Polaroid photographs raise $12.5 million at NY auction

Tue Jun 22, 2010 11:08pm EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A sale of photographs from the collection of the Polaroid Corporation brought in $12.5 million, setting an auction record for iconic photographer Ansel Adams and new marks for the medium by artists including Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, and David Hockney.

The sale of 1,200 photographs from the Polaroid collection was ordered by U.S. bankruptcy court in Minnesota when businessman Tom Petters, whose operations once included Polaroid Corp., was convicted last year of a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme.

Petters, sentenced in April to 50 years in prison, bought the bankrupt firm several years ago, and it was forced back into bankruptcy when the fraud was exposed in 2008.

Collectors and the curious jammed the salesroom at Sotheby's -- competing fiercely with telephone bidders for works by artists like Adams, who alone was represented by some 400 works. There were also works by Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, Lucas Samaras and William Wegman.

Nearly 90 percent of the lots offered found buyers, with the total easily beating the high pre-sale estimate.

Sotheby's said the auction was its first based on technology, rather than an artist or theme.

"Polaroid materials, in the hands of innumerable artists, redefined the aesthetic of the 20th century," said Denise Bethel, Sotheby's photography department director.

Adams was best known for majestic American landscape and nature photography, in particular Yosemite National Park. "Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park" achieved the sale's top price of $722,500, a record for the photographer.   Continued...