DIANE ARBUS (1923–1971)
DIANE ARBUS (1923–1971)

A box of ten photographs

DIANE ARBUS (1923–1971)
A box of ten photographs
New York: Privately published, 1970. Portfolio of ten gelatin silver prints, printed 1970s by Neil Selkirk; each stamped 'A Diane Arbus photograph', signed, titled, dated and numbered '25/50' in ink by Doon Arbus, Administrator, with portfolio stamp, reproduction limitation stamp and printer's notations in pencil (verso); each image approximately 14 3/4 x 14 3/4 in. (37.4 x 37.4 cm.); each sheet 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.7 cm.); title page with printed facsimile signature, portfolio title and date; original vellum interleaving sheets each with printed facsimile extended title and date; number twenty-five from the edition of fifty; contained in original Plexiglas box designed by Marvin Israel.
Sotheby's, New York, November 2, 1987, lot 54;
acquired from the above sale by the present owner.
Sandra Phillips et al., Diane Arbus Revelations, Random House, New York, 2003, p. 214 (image of one of the original portfolio boxes and title pages) and p. 222 (image of the vellum sheet on which Arbus practiced writing out titles for the portfolio).

Lot Essay

The titles are as follows:

Identical twins, Cathleen (l.) and Colleen, members of a twin club in New Jersey, 1966
A young man in curlers dressing for an annual drag ball, N.Y.C., 1966
A young family in Brooklyn going for a Sunday outing. Their baby is named Dawn. Their son is retarded. N.Y.C., 1966
This is Eddie Carmel, a jewish giant, with his parents in the living room of their home in the Bronx, N.Y., 1970
Xmas tree in living room in Levittown, N.Y., 1962
Patriotic boy with straw hat, buttons and flag, waiting to march in a pro-war parade, NYC, 1967
Retired man and his wife at home in a nudist camp one morning in N.J., 1963; On the television set are framed photographs of each other.
Lauro Morales, a mexican dwarf in his hotel room in N.Y.C., 1970
A family on the lawn one Sunday in Westchester in June, 1968
Their numbers were picked out of a hat. They were just chosen King and Queen of a senior citizens dance in N.Y.C. Yetta Granat is 72 and Charles Fahrer is 79. They have never met before, 1970

In 1969, Diane Arbus began working on a portfolio of her work, to be issued in an edition of fifty, and offered for sale. By December of 1970, she had made a flyer for the portfolio which included two strips of contact prints of ten images and the following typewritten text: 'there is a portfolio of ten photographs by Diane Arbus dating from nineteen sixty-two to nineteen seventy in an edition of fifty, printed, signed, numbered, annotated by the photographer, sixteen by twenty inches in a nearly invisible box which is also a frame, designed by Marvin Israel. Available from Diane Arbus, four sixty-three West Street, New York City, for one thousand dollars.'

At the time of her death in 1971, Arbus had completed the printing of eight sets of the portfolio. Four of those were sold during her lifetime (two to Richard Avedon; one to her friend, art director Bea Feitler; and one to Jasper Johns), and the other four were set aside as artist's proofs.

The artist’s estate then commissioned the completion of Arbus' intended edition of fifty, with prints by Neil Selkirk (for full details, see Selkirk's essay, 'In the Darkroom,' in Diane Arbus Revelations, 2003, pp. 256-265). The present lot is one of the posthumous editions, unbroken, complete with printed title page and vellum interleaving sheets on which her handwritten titles have been reproduced, and in the original Plexiglas box.

Complete sets of A box of ten photographs rarely come to auction; only four are noted in the past twenty years. Furthermore, based on edition numbers of individual prints that have appeared at auction, it is clear that at least fifteen of the portfolios have been broken up and sold separately. Therefore, far fewer than the original 'edition of fifty' apparently still remain complete.

Arbus' A box of ten photographs has been featured in major exhibitions of the artist's work, most notably in the seminal retrospective Diane Arbus: Revelations presented by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005; Diane Arbus: In the beginning at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art at The Met Breuer in 2016; and it will be the focus of the forthcoming exhibition tracing the history and significance of A box of ten photographs to be on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. from April 6–September 30, 2018.

Other complete posthumous sets of A box of ten photographs reside in institutional collections including the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Princeton University Art Museum; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Yale University Art Gallery; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin; the Denver Art Museum; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Niedersa¨chsisches Landesmuseum Hannover. Lifetime sets of A box of ten photographs reside in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Tate London/National Gallery of Scotland; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge; and Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco.

Due to the pristine condition of this portfolio, it will be viewed by appointment only. Please contact the department for further information.

More from The Yamakawa Collection of Twentieth Century Photographs

View All
View All