Diane Arbus and the American Art Scene

Diane Arbus, Frank Stella, silver print, 1966.

Among the highlights in Swann’s October 22 auction of Photographs & Photographic Literature are Diane Arbus’s portraits of key figures in the American Art Scene for a 1966 story in Harper’s Bazaar. Arbus’s largest magazine assignment addressed how New York City had supplanted Paris as the epicenter of the art world.

Diane Arbus, Lee Bontecou, silver print, 1966.

The story featured 12 emerging American artists including Lee Bontecou, Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, Claes Oldenburg and Frank Stella, each captured by Artbus’s honest and revealing portraiture. Six of the photographs are included in Swann’s upcoming auction, and each of the photographs is accompanied by an authentication letter from The Estate of Diane Arbus, signed and dated by Doon Arbus.

Diane Arbus, Roy Lichtenstein, silver print, 1966.


Arbus posed each artist distinctly and without artifice. They are shown in bare rooms or nondescript outdoor locations. These are intimate portraits made from the perspective of another artist.

Diane Arbus, Claes Oldenburg and his wife, Patty, silver print, 1966.


By taking a brief hiatus from her usual subjects—transvestites, hermaphrodites, little people, giants and circus performers—she removed the veil of celebrity and showed each artist as an individual with a decidedly human dimension.