Phillips to offer photographs from the collection of Peter C. Bunnell

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Phillips to offer photographs from the collection of Peter C. Bunnell
Portrait of Peter Bunnell by Jerry Uelsmann, 1972. Image courtesy of Phillips.

NEW YORK, NY.- Phillips announced the sale of photographs from the collection of renowned curator, teacher, historian, and author, Peter C. Bunnell (1937-2021) in a series of live and online auctions in 2022 and 2023. In his curatorial roles at The Museum of Modern Art and Princeton University Art Museum, and as a Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton, Bunnell professionalized the study of photographic history, conferring a higher degree of rigor and status to the medium, and inspiring an entire generation of photographers and curators.

Starting with the first group of works to be sold on 12 October, proceeds from the sales will be distributed to six institutions with whom Bunnell was associated—Rochester Institute of Technology, Ohio University, Yale University, The George Eastman Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, and Princeton University Art Museum—to establish endowments to support the study of photographic history.

Over the course of a long career, Bunnell built a remarkable collection reflecting his vast and deep understanding of photography. Begun in the 1950s, before photography galleries and dealers were commonplace, the collection incorporates some outstanding rarities by Ansel Adams, his teacher and mentor Minor White, Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Harry Callahan, Frederick Sommer, his friend Jerry Uelsmann, and many other photographers who touched his life or his sensibility in some important way. It is a deeply personal collection put together with a sense of joy and curiosity that includes both icons and lesser-known gems spanning the history of photography.

Each of Phillips’ four sales takes its title from one of Bunnell’s many books on photography. The first offering, A Reverence for Beauty: The Peter C. Bunnell Collection, Part 1, will take place as a single-owner sequence within Phillips’ Photographs auction in New York on 12 October. This sale includes an early print of Walker Evans’s iconic Penny Picture Display, Savannah, 1936, as well as his Subway Portrait, 1941. This sale also features a fine selection of prints by Edward Weston, including Dunes, Oceano, 1936, and Shell and Rock Arrangement, 1931.

Stieglitz’s 1932 study of Poplars, Lake George, and Edward Steichen’s Laughing Boxes, 1922, represent the strongest Modernist voices in photography. Three studies by Minor White of Tom Murphy demonstrate White’s mastery of the male nude, and Grand Tetons, Wyoming, 1959, his command of the landscape genre.

A Reverence for Beauty: The Peter C. Bunnell Collection, Part 2, will be offered in April 2023, and two online auctions, The Eye That Shapes and Inside the Photograph, will be offered at dates to be determined.

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