LGBTQ+ Art, Material Culture & History Auction Bests Itself for the Third Year in a Row

Published on

Auction Brings $1.3M and Records Abound New Record for Tom of Finland, Shattering Top Price Set by House Last Year

Tom of Finland, Home – Secured, colored pencil on paper, 1982. Sold for $87,500, a record for the artist.
Tom of Finland, Home – Secured, colored pencil on paper, 1982. Sold for $87,500, a record for the artist.

LGBTQ+ ART, MATERIAL CULTURE & HISTORY

Sale 2578; August 19, 2021

Sale total: $1,380,848

Hammer price: $1,103,200

Estimates for sale as a whole: $570,700–$860,000

We offered 268 lots; 253 sold (94% sell-through rate by lot)

All prices include Buyer’s Premium.

New York—”Swann’s third annual auction of LGBTQ+ Art, Material Culture & History was an unmitigated success. From the limited exhibition, which had the highest attendance of any of the house’s exhibitions in 18 months, to the truly spirited and competitive bidding institutions and avid collectors all participated at what could at times be referred to as a fever pitch. Records were set in many different categories: art, photography, posters and ephemera. Perhaps most heartening were the outstanding results achieved for artists whose work had not previously or only infrequently appeared at auction,” Swann Galleries President, Nicholas D. Lowry reflected on the Thursday, August 19 sale. The sale earned $1.1 million hammer ($1.3 million with BP), nearly 30% over the high estimate with 94% of the 268 lots on offer finding buyers. 

Diane Arbus, Two Men Dancing at the Drag Ball, NYC, silver print, 1970, printed 1972. Sold for $50,000, a record for the print.
Diane Arbus, Two Men Dancing at the Drag Ball, NYC, silver print, 1970, printed 1972. Sold for $50,000, a record for the print.

Tom of Finland’s popular S&M illustrations led the auction, with the complete run of eight works on offer finding buyers, and recording a record-breaking price for the artist, proving that Swann has become the go-to house for the artist. Establishing a new auction record for the artist was Home – Secured, an exceptional 1982 colored-pencil work that pays clever homage to Canada with the breeches and boots of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The drawing earned $87,500, besting the previous record set by the house ($55,000 in 2020). Also of note was a 1965 pencil-on-paper work of Finland’s signature biker men ($35,000), and two preparatory sketches from 1982 ($18,750) and 1985 ($10,625).

Additional fine art offerings included poignant works by Hugh Steers with Gold Fringe, oil on canvas, 1993, which brought a record for the artist at $62,500, and Prescription, oil on paper, 1990 ($47,500); Patrick Angus earned a record with Seated Model, acrylic on canvas, at $37,500; and Paul Cadmus’s Male Nude (NM 155), Prisma-color crayon, 1979, delivered $35,000. Harmony Hammond, David Ligare, Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz and Wes Hempel also saw strong results. 

Photography featured Diane Arbus’s Two Men Dancing at a Drag Ball, NYC, silver print, 1970, printed 1972, which established a record for the image at $50,000; as well as images by Peter Hujar, Laura Aguilar, JEB and Robert Mapplethorpe. Vernacular photography was also on offer with a rare album of cross-dressing from 1930 to 1941 ($11,250), and a pair of portraits of the iconic Harlem Renaissance figure François “Féral” Benga ($8,125).

Rare posters and flyers created during the aftermath of Stonewall, as well as those developed by activists during the AIDS epidemic led a standout selection of ephemera. Most notable was the 1987 first printing of Silence = Death, created before the image was turned over to ACT UP. The poster brought a record $32,500. Also from the Silence = Death Collective and ACT UP was Silence = Death VOTE, issued in advance of the 1988 presidential election urging people to educate themselves about candidates’ positions on HIV-related issues, the offering marked a market debut for the poster which earned $8,125. From Su Negrin was the 1970 poster Gay Liberation which featured Peter Hujar’s Come Out! photo, the poster turned over a record setting price at $10,625; and Donna Gottschalk’s Sisterhood Feels Good, 1971, earned $2,500. Flyers included an archive of 36 gay rights informationals from the 1970s and 80s ($4,000); and 13 protest fliers issued by the Mattachine Society in the weeks after Stonewall ($3,250). 

Lesbian pulp fiction, Oscar Wilde material, newspaper clippings, zines, archives, correspondence and more rounded out the sale. “This is clearly a market that is growing at a rapid pace, and we are delighted to be the house accompanying that growth. As the auction necessitates the involvement of all of Swann’s specialist departments, and is, in effect, a showcase of our many talents, it is truly a team effort and as such is even more rewarding. The sale is something that we look forward to as much as our clients,” concluded Lowry.

The house is currently accepting quality consignments for a 2022 sale of LGBTQ+ Art, Material Culture & History, as well as forthcoming auctions of Contemporary Art, Illustration Art, Books and Manuscripts. For the house’s most up-to-date auction schedule please visit seanngalleries.com.

Key:  * = Artist Record; ** = Record for Print 

Additional Records: Lot 113 – Bob Ziering; Lot 125 – Su Negrin; Lot 166 – JEB; Lot 174 – Mel Odom; Lot 213 – Silence = Death VOTE; Lot 261 – Robert W. Richards

Additional highlights can be found here.

Captions:

Lot 151: Tom of Finland, Home – Secured, colored pencil on paper, 1982. Sold for $87,500, a record for the artist.

Lot 105: Diane Arbus, Two Men Dancing at the Drag Ball, NYC, silver print, 1970, printed 1972. Sold for $50,000, a record for the print.

Specialist: Nicholas D. Lowry • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 53

Chief Marketing Officer: Alexandra Nelson • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 19

Public Relations Associate: Kelsie Jankowski • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 23

Social media: @swanngalleries  

#   #   #

ILLUSTRATED CATALOGUE, ADDL. IMAGES & COMPLETE PRICES REALIZED ON REQUEST

Swann Auction Galleries is a third-generation family business as well as the world’s largest auction house for works on paper. In the last 75 years, Swann has repeatedly revolutionized the trade with such innovations as the first U.S. auction dedicated to photographs and the world’s only department of African-American Fine Art. More than 30 auctions and previews are held annually in Swann Galleries’ two-floor exhibition space in Midtown Manhattan, and online worldwide. Visit swanngalleries.com for more information.

Media Source
Writer
James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

More in the auction industry