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Records Abound at New York City Polaroid Photo Auction
A mural-sized, 1938 photograph by Ansel Adams, 'Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park," probably printed in the 1950s or 1960s. AP Photo/Sotheby's, Ansel Adams.

By: Ula Ilnytzky, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP).- A historic sale of works by some of the biggest names in 20th-century photography set records during a two-day auction of iconic images from the Polaroid corporate collection that concluded Tuesday.

The auction of more than 1,000 photographs brought in $12.4 million, exceeding its pre-sale estimate of up to $10.7 million, Sotheby's auction house said. Fourteen new artist records were set, including ones for a photograph by Ansel Adams, by Lucas Samaras, by Andy Warhol and by Harry Callahan.

Adams' "Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park," a moody black-and-white mural-size print of the park's rugged, rocky terrain, sold for $722,500 on Monday. It shattered the previous auction record of $609,600 for his "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico," from 1941, set in 2006.

"Clearing Winter Storm" had been estimated to sell for $300,000 to $500,000.

The record for Samaras was for his "Ultra-Large (Hands), a mural-size Polaroid color print that went for $194,500 on Monday. It was taken with a 40-by-80-inch Polaroid, an immense camera that required the assistance of several technicians.

The previous Samaras record was $132,000 for "Transformation: Eyeglasses," set in 1989.

An experimental artist, Samaras began working with Polaroid in 1969, pushing its colored emulsion dyes to create multifaceted and sometimes distorted portraits, a process that became known as photo-transformations.

His works have been exhibited in major museums around the world.

Auction records for a photograph by Warhol were broken twice. "Self-Portrait (Eyes Closed)" sold for $254,500, surpassing an earlier record of $146,500 for "Self-Portrait (Grimace)," a unique large-format Polaroid Polacolor print.

A non-Polaroid work, Callahan's "Chicago (Trees in Snow)," sold for $254,500, surpassing his previous record of $168,000 for "Eleanor," a suite of three photographs of the artist's wife.

Records for photographs also were set for Chuck Close, Robert Rauschenberg and David Hockney, soaring four or more times above their pre-sale estimates.

Sotheby's said the photographs on sale, selected from the vast 16,000-image Polaroid collection, contained the largest and best collection of works by Adams to ever come on the market.

Adams was renowned for his sweeping and dramatic black-and-white photos of the American West. About 400 Polaroid and non-Polaroid prints by him were offered.

All 1,000 works were being sold by PBE Corp., formerly Polaroid Corp., which became a victim not only of a changing technology but also of a $3.7 billion Ponzi scheme in 2005. PBE filed for bankruptcy, and last year a Minnesota bankruptcy court approved the partial sale of the collection to help pay off creditors.

The Polaroid camera came on the market in 1948, the invention of Edwin H. Land, who hired Adams as a consultant.

The auction house didn't identify all the buyers. The sale prices included the auction house's commission.



Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Polaroid Photo Auction | Sotheby's | Ansel Adams | Lucas Samaras | Andy Warhol |


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