Photographs Spanning the Centuries to Highlight Phillips’ Spring Auction in New York

  • NEW YORK, New York
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  • March 22, 2023

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Ansel Adams | Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941 | Estimate: $150,000 - 250,000 | Property from A Reverence for Beauty: The Peter C. Bunnell Collection, Part 2
Courtesy of Phillips

Photographs Spanning the Centuries to Highlight Phillips’ Spring Auction in New York

Sale on 4 April to Feature Works by Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Diane Arbus, Thomas Struth, Sohei Nishino, and More

NEW YORK – MARCH 2023 – Phillips’ Photographs auction on 4 April gathers a remarkable selection of individual masterworks and esteemed private and institutional collections. On view at 432 Park Avenue from 28 March – 3 April, the sale brings together over 300 examples of the medium. Alongside the live auction is the second session of Dorothea Lange: The Family Collection, which includes a remarkable assemblage of 50 photographs come directly from the family of this pioneering American photographer. The upcoming sale is a continuation of Phillips' first offering from the Family Collection, which took place in October 2022. Bidding for Part Two will be open from March 29 to April 5 and can be viewed here with further details here.

Sarah Krueger, Head of Department, said “Our April offerings showcase Phillips’ commitment to presenting the best photographs from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. We look forward to welcoming collectors to our state-of-the-art galleries for the viewing, and to the auction room on sale day, to see and compete in person for this wonderful material.”

Sohei Nishino | Diorama Map New York, 2006 | Estimate: $40,000 - 60,000
Courtesy of Phillips

Senior International Specialist Chris Mahoney, notes, “We are honored to present work from a number of fine personal collections, including curator and photographic historian Peter C. Bunnell, gallerists and collectors Rosa and Aaron Esman, and the legendary curator Pierre Apraxine. Each of these offerings adds an incredible depth and richness to our spring sale.”

Leading the sale is Robert Mapplethorpe’s Man in Polyester Suit, an image that has inspired both acclaim and controversy since it was made in 1980. The photo encapsulates Mapplethorpe’s unique talent to present a subject matter that is both confrontational in content while being technically and aesthetically perfect. This level of technical perfection is also a feature of Irving Penn’s Harlequin Dress (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), a multiple coated platinum-palladium print that demonstrates Penn’s incomparable abilities as a photographer of couture and as a printer of exceptional ability.

Making their first appearance at auction this April are ten exquisite landscapes by Harry Callahan from 1963 after having been in the same collection since 1983. They hung in The Museum of Modern Art, New York exhibition The Photographer and the American Landscape, the first show organized by esteemed curator John Szarkowski. This particular suite of Harry Callahan photographs is an early tour-de-force presentation of the photographer’s best landscape work due to its exhibition history, provenance, and that the group has remained intact since its creation.

A Reverence for Beauty: The Peter C. Bunnell Collection, Part 2

The sale includes Phillips’ third offering of material from the collection of curator, teacher, and photo historian Peter C. Bunnell. A highlight of this section is a bravura oversized print of Ansel Adams’ iconic Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, which he acquired directly from the photographer in 1959. Bunnell’s collection also includes four lifetime prints by Diane Arbus, including Identical twins, Roselle, N. J., as well as work by Edward Steichen, Edward Weston, Minor White, and others.

Cindy Sherman | Untitled #546, 2010 | Estimate: $150,000 - 200,000
Courtesy of Phillips


Photographs from the Collection of Pierre Apraxine

Phillips is additionally honored to present material from the collection of Pierre Apraxine, the legendary curator of the Gilman Paper Company Collection and consulting curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This selection of 19th and 20th century work demonstrates Apraxine’s unmatched eye for photography and includes work by Irving Penn, Wolfgang Tillmans, and self-portraits by the Countess di Castiglione, on whom Apraxine was the foremost authority.


Property from the Collection of Rosa and Aaron Esman

The auction will also showcase works from the collection of gallerists and collectors Rosa and Aaron Esman, with a lively selection of avant-garde work from the 1920s and 1930s by Man Ray, Alexander Rodchenko, and Jaromír Funke, among others, along with contemporary work by Sol Lewitt, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Vik Muniz. The Esmans assembled an outstanding collection of Modern, Post-War, and Contemporary art and photography over the course of their seventy-year marriage, and Mrs. Esman’s eponymous gallery operated in Manhattan for over twenty years. She was also a founding partner of Ubu Gallery, which is still in operation today.

Additional Works from Various Owners

Contemporary highlights include Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #546, 2010, a monumental and immersive print that debuted at Metro Pictures in New York City in 2012. It is from a project in which Sherman photographed herself clothed in vintage designs and placed herself within otherworldly landscapes. This image illustrates how Sherman transitioned seamlessly from analog to digital photography and exploited the creative potential of new imaging technology.

Other contemporary works include Christian Marclay’s Hot August Night, which shows how a highly inventive artist can use popular culture not only as a reference but also as the raw material for the construction of the work. A robust offering of Wolfgang Tillmans includes his transcendent studies of the Concorde in flight. Further examples come from Thomas Struth in Paradise 24, Sao Francisco de Xavier, Brazil, where Struth uses the photograph’s grand scale to convey the lushness of Brazil’s tropical rainforest. Sohei Nishino’s masterful Diorama Map New York assembles hundreds of individual images of Manhattan into an epic composite of the cityscape.

The sale continues with a robust offering of classic material, starting with three Carleton Watkins mammoth-plate views made in Oregon in 1867. Watkins’ legacy in creating the visual vocabulary of American landscape photography is seen in numerous works by Ansel Adams, including two impressive mural-sized prints. Postwar photographs include Robert Frank’s highly personal triptych of his wife and children on the road during one of his cross-country photographic journeys in the 1950s.

Nan Goldin’s Brian on the Bowery Roof, NYC, from her landmark book The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, demonstrates another highly personalized approach to documentary photography. Josef Koudelka, the modern master of black-and-white photography, captures a moment of magic and menace on the snow in France. Works by Ruud van Empel and Sebastião Salgado round out a consignment from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art being sold to benefit acquisition funds.

Auction: 4 April 2023 10am & 2pm EDT

Auction viewing: 28 March – 3 April

Location: 432 Park Avenue, New York, NY, United States, 10022

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