The Associated Press June 22, 2010, 3:01PM ET

Adams, Samaras set records at NYC Polaroid auction

A historic sale of works by some of the biggest names in 20th-century photography set records for Ansel Adams and Lucas Samaras during a two-day auction of iconic images from the Polaroid corporate collection that continued Tuesday.

About 200 images were sold Monday, most attaining or surpassing their top pre-sale estimate, Sotheby's auction house said. An additional 300 lots consisting of some 800 photographs were left to be sold Tuesday.

Monday's total brought $7.1 million, putting the auction house well on its way of exceeding the $10.7 million total it had predicted over the two days.

Adams' "Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park," a moody black-and-white mural-size print of the park's rugged, rocky terrain, sold for $722,500 on Monday. It shattered the previous auction record of $609,600 for his "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico," from 1941, set in 2006.

"Clearing Winter Storm" had been estimated to sell for $300,000 to $500,000. It was purchased by an anonymous buyer after spirited bidding among four people.

The record for Samaras was for his "Ultra-Large (Hands), a mural-size Polaroid color print that went for $194,500. It was taken with a 40-by-80-inch Polaroid, an immense camera that required the assistance of several technicians.

The previous Samaras record was $132,000 for "Transformation: Eyeglasses" set in 1989.

An experimental artist, Samaras began working with Polaroid in 1969, pushing its colored emulsion dyes to create multifaceted and sometimes distorted portraits, a process that became known as "photo-transformations."

His works have been exhibited in major museums around the world.

Records for photographs also were set for Chuck Close, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and David Hockney, soaring four or more times above their pre-sale estimates.

Sotheby's said the 1,000 photographs on sale, selected from the vast 16,000-image Polaroid collection, contained the largest and best collection of works by Adams to ever come on the market. About 400 Polaroid and non-Polaroid prints by Adams were offered. He was renowned for his sweeping and dramatic black-and-white photos of the American West.

All 1,000 works were being sold by PBE Corp., formerly Polaroid Corp., which became a victim not only of a changing technology but also of a $3.7 billion Ponzi scheme in 2005. PBE filed for bankruptcy, and last year a Minnesota bankruptcy court approved the partial sale of the collection to help pay off creditors.

The Polaroid camera came on the market in 1948, the invention of Edwin H. Land who hired Adams as a consultant.


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