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Guest Post 6(e): Stephen Perloff on the Polaroid Auction

At the moment it seems that the attempt to find a permanent home for the remainder of the collection is sincere. One hopes that the success of the auction does not allow greed to start to creep into the thinking of the creditors, or Polaroid’s bankruptcy trustee, John Stoebner. Hopefully they will not be asking for too much in return. There is little chance that another sale of remaining works would generate a fraction of the excitement or prices that this sale did. Not only has the cream of the crop been removed, but as has been shown with numerous second sales of supposedly rare material — like the second de Prangey sale of early daguerreotypes — these sales more often than not fall flat and never live up to expectations. […]

Guest Post 6(d): Stephen Perloff on the Polaroid Auction

As some of the Adams murals were hung in corridors and the cafeteria, some had various marks (one could see small gouges on at least a couple of the murals in Sotheby’s preview) and Lyons remembers doing surface cleaning to remove food from some. But perhaps the most egregious damage was done when cutouts were made in some to make room for electric outlet boxes! At least Polaroid saved the cutout pieces and Lyons was able to replace them. I don’t know if any of those murals were among the ones offered in the sale, but it’s possible. […]

Guest Post 6(c): Stephen Perloff on the Polaroid Auction

It is my considered opinion that Sotheby’s, Singer, and trustee John Stoebner, who had threatened A. D. Coleman with a lawsuit, should instead be sending him a dozen, long-stemmed, red roses; a bottle of Charles Heidsieck 1995 Blanc des Millénaires champagne; and The Farmer’s Market Feast with a 56-piece Every Flavor Box, a 28-piece box of fruit squares, a 12-piece box of dipped apricots, and a 6-piece box of raspberry chocolates from John & Kira’s chocolates. For the very small and inconsequential price of removing a handful of lots from the sale, Sotheby’s gained publicity and notoriety for the auction far in excess of what they could have generated on their own. The idea of the scarcity of these objects and the vague hint that this may be a very fleeting opportunity to obtain them certainly ginned up the bidding enormously. […]

Guest Post 6(b): Stephen Perloff on the Polaroid Auction

This mural-sized print of “Moonrise” had hung in the Polaroid cafeteria without any glazing. At some point, probably in the 1960s, someone decided to use it as a dartboard, presumably aiming at the moon as the bull’s-eye. If that was so, they weren’t very good at darts as the moon was never hit, but there were numerous holes in the sky, in the right side, and in the lower left of the print. The print was removed when this activity was discovered. In 1986 when Polaroid was getting ready for its 50th anniversary it decided to celebrate with an exhibition entitled “Ansel Adams and Polaroid: A Special Relationship.” In preparation, the curatorial staff was asked to restore the print. The Collection had five Moonrises, but this was the largest. The print was driven in a van to Western Massachusetts where conservator Robert Lyons spent six months delicately repairing the print. The price was $5,000, which was a lot at the time. […]

Guest Post 6(a): Stephen Perloff on the Polaroid Auction

The sale of the Polaroid Collection was an unmitigated triumph for Sotheby’s — and therefore also for the creditors of Polaroid — totaling $12,467,638, comfortably exceeding the pre-sale estimate of $6.9–$10.7 million. The sale was 88.8% sold by lot. Fourteen new artist records were set, including ones for a single photograph by Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol, Lucas Samaras, and Harry Callahan, and for photographic works by Chuck Close, Robert Rauschenberg, and David Hockney. The months of work without weekends off that Sotheby’s experts put into the sale and its catalogue were clearly rewarded. […]