Polaroid Photos Sell High at Auction

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Photographs by Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol and Lucas Samaras were among those on the auction block this week, when iconic images from the Polaroid corporate collection sold for record prices.

The more than 1,000 photographs, by some of the world's most famous photographers, brought in a total of $12.5 million, well over the $10.7 million previously estimated by auction house Sotheby's in New York. Fourteen new artist records were set in the process.

Ansel Adams' "Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park," a huge black-and-white print of the park's rugged terrain sold for over $722,500, nearly doubling the expected sale. It was just one of 400 Polaroid and non-Polaroid prints on the block.

The collection holds the largest and best works of Ansel Adams, who was hired as a consultant by Erwin H. Land, the inventor of the Polaroid camera. The camera came on the market in 1948.

Lucas Samaras, an experimental artist who began working with colored emulsion dyes on Polaroid film in 1969--a process that became known as photo-transformations--also broke a record for the sale of his "Ultra-Large (Hands)." The mural-size color print was taken with a 40-by-80 inch Polaroid camera, which required the assistance of several technicians, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Works by Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Robert Rauschenberg and David Hockney also sold for four or more times their pre-sale estimates.

The 1,000 photographs in the auction stemmed from the vast 16,000-image Polaroid collection, on sale by PBE Corporation, formerly Polaroid Corp., to help pay off creditors. The company become a victim of a $3.7 billion Ponzi scheme in 2005, and set up the auction as part of its bankruptcy proceedings.

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