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Phillips New York Photographs Auction on 13 July features masterworks spanning the 20th and 21st centuries
Ansel Adams, Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine California, 1944. Mural-sized gelatin silver print, printed 1967, flush-mounted. 39 x 63 1/4 in. (99.1 x 160.7 cm) Signed, titled and annotated in ink on a label accompanying the work. Additionally accompanied by a typed letter signed by Adams to the present owner, 1969. Estimate: $300,000 - 500,000. Image courtesy of Phillips.

NEW YORK, NY.- On 13 July, Phillips presents Photographs, featuring important masterworks of photography spanning the 20th and 21st centuries, to be livestreamed from our custom-built salesrooms in London and New York with virtual bidding worldwide. The first global livestream auction event for photographs, Phillips’ auction offers more than 230 superlative photographic works telegraphing the excitement and energy of the live auction room to our global audience of collectors. Phillips also presents a greatly enhanced virtual experience of the works via our enhanced sales pages that feature in-depth multi-media cataloguing for deep engagement and viewing of the artworks online. The works in the sale span the rich history of photography with classic works by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Man Ray and Charles Sheeler presented alongside post-war masters Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Robert Adams and William Eggleston, and contemporary photographers such as Andy Warhol, John Baldessari, Robert Mapplethorpe, Alec Soth, Peter Beard, and Wolfgang Tillmans.

Vanessa Hallett, Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas, said, “Phillips prides itself on our ability to showcase an array of the strongest artistic achievements in 20th and 21st century photography in one setting. The selection of photographs offered in this sale continues this tradition with an exceptional group of works that span the major photographic movements over nine decades. From early 20th century works like Edward Weston’s Pepper II, 1929, to a signed, lifetime Diane Arbus print of A Waitress in a Nudist Camp in New Jersey, 1963, and Richard Misrach’s Untitled, 2007, which reimagines the American landscape, collectors across the board will have the opportunity to acquire an exceptional array of photographs. Additionally, our newly enhanced virtual platform conveys the experience of viewing in person to an intimate and detailed remote experience online.”

Leading the auction is an exceedingly rare muralsized photograph by Ansel Adams, Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, 1944. Adams’ success with larger print sizes was trailblazing in his own time and was prescient of the current trend in photography in which larger prints by contemporary artists predominate. Adams rarely signed his murals, and this print is distinguished by the fact that it is accompanied by a label signed and titled by the photographer, acquired directly from Adams by the current owner.

Among a fine selection of Edward Weston photographs is Pepper II, which was made at the outset of Weston’s iconic pepper series. In peppers Weston found extremely photogenic subject matter, and he experimented widely with them, photographing both indoors and outdoors, in direct and indirect sunlight, and using an array of different materials as backgrounds. No other early prints of this image are known to exist. The auction also includes an iconic Weston Dune study, 1936, Two Shells, 1927, and a previously unknown nude from the early 1920s.

20th century classics on offer include an image that Surrealist master Man Ray rated among his ten best photographs, a solarized image of fireworks entitled Le Bouquet, 1935. This is the very print used when the image was illustrated in the Surrealist journal Minotaure in 1935 and comes originally from the magazine’s publisher, Albert Skira. Additionally, Ford Plant, River Rouge, Bleeder Stacks, Detroit, 1927, is an exemplary work in the sale by Charles Sheeler, best known for his distinctly American version of Modernism. His industrial studies, in a variety of media, remain touchstones in American art. Robert Capa’s D-Day Landing, Omaha Beach, Normandy, 1944, is one of the icons of 20th century photojournalism. Capa landed with American forces on Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944 to document the Allied invasion of France. Of the eleven images he made on that day, the image offered here is arguably the most immediate and visceral, taken at a low angle and showing the determination of its principal subject as he makes his perilous way from landing vessel to shore.

Images from Robert Frank’s iconic 1959 book The Americans are included in the sale, such as View from hotel window – Butte, Montana, 1956. Frank drove into Butte, Montana in May of 1956, after receiving word of the renewal of the Guggenheim Fellowship funding his project to create a photographic document of America. While Frank may have had hopes of photographing mining operations in Butte, what ultimately inspired him were scenes that fell outside the industrial life of the town including this view, taken from the window of the Hotel Finlen which captures the rooftops of the town in mid-light. This print was in the celebrated collection of Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, one of the first corporations to acquire photographs and whose collection was sold in a celebrated auction at Phillips in 2003. Other Robert Frank prints on offer include his iconic images of a cowboy, Rodeo – New York City, 1954, bikers in Newburgh, New York, 1955, and the quintessentially American expanse of US 285, New Mexico, 1956.

Published in a small edition of 15, Aaron Siskind’s portfolio of 10 prints, Terrors and Pleasures of Levitation, 1972, will be among the rare-to-market lots in the auction. Shortly after moving to Chicago in 1951, Siskind embarked upon a series of photographs of divers captured in mid-air before they plunged into the water along the Chicago lakefront. Devoid of situational context or horizon line, the photographs transcend documentation to become expressive studies in form and movement. This portfolio was published in 1972 by the pioneering photographic gallery LIGHT, from which it was purchased by the current owner.

The use of appropriation in photography is represented in two works spanning 60 years: Hannah Höch’s Clown, 1924 and John Baldessari’s seminal Life’s Balance (Male/Female), 1986, two examples in which the artists construct new meaning out of recombined fragments.

Life’s Balance (Male/Female) addresses issues of gender and identity and raises questions that Baldessari, with characteristically sly humor, declines to answer. Insightful and irreverent, Baldessari turned a photograph of a boy (wide-mouthed and jumping) upside down, flanking it with duplicate photographs of a girl on a hobby horse, both tinted with oil-based pigment. In Life’s Balance (Male/Female), he creates a work in which black-and-white and color, and male and female, unite in an enigmatic yet compelling whole.

The sale sets forth a fresh selection of work by William Eggleston, including a rare dye transfer print of Untitled, (Sumner, Mississippi, Cassidy Bayou in the Background), 1972. Richard Misrach’s monumental Untitled, 2007, is from the photographer’s first foray into the digital realm and showcases his deep technical and conceptual understanding of the medium and the American landscape. In Alec Soth’s Peter’s Houseboat, Winona, Minnesota, 2002, the photographer carries on his photographic investigation of the country. Richard Prince’s Untitled (Cowboy), 1993, encapsulates the artist’s post-modern fascination with American icons and media culture while Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Brooklyn Bridge serves as a stunning example from his famed Architecture series.

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