Sotheby’s sets new record for Ansel Adams in $6.4 million Photographs sale in NY

Art Daily
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Ansel Adams, The Grand Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Estimate $400/600,000. Sold for $988,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Ansel Adams, The Grand Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Estimate $400/600,000. Sold for $988,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

NEW YORK, NY.- A Grand Vision: The David H. Arrington Collection of Ansel Adams Masterworks, the most comprehensive and important collection of Ansel Adams photographs to come to market, concluded yesterday afternoon at Sotheby’s New York, bringing a total of $6.4 million, comfortably exceeding the pre-sale estimate of $4.1/6.1 million, and with an outstanding 94% of lot sold. The sale was led by Adams’ mural-sized print of The Grand Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming which sold for $988,000 (estimate $400/600,000) – establishing a new record for Ansel Adams at auction. Photographed on commission for the Department of the Interior in 1942, this dramatic view of the mountains over Jackson Hole is believed to be one of less than 10 mural-sized prints of this image in existence and was acquired directly from the legendary photographer’s descendants.

Emily Bierman, Head of Sotheby’s Photographs Department in New York, commented: “The spectacular results from yesterday’s sale not only affirmed Ansel Adams as one of the most important artists of the 20th century, but also that his subject matter is as relevant today as when it was created over half a century ago. Bidders clamored for the opportunity to acquire some of Adams’ most iconic images, from small jewel-like photographs of the 1920s and 1930s to mural-sized prints from the 1960s, including The Grand Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, which achieved a new auction record for the photographer after an enthusiastic bidding battle involving at least 6 bidders. We were delighted to see strong online participation throughout the sale, as more than 50% of lots sold to online buyers. Yesterday’s sale total of $6.4 million also marked Sotheby’s highest total for an auction of photographs since 2014, which is a testament to the strength of the market when the highest quality works are available. The collection put together by David H. Arrington was unprecedented in its scale, scope, and condition, and now proudly takes its place among the most significant collections of photographs to ever come to auction. Handling this collection has been an enormous privilege for our entire team, and, personally, an opportunity I will cherish in my career.”

Facts and Figures at a Glance

• 94% of lots sold
• 72% of bidders participated online, and 57% of all sold lots were bought online
• Nearly 50% of all sold lots achieved prices above their high estimate
• 35% of buyers were new Sotheby’s
• Great depth of bidding, with many lots pursued by multiple bidders (10 bidders on Lot 60, 9 bidders on Lot 105, 8 bidders on Lot 19)

The Collection
The David H. Arrington Collection of Ansel Adams Masterworks grew out of the lifelong passion of Arrington, a native Texan who currently serves as President of Arrington Oil & Gas Operating LLC. Born and raised in the Dallas community of Oak Cliff, Arrington developed a deep interest in photography as a teenager when he began taking pictures and studying the work of Ansel Adams to improve his technique and skills. In his late twenties, he started collecting Adams’ work, a pursuit which over the decades gave rise to one of the largest and most important privately held collections of work by the photographer. Highlights from the collection have been exhibited widely, including in Ansel Adams: Classic Images (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), Ansel Adams at 100 (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, traveling thereafter to The Art Institute of Chicago, the Hayward Gallery, Berlin’s Kunstbibliothek, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art), Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams, Natural Affinities (The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum), Photography From the Mountains to the Sea (The Royal Museums Greenwich), and Ansel Adams: Eloquent Light, at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

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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.

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