Polaroid Collection Auction Raises $12.5 Million, Sets Record for Ansel Adams Sale

Posted by on Wednesday June 23, 2010 | Fine Art

The court-ordered auction of portions of The Polaroid Collection, which took place Monday and Tuesday at Sotheby’s, raised nearly $12.5 million for the company formerly known as Polaroid Corp. The funds raised in the sale will be used to settle debts with the bankrupt company’s creditors.

In the auction’s first session Monday evening, a buyer paid $722,500 for Ansel Adams’ “Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park,” which outstripped the previous record sale of $609,000 for an Adams photograph. More than 200 of Adams’ prints were sold in the auction.


Other notable sales included $290,000 for Chuck Close’s “9 Part Self Portrait”; $254,000 for an Andy Warhol self-portrait; $254,500 for Harry Callahan’s “Trees and Mist”; $194,500 for Lucas Samaras’ “Ultra-Large (Hands)”; and $146,500 for Imogen Cunningham’s “Unmade Bed.”

The Sotheby’s auction included only part of the collection—“the part of the collection that we felt had the most auction viability,” Sotheby’s photography expert Denise Bethel told reporters at a preview.

By the end of the third of four sessions, the sale had already exceeded $11 million, surpassing the high estimate of $10,774,200.

Some are sure to find the record price achieved for an Ansel Adams work sadly ironic since, it has been argued, the photographs in the collection should never have been put up for sale.

Some of the artists, most notably Chuck Close, under guidance from former magistrate judge Sam Joyner, were reportedly contemplating legal action to block the sale from taking place, believing it violated the terms of their donations to the collection. However no legal action materialized.

A Netherlands-based company is close to a deal to purchase a portion of the collection, 4,500 pieces, which has been housed at the Musée de l’Elysée in Switzerland since 1990.

PBE Corp. bankruptcy trustee John R. Stoebner will continue to seek a buyer for the works that aren’t being offered for sale in the Sotheby’s auction.

PBE Corp. became a victim of a $3.7 billion Ponzi scheme by Minnesota businessman Tom Petters, whose Petters Group Worldwide bought it in 2005. Petters was convicted last year of fraud and money laundering, a sentence he is appealing while serving a 50-year prison term.
            –Conor Risch

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