2021: Year in Review

As we close out another successful year at Swann we look back at our record-filled sales.

The Artists of the WPA

John Vachon, a select group of 38 vintage silver prints, circa 1937–42. Sold for $37,500, a record for the grouping.

The house held a sale celebrating the contributions of the artists of the Works Progress Administration in February. The auction included paintings, prints, photographs, posters, books and related ephemera by artists whose careers were sustained by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal-era programs.

Visual Art at Swann

African American Art, Contemporary Art, Modern & Post-War, and Prints & Drawings

Fne art sales shined at Swann in 2021, delivering dozens of records for established artists, market newcomers, and underrepresented artists alike. For the African American Art department, 2021 was their best year yet — in April the department held (what they thought was) the second-highest-grossing sale in the department’s history, but the October sale proved to be even better: it was the all-time highest-grossing sale for the department, as well as the house, bringing over $5 million.

Contemporary Art offered a selection of works from the Feminist Art from the Collection of Harriet Lyons in their June sale. The Modern & Post-War Art category at Swann, helmed by Harold Porcher, turned one this December, with three sales under our belt the department has established a solid footing in Swann’s regular roster of sales and is aiming to expand their Latinx Modernist offerings in the next year. And, prints and drawings, our busiest department with a minimum of six sales a year, continued to offer exceptional and rare works on paper from art historical stalwarts.

Elizabeth Catlett, Head, carved limestone, 1943. Sold for $485,000, a record for Catlett.

The Virginia Zabriskie Collection

Man Ray, Perpetual Motif, metronome with lenticular printed eye, conceived circa 1922–33, executed 1970-71. Sold for $161,000, a record for the work.

In September the house offered The Virginia Zabriskie Collection—a combined effort from our prints and drawings and photographs departments. Zabriskie was a pioneering gallerist who was responsible for launching the careers of a number of artists, as well as bringing photography to the forefront of collectors’ minds at a time when the medium was still considered vanguard. The sale was a success, exceeding the pre-sale estimate.

Books & Manuscripts

Fine Books & Autographs

Art, Press & Illustrated Books

Ed Ruscha, Stains, signed, number 16 of 70 copies, Hollywood, 1969. Sold for $112,500, a record for the work.

In November we offered Contemporary Artists’ Books: The Property of a Texas Collector. The single-owner sale featured rare and original works by leading artists, many that had not been seen outside of institutional collections. The important sale of books brought more than $1.2 million.

Early Printed Books

Maps & Atlases

Printed & Manuscript African Americana

Printed & Manuscript Americana

Focus On Women

This past summer we held our first auction devoted to the accomplishments of women. The sale featured early printed books, archives, vernacular and fine art photography, among other materials, all created by or relating to women who are pioneers in their respective fields. We are pleased to announce another edition of this sale, to be held in June 2022, once again spearheaded by Devon Eastland, our Early Printed Books Specialist, but offering a wide assortment of material. 

Illustration Art

Edmund Dulac, The Snow Queen, illustration for the chapter Second Story: A Little Boy and a Little Girl from The Snow Queen published in Stories from Hans Andersen with illustrations by Edmund Dulac, watercolor, gouache, pen and ink, 1911. Sold for $125,000, a record for the artist.

Illustration Art had a standout year, opening 2021 with the first sale of the year, and closing it out in December—each sale filled with auction debuts and record prices. The year began with the Dick McDonough Collection of Golf Illustration, which featured an incredible selection of original golf and sport-related illustrations. The department also brought new auction records for Edward Gorey and Edmund Dulac in their December sale.

LGBTQ+ Art, Material Culture & History

Tom of Finland, Home – Secured, colored pencil, 1982. Sold for $87,500, a record for Tom of Finland.

Photographs & Photobooks

Vintage Posters

H.A. Volodimer, Grand Prix D’Endurance de 24 Heures / Coupe Rudge – Whitworth, 1923. Sold for $15,000, a record for the image.

2021 highlights for the vintage posters department included a two-day sale event offering works from the Letterform Archive alongside Graphic Design in May; and the top-grossing Rare & Important Travel Posters sale for the house on November.

Consign with Swann.