On December 14 Doyle New York has an auction of photography that includes seventy-five photographs (in seventy-one lots) by Ansel Adams. These come from a complete Museum Set. Such sets, issued by the great photographer in the 1980s (this is dated from 1981) contain work spanning Adams’s entire career, with prints of scrupulous quality, prepared in his workshop under direct supervision, all signed by him.
This is the first time a set has been offered (at retail or auction) with the permission of The Ansel Adams Gallery and the artist’s grandson, Matthew Adams. Contractual provisions generally prevent sales of Museum Sets, and the only previous auction offering (in an online charity venue) appears to have been aborted for precisely this reason.
The Museum Set at Doyle, acquired by a private collector from Adams in the 1980s, was donated to The College of New Rochelle in New York State in 2012, and has now been deaccessioned and is being offered for sale by Doyle on the College’s behalf. In this exceptional instance Matthew Adams, the photographer’s grandson, and The Ansel Adams Gallery have permitted the sale, noting in a press release: “It is clear that the prints in this specific set are no longer subject to the legal restrictions that Ansel made…the terms of the agreement with Ansel have been met and it is for the College of New Rochelle to determine its disposition.” He adds “We believe this is an exception, and that, by contract, other Museum Sets must remain intact and intended for public display.” It seems likely that this will be a unique opportunity to purchase prints from a Museum Set.
[For this, see the press release of November 28, 2017 from Mr. Adams at The Ansel Adams Gallery: http://anseladams.com/ansel-adams-museum-set-photographs/]
The sets contain as their nucleus ten of the most famous Adams images, including Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico 1941; Mt. Williamson from Manzanar; Aspens, Northern New Mexico); Winter Sunrise, the Sierra Nevada; Monolith, the Face of Half Dome; Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite; Sand Dunes, Sunrise, Death Valley; Tenaya Creek, Dogwood, Rain; The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park and Frozen Lake and Cliffs, the Sierra Nevada. There were a further sixty possible prints that could be purchased as part of the Set. Those few who purchased all seventy, as here, received five additional prints, Adams’s 1940 Surf Sequence.
In addition to the Ansel Adams offering, the auction offers an interesting range of 19th century travel albums, including some very early views of China and Japan. There are an attractive arrange of daguerreotypes, including some rare stereo examples. The sale has a small section of photobooks, the most significant of which is the work by painter and photographer Anselm Kiefer, Die Ungeborenen, Paris, 2002. No copy of this work, which contains collage elements by Kiefer, has appeared at auction. There’s also an appealing range of 20th century and contemporary work. Among the latter is Maria Friberg’s Still Lives #3, perfect decoration for any library with its two huge panels depicting a man asleep within shelves of books.
Link to sale: doyle.com/auctions/17ph01-photographs/catalogue