More than 240 works from the renowned historian’s personal collection will be sold to build endowment funds to support the study of photographic history at six institutions
NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 13, 2022 – It is Phillips’ honor to announce the sale of photographs from the collection of renowned curator, teacher, historian and author, Peter C. Bunnell (1937-2021) in a series of sales to live and online auctions in 2022 and 2023. In his roles as curator at the Museum of Modern Art and the Princeton University Art Museum, and as a professor of photography and modern art history at Princeton, Bunnell has professionalized the study of photographic history, bringing a higher degree of rigor and status to the medium and inspiring a whole generation of photographers and curators.
Beginning with the first group of works for sale on October 12, proceeds from the sale will be distributed to six institutions with which Bunnell was associated – Rochester Institute of Technology, Ohio University, Yale University, The George Eastman Museum, The Museum of Modern Art and Princeton University Art Museum – to create endowment funds to support the study of the history of photography.
Over a long career, Bunnell has built a remarkable collection reflecting his broad and deep understanding of photography. Begun in the 1950s, before galleries and photography dealers were commonplace, the collection includes exceptional rarities by Ansel Adams, his teacher and mentor Minor White, Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Harry Callahan, Frederick Sommer, his friend Jerry Uelsmann and many other photographers who marked his life or his sensitivity in an important way. This is a deeply personal collection assembled with a sense of joy and curiosity that includes both icons and lesser-known gems spanning the history of photography.
Each of Phillips’ four sales takes its title from one of Bunnell’s many books on photography. The first offering A Reverence for Beauty: The Peter C. Bunnell Collection, Part 1, will run as a single-owner sequence at Phillips’ Photographs’ New York auction on October 12. This sale includes a first print of the iconic Walker Evans Penny Picture Display, Savannah1936, as well as his Subway Portrait1941. This sale also features a fine selection of prints by Edward Weston, including Dunes, Oceano1936, and Shell and rock arrangement1931.
Stieglitz’s 1932 study of Poplars, Lake Georgeand Edward Steichen Laughter boxes, 1922, represent the strongest modernist voices in photography. Three Studies of Minor White from Tom Murphy demonstrate White’s mastery of the male nude, and Grand Tetons, Wyoming, 1959, his mastery of the landscape genre.
A Reverence for Beauty: The Peter C. Bunnell Collection, Part 2will be offered in April 2023, and two online auctions, The shaping eye and Inside photographywill be offered on dates to be determined.