Records & Results: LGBTQ+ Art, Material Culture & History — August 17, 2023

The August 17, 2023, LGBTQ+ Art, Material Culture & History auction was a testament to the growing interest in the newly defined area of collecting. In keeping with previous years, the material represented a broad and exciting swath of nineteenth and twentieth-century political, social, and sexual culture.

“Robust bidding and consistent sales led to a strong hammer during a cool market. Paintings from Hugh Steers, Keith Haring prints, and David Wojnarowicz photographs led the auction. I am especially pleased to set a new high record for Jimmy De Sana with his Suburban series. The sale has grown and evolved into a fully realized department that intends to expand the market offering of queer artists along with the elevation of material culture that documents their history,” noted Corey Serrant, the house’s newly appointed associate director for the department.

Fine Art

Keith Haring, Silence = Death, color screenprint, 1989. Sold for $81,250.

The sale was led by Keith Haring’s 1989 color screenprint Silence = Death at $81,250. Fine art was a standout section of the sale; additional works of note included Hugh Steer’s life-size, oil-on-canvas In the Paper, 1989 ($40,000-60,000), as well as two 1988 oil-on-paper works by Steers: Red Flower ($15,000), and Pink Skirt ($11,250). Robert Indiana, Gilbert Lewis and Paul Cadmus were also among the top lots in the auction.

Hugh Steers, In the Paper, oil on canvas, 1989. Sold for $68,750.


David Wojnarowicz, Untitled (Buffaloes), platinum print, 1988; printed 1994. Sold for $37,500.

Photography was a standout among collectors, with a suite of five photographs from Jimmy DeSana’s Suburban series earning a record $21,250; also by DeSana was Enema, from the Submission series, 1977-78 ($10,625). Also of note were David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (Buffaloes), Platinum print, 1988, printed 1994 ($37,500), Peter Hujar’s Shoe for Elizabeth, 1981 ($31,200), and Robert Mapplethorpe’s Roger Koch, 1983 ($20,000).

JImmy DeSana, from a suite of five photographs from DeSana’s Suburban series, 1979-82, printed 1982. Sold for $21,250, a record.

Ephemera & Material Culture

Gladys Bentley, signed portrait of the cross-dressing Harlem Renaissance performer, circa late 1920s. Sold for $6,250.

Ephemera and material culture rounded out the offerings with vintage posters, vernacular photographs and archives. Highlights include an archive of Joan Jett Blakk’s 1992 campaign to put a drag queen in the White House ($7,500); Michael Vernaglia’s 1980 poster for The Saint nightclub ($8,750); and a circa late-1920s signed portrait of Gladys Bentley, a cross-dressing Harlem Renaissance performer ($6,250).

“Five years of conducting this auction and still the material is fresh and the results exhilarating. It is a continuing privilege to be able to bring to market material that has heretofore been overlooked or marginalized and present materials, artists and creatives whose work has not been fully appreciated or accepted. The most exciting part of this auction for us this year is that we have brought in Corey Serrant as the associate director. Within his purview will be making Swann’s LGBTQ+ department more inclusive and broadening the scope of the material offered. We are already very much looking forward to next years auction!” Nicholas Lowry, Swann President, concluded.