Eye on Auctions

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Photos and Fine Books loom large

By Caroline Birenbaum

A spate of auctions cluster around the annual AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers) Show, April 4-7 (aipad.com), and the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, April 11-14 (nyantiquarianbookfair.com), both at the Park Avenue Armory. The upcoming auction previews showcase rare works from a number of significant private collections. Check the websites for details, blogs and videos, related events, and to browse online catalogues.

Phillips (phillips.com)

The Photo sales begin here on the evening of April 2 and continue on April 3. Among the eclectic images assembled by Dr. Anthony Terrana, "The Curious Collector," are Ansel Adams's shot of "The Golden Gate Before the Bridge," circa 1932, and a recent vivid color abstraction, Walead Beshty's "Three Color Curl," 2010, as well as a print of Robert Frank's "Trolley, New Orleans," 1955-56, printed later, which shows up at several other houses, too.

Christie's (christies.com)

Carlos Alberto Cruz calls his superb collection, which was exhibited at the International Center of Photography in 1985, "the deLIGHTED eye." To be sold on the evening of April 4, it includes 71 vintage prints of modernist masterworks made in the first quarter of the 20th century, such as Alvin Langdon Coburn's "vortograph" composition, "The Eagle," 1917, and photograms by Lazlo Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray. On April 5, among over 200 photographs from various owners, is an exhibition print of "Trolley New Orleans" that was made by Robert Frank himself in 1961 for his show at the Museum of Modern Art. Turning to books, on April 9, the first of four planned sales of the Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow Collection of illuminated manuscripts, books and prints presents a broad range of highlights, with works from Schongauer to Chagall. Subsequent auctions explore periods in depth, beginning April 10 with productions from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Also on the afternoon of April 10, a 3-lot auction offers an extraordinary 7-page handwritten letter from scientist Francis Crick letter to his 12-year old son, telling him of his and Jim Watson's excitement at discovering the structure and function of DNA, and related material.

Sotheby's (sothebys.com)

On the evening of April 5, another top-notch photograph collection, "The Modern Image," offers 59 works collected by Dr. Paul Lloyd Scharf. Common threads among the wide range of photographs are consistently excellent print quality and focus on early and rare versions of images, as exemplified by an early state of Edward Weston's "Two Shells" on matte-surface paper, signed and dated 1927. A sale of 240 lots on April 6 features Man Ray's gorgeous solarized print of "Cala Lilies," signed and dated 1931, which was treasured by former owner Andy Warhol. This sale also has a print of Frank's "New Orleans Trolley."

Swann (swanngalleries.com)

Bookending the Book Fair, a potpourri of Fine Books on the morning of April 11 is divided into three sections: Incunabula (the earliest printed books) from the Library of noted collector Kenneth Rapoport; a splendid selection of 16th ? 19th century writing manuals; and "Miscellanea" including a first edition in book form of Audubon and Bachman's "Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America." On April 16, an extensive sale Printed and Manuscript Americana contains archives of correspondence from the American Revolution, the Civil War, early Mormonism; and a wild card: an immense archive of correspondence, photographs and memorabilia of unsavory 20th- century lawyer Roy Cohn. The auction concludes with the Theodore Roosevelt Collection of the late Peter Scanlan, whose lifelong TR obsession began in childhood. A broad range of Fine Photographs and Photobooks, some classic, some very experimental, will be offered on April 18.

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