Queer Art, Ephemera & Historical Material at Swann Galleries August 19

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Featuring Tom of Finland, Gerda Wegener, JEB, Lesbian pulp fiction and more

Tom of Finland, Home – Secured, colored pencil on paper, 1982. Estimate $60,000 to $90,000
Tom of Finland, Home – Secured, colored pencil on paper, 1982. Estimate $60,000 to $90,000

New York— Swann Galleries’s third annual auction dedicated to the art, material culture, and history of the LGBTQ+ community will be held on Thursday, August 19, bringing to market both familiar artists as well as fresh, unusual and infrequently seen material. 

Among the art highlights are several original works by Tom of Finland, including two preparatory drawings and a completed color pencil work, Home—Secured, 1982 ($60,000-90,000); four oil paintings by Hugh Steers are led by Gold Fringe, 1993 ($30,000-50,000); a run of works by Paul Cadmus including a Prisma-color crayon drawing, Male Nude (MN155), 1979 ($20,000-30,000); three drawings by Gerda Wegener, as well as material by Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and David Wojnarowicz.

A significant section of important fine photographs will feature works by the medium’s most significant practitioners. Diane Arbus is on offer with Girl in Her Circus Costume, MD, silver print, 1970, printed 1972 ($8,000-12,000) and Two Men Dancing at a Drag Ball, NYC, silver print, 1970, printed 1972 ($5,000-7,500); Peter Hujar features with Man on Chair (Richard Weinroth), silver print, 1979 ($12,000-18,000); and JEB (Joan E. Biren) is present with a selection of joyful images including Gloria and Charmaine, silver print, 1979 ($1,000-1,500) and Darquita and Daughter, silver print, 1979 ($1,000-1,500). Also crossing the block is Robert Mapplethorpe, George Platt Lynes, as well as several studies of the male physique by Bruce of LA, and a pair of portraits of the iconic figure Fançois “Féral” Benga who served as a muse for artists during the Harlem Renaissance, including Richmond Barthé whose bronze statue of Benga set a record for Barthé in our June 2020 sale of African American Art. 

Early material features a very unusual group of historical Oscar Wilde advertising cards dating to his first tour around America in 1882 ($1,000-1,500). Twentieth-century material sees a group of 13 gay rights fliers issued in the weeks after Stonewall in 1969 by the Mattachine Society and others ($1,500-2,500), two greeting cards issues by the short-lived Third World Gay Liberation Group (a splinter group of the Gay Liberation Front) from 1970 ($500-750), and an invitation to a Gay Independence Day Picnic thrown by the Madison Gay Liberation Front in 1973 ($500-750). A 1989 20th anniversary of Stonewall postcard with the “first ever gay-related U.S. Post Office cancellation” ($100-150), vintage posters for the St. Marks Baths by Boris Vallejo ($2,000-3,000), The Wall Street Sauna ($200-300) and a collection of posters by “fierce pussy” ($800-1,200) represent material from the late 1980s. 

Literature will include a signed copy of Lord Alfred Douglas’s My Friendship with Oscar Wilde, New York, 1932 ($100-200), a select grouping of lesbian pulp fiction ($300-500, each), as well as a group of lesbian studies and literature first editions from 1929 to 1984 ($300-500), and a group of five signed titles by Tennessee Williams ($500-750).

As in years past, the house has chosen a nonprofit to donate to, and this year Swann has partnered with the American LGBTQ+ Museum, New York City’s first museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ history and culture. For this auction, Swann will match the donation amount for every consignor who donates 1% of their proceeds. The American LGBTQ+ Museum preserves, investigates, and celebrates the often-unseen contributions of LGBTQ+ people in American history and culture. Using exhibitions and programs, the museum seeks to advance LGBTQ+ representation and equality. The museum hosted its first public programs in June 2021, and it is slated to open its permanent galleries in 2024 in a new building on the campus of the New-York Historical Society. For more information about the museum, please visit thelgbtqplusmuseum.org.

Limited open exhibition hours will be available through August 18. Appointments are strongly encouraged and can be scheduled directly with a specialist. Swann Galleries staff will prepare condition reports and provide additional photographs of material on request. Advance order bids can be placed with a specialist for the sale or on Swann’s website, and phone bidding will be available. Live online bidding platforms will be the Swann Galleries App, Invaluable, and Live Auctioneers. The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at www.swanngalleries.com and on the Swann Galleries App.

Additional highlights can be found here.


Lot 151: Tom of Finland, Home – Secured, colored pencil on paper, 1982. Estimate $60,000 to $90,000

Lot 105: Diane Arbus, Two Men Dancing at a Drag Ball, NYC, silver print, 1970, printed 1972. Estimate $5,000 to $7,500.

Lot 124: Third World Gay Revolution, a pair of revolutionary greeting cards issued by the short-lived splinter group of the Gay Liberation Front, circa 1970.

Auction date: Thursday, August 19, at 12:00 pm 

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

CMO: Alexandra Nelson • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 19

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

Social media: @swanngalleries  

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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.

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