A Record for Peruvian Photographer Martín Chambi at Swann Galleries

Martín Chambi albumNew York — Swann Galleries’ sale of Classic & Contemporary Photographs on Thursday, April 18 saw active bidding across all categories with early-twentieth-century photography, Humanist portraits and sublime images of nature making an impact.

Vernacular photography led the sale with a personal album, compiled by Herbert Heard Evans, containing 118 silver prints depicting the city and region of Cusco, Peru, as well as other parts of Latin America in the 1920s. Sixteen of the images were attributed to Peruvian photographer Martín Chambi. Evans was the Assistant Superintendent of the Mechanical Division of the Panama Canal from 1919-42, and during his station he and his wife traveled extensively throughout South America. The album reached $58,750 after a lengthy bidding war, a record for images by Chambi.

Early-twentieth-century works included Alfred Stieglitz’s publication Camera Work with Number 36, 1911, complete with 17 photogravures by Stieglitz, and Number 49-50, 1917, edited by Stieglitz with 10 photogravures by Paul Strand ($17,500 and $16,250, respectively). Also of note was an album of 55 photographs by Wilson A. Bentley, all but four of his groundbreaking images of snow crystals ($22,500) and Man Ray’s 1931 Electricité, with 10 photogravures after the artist’s Rayographs ($37,500).

Poignant portraits by Dorothea Lange proved be popular with buyers. Korean Child, printed 1960s, taken during Lange’s 1958 trip through Asia, set a record for the image at $20,000. Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona, 1940, printed circa 1966, brought $15,000.

Additional works capturing quotidian subjects included Roman Vishniac’s 1936-38 portfolio The Vanished World, printed 1977, complete with 12 silver prints of people in Eastern Europe ($22,500); a choice suite of five silver prints from Graciela Iturbide’s 1979-89 series Mujeres de Juchitan, printed circa 1990 ($15,000); and Brassaï’s 1932 silver print of an amorous Parisian couple Couple d’amoureux, quartier place d’Italie, Paris, printed circa 1970 ($21,250).

Ansel Adams’ Portfilio Three:Yosemite National Park, 1929-50, printed 1960, complete with 16 silver prints, letterpress colophon and the title page with Adams’ introduction, brought $57,500. Other images capturing nature included Adams’ Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, 1960, printed 1979 ($22,500), and Untitled (snowy landscape), 1970-74, by Robert Adams ($13,750). Hiroshi Sugimoto’s 1991 Time Exposed portfolio, with 50 plates of dreamlike seascapes, earned a record for the set at $20,000.

Each of the five photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe sold: highlights included Lisa Lyon, an oversized silver print from 1980-82, that set a record for an image of Lyon at $50,000, as well as two male nude portraits: Eric, 1980, and an untitled silver print from 1981 ($11,700 and $12,500, respectively).

Daile Kaplan, Swann Galleries Director of Photographs & Photobooks, noted “The sale reflected competitive interest in blue chip materials, with works by Ansel Adams, Brassaï and Robert Mapplethorpe garnering strong prices, and portfolios by Man Ray and Hiroshi Sugimoto selling very well. Swann’s dedication to offering the best examples of vernacular photography attracted major American and European collectors, who continue to explore photography in relation to visual culture.”   

The next auction from Swann Galleries’ Photographs & Photobooks Department will be held in October 2019. The house is currently accepting quality consignments. Visit swanngalleries.com for more about selling at Swann.

Image: Lot 251: Album with 118 photographs, 16 attributed to Martín Chambi, depicting different regions of South America, silver prints, 1920s. Sold for $58,750, a record for images by Chambi.

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