The Sotheby’s auction of more than 1000 photographs from the Polaroid Collection founded by Edwin H. Land in the 1950s will go ahead next week despite the controversy surrounding the sale.

Hundreds of artists, including Ansel Adams, William Wegman, Andy Warhol, Imogen Cunningham, Robert Frank, Helmut Newton, Luigi Ghirri, Chuck Close and Robert Mapplethorpe, donated Polaroid photos and other photographic prints to Land’s collection with the understanding, according to Close, that they were contributing to a collection that would be kept intact.

However PBE Corp., formerly Polaroid Corp., has been ordered by a Minnesota Bankruptcy Court judge to sell the collection to pay debts. 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. After unsuccessful efforts to sell the collection to an institution, PBE Corp. decided to hold an auction to compensate creditors.

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, however no legal action has materialized.

Sotheby’s will auction 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. The high estimate for the Sotheby’s auction is nearly $11 million.

Bankruptcy trustee John R. Stoebner will continue to seek buyer for the works that aren’t being offered for sale in the Sotheby’s auction, Bethel said.

Meanwhile, The Impossible Project, a Netherlands company that makes instant film for vintage Polaroid cameras offered an undisclosed sum for the 4,500 images from the Polaroid Collection that have been on loan at the Musée de l’Elysée in Switzerland since 1990. According to Dr. Florian Kaps, the company’s executive director, the offer has been accepted in principle but a contractual agreement is yet to be signed. Kaps says he hopes to complete the sale next week.

Adding to the controversy surrounding the sale and dispersal of the Polaroid Collection are questions about whether thousands of images may have been lost or stolen under PBE’s ownership. AD Coleman has pointed out on his blog Photocritic International that previous estimates placed the size of the collection at more than 24,000 pieces, while PBE Corp. stated in bankruptcy proceedings that the collection numbers just 16,000 pieces.

Stoebner did not respond to PDN’s request for an interview.

The Sotheby’s sales is scheduled for June 21–22. More information about the work included in the sale can be found here: http://www.sothebys.com/minisite/polaroid/index.html

Related: Auction Preview: Gems of the Polaroid Collection

—By Conor Risch and Eli Meixler


COMMENTS

MORE POSTS

Survey: Why is the Editorial Market Unfair to Photographers?

Posted by on Wednesday July 20, 2016 | Business, Media

In the current editorial photography market, budgets are shrinking as contract terms become less favorable for photographers. As a follow-up to our story “What Lawyers See When They Look at Editorial Photography Contracts,” we surveyed photographers who shoot editorial assignments about the financial challenges of the editorial photography market. A total of 142 photographers responded.... More

Swipe Right: FStop Pairs Up Photographers and Models

Posted by on Wednesday July 13, 2016 | Business, Social Media/Web

  For photographers and models just starting out in the business, building a portfolio by soliciting help online can quickly get… creepy. Craigslist aside, services like Model Mayhem or even direct messaging on Instagram can help forge connections but a new site called FStop is looking to streamline the process still further with a Tinder-style approach.... More

Unfair Editorial Photo Contracts: VICE Wants “All of Photographer’s Rights”

Posted by on Tuesday June 28, 2016 | Business, Copyright/Legal

When we published our story “What Lawyers See When They Look at Editorial Photography Contracts” in the June issue of PDN, we asked readers to tell us about editorial contracts they feel are unfair to photographers. We received a copy of a “Vice Media Photographer Agreement” that a Vice website sent to a photographer earlier... More