The Polaroid Corporation’s sale of nearly 1300 photographs (out of its 16,000 item archive) has gotten the OK to proceed with a Single-Owner sale in the Spring of 2010. Valued at $11 million this sale has the potential to be a small-scale version of Christie’s YSL sale for the photography market. Here is a collection with extraordinary provenance–the legendary Polaroid name–and the very definition of fresh to the market because the images were donated to the company; not to mention the fact that because these are Polaroids, every image is unique.
Georgina Adam gave voice to those who are unhappy about the sale in her Financial Times column this weekend:
Many are unhappy at the break-up of this collection. David Ross, a former director of ICA Boston, the Whitney and SFMoMA told me:
“Regardless of the ruling, the new owners of Polaroid are selling what’s left of the corporate soul of that once great company by treating the collection as mere property, and showing such blatant disregard for the rights of the hundreds of artists who trusted them with their work … All we really hope for is that some enlightened foundation will buy the entire collection and donate it to a museum in the name (and spirit) of the great Edwin Land [inventor of Polaroid].”
As for the remaining 14,700 items, Sotheby’s says it is “consulting with the court-appointed trustee as to [their] disposition”.
The Boston Herald talks to people on both sides of the controversy and explains why the sale must be pursued, even at the cost of breaking up the collection:
“The Polaroid collection was created in a unique and artist-friendly way with unusual rights,” said Coleman. “But the game changed.”
The game’s goal now is all about squeezing the most money out of the stashed-away collection to help pay off Polaroid’s creditors. The company’s core business – and the Polaroid brand – already has been sold for $86 million to a joint venture including Boston’s Gordon Brothers Group. Polaroid exited the instant-film market last year, finally giving in fully to the digital technology that, along with mismanagement and massive debts, had driven the storied Bay State business into bankruptcy the first time around.
Still, splitting up and selling off the Polaroid collection always has been considered a worst-case scenario.
“The artwork is something that is a significant asset,” said George Singer, an attorney handling Polaroid’s bankruptcy. “The community would have an interest in keeping the collection together, but considering the debts that are owed, the company has to do what’s best to maximize the value of this collection.”
The Art Market: All’s Fair, or the battle of the Tents (Financial Times)
Polaroid to Auction Art (Boston Herald)