NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. - A complete set of 66 original Polaroid photos of Madonna, taken in 1983 by the noted portrait photographer Richard Corman (Am., b. 1954), just six weeks before the release of the young singer’s debut album and eventual skyrocket to fame, is for sale through Manhattan Rare Books, located inside Gallery 90 in New York City, at 1050 Second Avenue.
The sale price of the set is $350,000. “We are offering these unique Polaroids of Madonna until September 5th,” said Michael DiRuggiero owner of Manhattan Rare Books. “After that, if there is no buyer, the set will be dispersed and the images offered individually.” The photos are featured in Corman’s limited-edition fine art book Madonna 66, which was released in November 2016.
Harper’s Bazaar said of the book, “Corman’s Polaroids prove with utter certainty that Madonna was destined for icon status.” Mr. DiRuggiero added, “This is a unique opportunity for a serious collector to own a complete collection, documenting an important moment in art and cultural history, one that will be available only as a complete and intact collection until September 5th.”
The sale price includes all 66 original Polaroids, each one signed and numbered by Corman (1-66), housed in a custom case by the noted book artist Sjoerd Hofstra, plus a copy of Madonna 66. The book was widely praised by The New York Times, New York Magazine, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair and other newspapers and magazines. Corman signed the copy being sold.
In the photos, Madonna (full name, Madonna Ciccone) is dressed in full Material Girl regalia, a look that launched a fashion revolution among young women of the time: white lace leggings under torn jeans, jean jacket with graffiti on the back and the sleeves cut off, and rubber bangles (or friendship bracelets). She sports bright red lipstick and a fake mole on the side of her face.
The 66 images were taken as test shots for a movie that Corman’s mother, a casting director, was screen-testing actors for but never got made. She saw in the budding star potential, and she urged her son to photograph her. “I knew this was somebody special right away,” Corman said of their first meeting, which took place in Madonna’s apartment on East 4th Street in Greenwich Village.
He remembered, “She was funny in the most beguiling way. As soon as I walked up, she served me espresso and bubblegum on a silver plate and tray.” Over a period of months and for several sittings, Corman photographed his subject, usually at Madonna’s brother’s house in Manhattan. The end result is the trove of 66 Polaroids Corman used for his book and which is now for sale.
Corman had previously worked for legendary photographer Richard Avedon (Am., 1923-2004), but observed that even with all of his experience around the celebrities who would parade in and out of Avedon’s studio, the Madonna spark was special. “When you look at somebody through a camera you either see behind somebody’s eyes or you don’t,” he said. “With her it was, ‘wow’.”
Corman said there is a looseness to the Madonna Polaroids that would be difficult to orchestrate today. “Now, we’d have 20 bodyguards and 30 assistants,” he said. “They’d have to cordon off the street. Beyoncé, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj - people like that, who I’d love to spend time with - it would be a much different experience nowadays. But Madonna was accessible. And it was raw.”
Also for sale through Manhattan Rare Books is a set of three silver gelatin prints of photographs Corman took of the late boxing legend Muhammad Ali. It is the only set in which all three of the 11 inch by 14 inch prints is signed by Ali, in silver marker on the front of the image. Each image is also signed by Corman on the verso and marked (“1 of 1”). The set is priced to sell at $22,500.
Two autobiography books about the life Richard Avedon, Richard Corman’s mentor, are also for sale. One is a signed limited first edition copy (#44 of only 250 copies signed by Avedon), with a special engraver’s proof of his iconic image of the late Marilyn Monroe laid-in. The book, which is lavishly illustrated with 285 of Avedon’s most celebrated photographs, is for sale at $4,900.
The other book, titled Richard Avedon, An Autobiography, with: Evidence, 1944-1994, is a special limited edition boxed set, with two original hand-stamped engraver’s proofs. Although the limitation states 250 copies, only about 100 were actually produced. Signed and numbered in the box by Avedon, and chronicling his career over a 50-year span, the book is for sale at $6,500.
Manhattan Rare Books specializes in outstanding and rare books in fine condition. The firm only offers books that have been carefully selected to meet its stringent standards of high quality and importance. Anyone interested in discussing their collecting interests is encouraged to visit the gallery (hours by appointment); call (212) 326-8907; or, visit www.manhattanrarebooks.com.
Image: Up on the roof and soon-to-be on top of the pop culture world, little does Madonna know in this devil-may-care shot the riches and fame that await her. Courtesy of Manhattan Rare Books.