Topping the sale was Peter Hujar’sportrait of David Wojnarowicz. The 1985 silver print sold after aggressive bidding between two collectors on the phone for $106,250, a record for the artist. Swann Director of Photographs & Photobooks Daile Kaplan on the photograph:
“Hujar’s compelling portrait captures an intimate moment in 1985, a few years after the couple first met. Hujar, who was 20 years Wojnarowicz’s senior, was initially a mentor, introducing him to photography and darkroom practices; soon after they became lovers. The strong bond between the two is encapsulated in David poignant statement, ‘Everything I made, I made for Peter.’ It was deeply satisfying to bear witness and see these two giants of the LBGTQ+ and photographic communities generously recognized.”
Additional works by Hujar included Come Out!, 1969, an iconic-image that was used for numerous Gay Liberation Front posters ($10,000). David Wojnarowicz also featured in the sale with True Myth / Domino Sugar, a 1983 screenprint on a supermarket poster, that earned $13,000, a record for the print, and Neon Dancer, a 1982 postcard to activist Jim Fouratt with a multimedia drawing by the artist, which brought $17,500.
Autograph material proved to be popular as well, with an autograph letter signed by Harvey Milk on March 7, 1978, as the acting Mayor of San Francisco, garnered a record for an autograph by the politician at $11,250. The note was written to Don Amador, a leading LA-based activist, and his husband Tony Karnes, and exlaims: “Thought you should have a memo from the 1st upfront gay mayor of any city–it’s for real!!!” An archive of personal effects of trans icon Candy Darling, which included letters, photographs, and her personal datebook and diary for 1970, was won for $19,500.
Literary highlights featured a remembrance copy of Walt Whitman’s Memoranda During the War, 1875-76, inscribed by the author, “with his love,” to his partner Peter Doyle, which brought a record for the work at $70,000. Also of note was a marker and graphite study for Frog and Toad Together, 1972, by Arnold Lobel ($9,375).
Fine art from the early-twentieth century included a pen, ink and pencil preliminary sketch for Horseplay, 1935, by Paul Cadmus ($47,000) and Gerda Wegener’s circa 1920 crayon, charcoal and wash drawing, Two Women in a Window, which featured her partner Lili Elbe ($20,000). Works from the latter half of the twentieth century included pieces by Andy Warhol, Michael Leonard and Henry Scott.
“It is validating as a specialist to discover that you can still be pleasantly surprised at an auction. The catalogue was extremely well received, the exhibition was well attended and the auction itself was busy and the bidding was active. Works from every single one of our areas of specialty achieved prices that helped us to decide to turn this auction into a yearly event. The sale was a historic, artistic and cultural exploration for the whole company. We were proud to be able to do it and delighted it turned out so well.”
— Nicholas D. Lowry, President, Swann Auction Galleries
Tell Us About What You Have
We are delighted to announce that we will be holding another auction dedicated to the material culture of the LGBTQ+ community in June 2020. We have already begun to accept consignments and invite you to contact us.
Swann partnered in 2019 with consignors to donate a portion of their sale proceeds to the Leslie-Lohman Museum. We look forward to announcing another beneficiary for the June 2020 auction.