[intro]No One Offered Privately on the Polaroid Collection. Why?[/intro]
We were cautioned by a photo dealer yesterday not to confuse the problems facing commercial photography with the market for fine art photographs. It’s an important point and worth making again. By all accounts the photography market remains on par with the rest of the art market, bruised but still in the fight with plenty of moxie left.
Nonetheless, the Leibovitz saga keeps putting us in mind to ask about the state of the fine art photography market. We’ll obviously know a little more when we see the auctions and here about sales from dealers. In the meantime, let’s ask this question in a different way: Does the photography market lack deep pockets willing to buy a big collection?
The Wall Street Journal offers this tantalizing clue. The Polaroid Corporation has been bankrupt for some time and selling off its assets. Some forget that the company once commissioned artists like Ansel Adams to use their cameras and wound up with the photographs they’d commissioned. The collection is very large with 16,000 items, including 627 of the Adams works as well as work by Chuck Close and William Wegman (does this include the huge portraits done with the legendary 20 x 24 cameras that Polaroid owned and allowed artists to work with?):
Polaroid is asking the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Minneapolis for permission to hire Sotheby’s Inc. to organize an auction and, possibly, private sales of the photographs.
Polaroid said that its own attempts to find buyers for the art had attracted interest from individuals, investors and institutions, but that it had yet to receive any formal bids. It’s hoping that with Sotheby’s help, it can generate some more money for the company’s creditors.
In other words, no one had the money or wanted to take the risk in buying so many photographs. Now the administrators want to hire Sotheby’s to liquidate the asset.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran a story about the orphaned collection in April. The Strib has a different number for the size of the collection but they say Sotheby’s valued it at between $7.3m and $11m:
Though not widely known, Polaroid’s collection has some 16,000 photographs, including more than 600 works by nature photography legend Ansel Adams, 13 large self-portraits by pop artist Andy Warhol and photos by craftsmen such as Dorothea Lange, Olivia Parker, William Wegman, Rosamond Purcell and Dawoud Bey. Most of the collection resides in an office building in Somerville, Mass., just north of Boston. Thousands of pieces are currently on loan to the Musee de L’Elysee, according to court documents. […]
The dour economy makes it a terrible time to market a world-class art collection. Kelley says he might be able to delay the sale until the market rebounds, but it costs several thousand dollars a month to maintain the collection in its environmentally controlled repository.
Artnet has a detailed catalogue of the artists in the collection:
The collection includes considerable quantities of works by Ansel Adams (627 photos), Paul Caponigro (671), Barbara Crane (103), Wendy Ewald (139), Philippe Halsman (198), Yousuf Karsh (136), Barbara Kasten (79), David Levinthal (59), Patrick Nagatani (98), Olivia Parker (137), Neal Slavin (76) and William Wegman (78).
Other notable artists in the trove are Vicky Alexander & Ellen Brooks (8), Margaret Bourke-White (3), Dawoud Bey (23), Bill Burke (39), Nancy Burson (19), Harry Callahan (5), Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons (26), Ellen Carey (39), William Christenberry (12), Larry Clark (1), Chuck Close (14), Alvin Langdon Coburn (32), John Coplans (1), Imogen Cunningham (14), John Divola (30), Harold Edgerton (29), Stephen Frailey (16), Robert Frank (6), Ralph Gibson (25), Milton Greene (34), Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (19), Richard Hamilton (2), Sally Mann (3), Mary Ellen Mark (35), Robert Mapplethorpe (12), Joel Meyerowitz (5), Duane Michals (16), Robert Miller (3), Sarah Moon (8), Hans Namuth (8), Arnold Newman (39), Helmut Newton (8), Bill Owens (31), Eliot Porter (15), Robert Rauschenberg (10), Bettina Rheims (3), Lucas Samaras (22), Jan Saudek (7), Victor Schrager (11), Andres Serrano (6), Stephen Shore (10), Laurie Simmons (4), Lorna Simpson (13), Bert Stern (26), Larry Sultan (5), Deborah Turbeville (7), Andy Warhol (13), Carrie Mae Weems (16), Minor White (34) and Joel Peter Witkin (1).
Instant Art on the Auction Block (Wall Street Journal)
Polaroid Art Has Price But No Place (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)