Vintage Color Photographs by Vivian Maier Make Auction Debut at Swann

Lot 228-Maier copy.jpgNew York — An upcoming sale of Photographs: Art & Visual Culture, February 21 at Swann Galleries, celebrates photographs as objects. Daile Kaplan, the house’s Director of Photographs & Photobooks, explains the theme in an introduction to the catalogue, “Seeing photographs as physical objects, as works meant to be carefully held in one’s hands, is key.” The auction features an array of material typifying this appreciation for the tangible: archives and albums that record visual culture of bygone eras, photobooks and vernacular photography, all presented in dialogue with modern and contemporary market favorites.

A standout selection of cartes-postales from prominent artists and collectives is led by six printed postcards of Italian Futurist Anton Giulio Bragaglia’s iconic photographs from 1911-13. The photographs are offered in a small archive alongside business cards, a 1932 typed letter to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and a Teatro Delle Arti ticket, estimated at $30,000 to $45,000. 

André Kertész’s 1927 portrait of photographer Edwin Rosskam, a vintage silver print on carte-postale paper, is available at $7,000 to $10,000. Notable exhibition postcards include a suite of 33 from the 1913 Armory Show, illustrating iconic works (Estimate: $4,000-6,000); and from the Société Anonyme, a collection of nine real photo postcards of works by Katherine Dreier, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, who together founded the society to promote contemporary art to American audiences. They produced more than 80 exhibitions between 1920 and 1940. This scarce group, dating from 1920-30, carries an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. 

A fine selection of nineteenth-century photography includes the unique copper plate for Horse Capture, Atsina, 1908, by Edward S. Curtis. The plate, one of the original matrices for the large-format photogravures that comprised the portfolios of The North American Indian, is presented in a custom frame, elevating an already beautiful utilitarian object to the sublime ($60,000-90,000). 

Engaging works exemplifying the visual culture of their time include a NASA archive with 351 prints documenting missions over four decades ($6,000-9,000). Images from the 1960s include a chromogenic print of John F. Kennedy in his motorcade minutes before his assassination ($2,000-3,000), and a binder of 26 vintage photographs and five halftone prints of The Beatles and Yoko Ono ($700-1,000). Industrial lots from across the globe complete the vernacular selection.

Among fine art is a personal album compiled and sequenced by Vivian Maier. The album, consisting of 22 never-before-seen color photographs shot with a Rolleiflex in Maier’s inimitable visual style, documents her 1959 trip to Europe and Asia ($10,000-15,000). The auction debut is the first known auction appearance of vintage color work by Maier.

A run of works by Ansel Adams is led by a limited first edition of his first book-Taos Pueblo, 1930. The scarce publication, containing 12 silver bromide prints made by the photographer when he was just 28, is expected to bring $30,000 to $45,000. Iconic silver prints by Adams include Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, California, 1944, printed early 1960s, ($15,000-20,000), Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, 1927, printed 1959, ($7,000-10,000), and Mt. Williamson, from Manzanar, Owens Valley, California, 1944, printed early 1950s, ($5,000-7,500).

The auction will have its share of contemporary artists, headlined by Malick Sidibé’s installation of 38 exuberant silver prints housed in custom frames. The grouping, which highlights elements of West African culture from 1946-2001, is estimated at $30,000 to $45,000. Tina Barney’s The Hands, from the series The Europeans, 2002-04 is available at $12,000 to $18,000. Works by Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Roy Decarava, Peter Hujar, Graciela Iturbide, Mary Ellen Mark and James Welling ensure a stand-out section.    

Exhibition opening in New York City February 14. The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at and on the Swann Galleries app. 

Additional highlights can be found here.

Image: Lot 228: Vivian Maier, a personal album of Maier’s trip to Europe & Asia compiled and sequenced by the artist, 22 Kodacolor prints, 1949. Estimate $10,000 to $15,000.