photobooks illustrate the strengthening market for vernacular images and the appeal of fine examples of Contemporary Art.

Daile Kaplan, Vice President and Director of Photographs & Photobooks, said, “Swann is the go-to auction house for special thematic objects. And, as new collectors from the fields of Contemporary, Outsider Art and Material Culture enter the photographs marketplace, the gap between classical photography and other fields narrows, and values rise.”

The sale’s top lot was a 1920-22 photographic album filled with images and notes made during séances at Dr. Thomas Glendenning Hamilton’s Psychic Room in Winnipeg, Canada, replete with psychics, ectoplasm and materialization of ghosts. It sold to a collector for $93,750.

Other vernacular highlights included a San Francisco mug shot album with approximately 700 photographs and entries, displaying an array of robbers, pimps and embezzlers 1921, $22,500; and a spectacular group of 19 photographs—18 of which were panoramas—by Eugene O. Goldbeck, each with his signature, of locations ranging from The Great Pyramids in Cairo to downtown Houston, Texas, 1918-1970s, $9,375. 


Second in price to the Spiritualism album was a pair of Andy Warhol Self-Portraits in which he’s shown in two different platinum-colored wigs and red lipstick, 1981, which brought $33,280.

Additional Contemporary Art high points were an Untitled unique silver print photogram on muslin by Adam Fuss, the result of placing half a dozen snakes on a large sheet of photographic paper dusted with talcum powder, 1997, $25,000; William Eggleston’s Untitled (Humphrey Bogart Mural, Kentucky), Iris print, 2001, $10,625 and Duane Michals, Narcissus, suite of 5 silver prints, 1985, $9,688.

A new auction record was set for Lee Friedlander’s Newark, N.J., silver print, 1962, $17,500, while other classic black-and-white images included Lewis W. Hine, Safety-man Coming Up on Mooring Mast, Empire State Building, silver print, 1930, $21,250; O. Winston Link, Hotshot Eastbound, Iaeger, West Virginia, silver print, 1956, printed 1987, $12,500; Harry Callahan’s New York City, silver print, 1974, $9,375; and George A. Tice’s Petit’s Mobil Station, Cherry Hill, N.J., silver print, 1974, printed 1979, $9,375.

Portfolios of note included Robert Rauschenberg’s Rauschenberg Photographs, with 12 silver prints, 1979, $20,000; a suite of eight silver prints by Albert Watson, depicting Kate Moss, Alfred Hitchcock, Mike Tyson and other subjects, 1986-93, $16,250; and two by Elliott Erwitt, The Alchan Edition, with 15 silver prints, 1952-76, printed 1980, $12,500 and Elliott Erwitt Master Prints Vol. 1, with 10 silver prints, 1954-80, printed 1985, $9,375.

For complete results, an illustrated catalogue, with prices realized on request, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to propose consignments to upcoming Photographs auctions, please contact Daile Kaplan at (212) 254-4710, extension 21, or via email at

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

First image: Album containing 27 Spiritualist photographs taken during séances at Dr. Thomas Glendenning Hamilton’s Psychic Room in Winnipeg, Canada, 1920-22. Sold for $93,750 including buyer's premium.

Second image: Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait in a Platinum Wig and Self-Portrait in a Platinum Pageboy Wig, two unique Polaroid prints, 1981. Sold for $33,280 including buyer's premium.