'Polaroid Collection' Sale Sets Record At Auction

Sotheby's auction house in New York on Tuesday night concluded a two-day sale of photographs from a collection of more than 1,600 assembled by Ansel Adams and Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid. The auction was controversial because a number of photographers believed they had only lent their photos to the now-bankrupt company, and therefore the photos weren't the company's to sell.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's go next to New York, where Sotheby's wrapped up a high-profile auction of photographs that fetched over $12 million. The photos included work from some of the most important photographers of the 20th century, including Ansel Adams, Chuck Close and Andy Warhol. NPR's Margot Adler reports.

MARGOT ADLER: This collection of photographs was assembled over years by Ansel Adams and Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid. It became known as the Polaroid collection. There are 16,000 images in total. Sotheby's took what it considered the most valuable.

Ansel Adams's "Clearing Winter Storm: Yosemite National Park" sold for $722,000 - more than 100,000 above any previous Adams work.

Lucas Samaras had several huge photographs taken with a mammoth, 40-inch-by-80-inch Polaroid camera. His work "Hands" went for $194,000.

Photographs by Chuck Close, Andy Warhol and David Hockney also set records.

The sale, part of a bankruptcy court order, was controversial. Some artists felt they had only loaned the works to Polaroid in exchange for film and cameras. And many are still negotiating with the bankrupt company that was once Polaroid. In fact, a trustee of the PBE Corporation confirmed that nine lots were removed at the last minute from the auction, including Chuck Close's huge, nine-panel self-portrait.

The trustees said the withdrawn works would be reunited with the balance of the Polaroid collection in Somerville, Massachusetts, and PBE would work with Sotheby's and a representative of some of the artists to try to find an institutional home for the remaining images - which is what many photographers are hoping for.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

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