DIANE ARBUS (1923–1971)
DIANE ARBUS (1923–1971)
DIANE ARBUS (1923–1971)
10 More
DIANE ARBUS (1923–1971)
13 More
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 1973 by Neil Selkirk; each annotated 'A Diane Arbus photograph', signed, titled, dated and numbered '15/50' in ink by Doon Arbus, Administrator, with portfolio stamp and reproduction limitation stamp (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 fifteen from the edition of fifty; each framed in a white wood frame 24 1/2 x 22 1/2 in. (62.2 x 57.1 cm.); accompanied with original Plexiglas box designed by Marvin Israel 20 1/2 x 16 1/2 in. (52 x 41.9 cm.)
Private Collection, France, 1974;
Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, New York, October 17, 2003, lot 47;
acquired from the above by the present owner.
Diane Arbus, Diane Arbus, Aperture, New York, 1972, n.p. (all illustrated).
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).
Diane Arbus, Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs, Aperture, New York, 2018, (all illustrated).

Brought to you by

Isabella Lauria
Isabella Lauria Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of 21st Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Born Diane Nemerov in New York City in 1923, Arbus first began taking pictures in the early 1940s, and by the year of her death in 1971 had deeply impacted the worlds of art and photography. In 1972, the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, headed by esteemed curator John Szarkowski, mounted a full-scale retrospective of her work, helping to cement her place in a quickly evolving canon of great twentieth-century artists. Subsequent decades have testified to her lasting influence, and in recent years ambitious surveys of her work have been mounted by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Jeu de Paume, Paris, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

1966 was a significant year for Arbus. That January she applied for her second Guggenheim Fellowship, and by mid-March had learned of her successful application and its accompanying grant of $7,500, a consequential affirmation of the importance of her work, as well as much needed financial support. That same year she made some of her most celebrated images, including A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C., A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing, N.Y.C., among others.

During the latter months of 1966, Diane Arbus attended a Christmas party for identical twins in Roselle, New Jersey. It was there that she made one of the most indelible works of art of the twentieth century—Identical twins. As can be seen in the contact sheet seen here (now part of the Diane Arbus Archive at The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Arbus photographed three sets of twin girls on a single roll of medium-format film. Six of the sheet’s twelve exposures are of Cathleen and Colleen Wade, and the now celebrated image can be seen upside down, as the second image from the bottom on the left negative strip. The sisters stand shoulder to shoulder in matching corduroy dresses, white tights, and headbands. As noted on page 182 of Diane Arbus Revelations, Arbus wrote on the December 11 page of her appointment book “GREAT GIRL TWINS. REN EYES,” a reference to her younger sister, Renee. Arbus’s chosen frame stands out both for its startling directness and the enigmatic, forever-indecipherable expressions of the twins’ faces.

In 1969, Diane Arbus began working on a portfolio of her work to be offered for sale. By December of 1970, she had made a flyer for the portfolio which included two strips of contract 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.”

Originally conceived to be an edition of 50, the printing was not fully realized during her lifetime. She sold only four sets: two to Richard Avedon, one to her friend and Harper’s Bazaar art director Bea Feitler, and one to artist Jasper Johns. The Arbus Estate commissioned the printing out of the intended edition of fifty, which was completed by Neil Selkirk, the only person other than the artist herself to have printed from her negatives. The present lot is one of those posthumous editions, unbroken, complete with printed title page and vellum interleaving sheets on which her handwritten titles have been reproduced, all contained in the original Plexiglas box designed by Marvin Israel.

Complete sets of A box of ten photographs rarely come to auction; only five are noted in the past twenty years. In 2018, A box of ten photographs was the focus of a major exhibition and publication at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. which houses the original portfolio owned by Bea Feitler.

Other complete posthumous portfolios of A box of ten photographs reside in institutional collections including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Princeton University Art Museum; the Victoria and Albert Museum; Yale University Art Gallery; the High Museum of Art; Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin; and the Denver Art Museum.

The current portfolio is in excellent condition.

More from 21st Century Evening Sale

View All
View All