A Wide-Reaching Auction of Queer Art and Ephemera – SURFACE

Source Credit:  Content and images from Surface Magazine by .  Read the original article - https://www.surfacemag.com/articles/swann-auction-galleries-queer-art-ephemera/


A major auction of LGBTQ+ art and ephemera at Swann Auction Galleries offers proof of—and rising prices for—multifaceted queer histories.

“Sailors” (1951) by Samuel Steward. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

The material evidence of queer existence is, in unprecedented ways, both threatened and valued. For much of the first few decades of 21st-century America, queer culture was not only lucrative, but popular: from the YA novel boom to RuPaul’s Drag Race and musicians like Lil Nas X and Janelle Monáe to blockbuster painters like Salman Toor, queer representation was big business. But the backlash is here. Those YA books are vanishing from school libraries while states are banning drag from public spaces. In online marketplaces, buying and selling queer-themed art is difficult, while physical mainstays like San Francisco’s beloved The Magazine SF have shuttered.

This summer’s “LGBTQ+ Art, Material Culture & History” auction at New York City’s Swann Auction Galleries shows the value of what’s at stake. Its hundreds of lots span centuries, media, nations, and identities. An 1882 Napoléon Sarony albumen print of Oscar Wilde, the kind of keepsake he gave away on his standing-room-only one-man-shows across America, documents not only perhaps the first gay celebrity, but a foundation of celebrity culture itself.

“In the Paper” (1989) by Hugh Steers. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

There are beautifully horny and formally brilliant photographs from the late 1930s artistic collective PaJaMa and from George Platt Lynes, from ‘70s and ‘80s heavy hitters like Diane Arbus, Peter Hujar, Robert Mapplethorpe, and David Wojnarowicz, from establishment icons like Herb Ritts and should-be-canon Suzanne Poli and Jimmy DeSana and JEB. Visionary paintings from Sadao Hasegawa and George Quaintance complicate notions—should any shamefully survive today—that queer culture is only about white beefcake. Erotic art has its place too: illustrations from Samuel Steward and Rex and Tom of Finland, and ads for films by Joe Gage and the Colt studio, hardly bother with respectability politics.

“Each medium contributes to the sincere understanding of the arc of queer culture,” says Corey Serrant, Swann’s associate director and specialist. “They connect the creators across a spectrum of industries and art forms that execute the works. When merged, they form a narrative of what it means to experience life as a queer person without taking away from their individual stories.”

A group of pre-Stonewall magazines and ephemera. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Many also emphasize the collective. Mattachine Society ephemera document how the early gay rights movement was both sexual and textual, while a bootleg of the infamous “Purple Pamphlet” shows Florida’s history as a hothouse for hate. Posters from Gran Fury retain their rage at America’s encouragement of the AIDS epidemic; others recruit crowds for the 1993 march on Washington with vibrant minimalism.

Not all items are so boldly noble. A binder of 49 postcards advertising shows by Lady Bunny, Justin Vivian Bond, Murray Hill, and others might not exactly be a bargain, if you remember them freely piled upon the filthy bars of Manhattan in 2007 and after. Those bars fell to gentrification, and rising auction prices might encourage a similar revaluing. But those nights deserve to be remembered, and history isn’t free. “The estimates are rooted in the auction results from the four previous iterations of the sale,” says Serrant, who notes a “rise in interest from private and institutional collectors.” History is written by the winners, after all—in this case, the winners of the auctions.

All Stories
Previous Next

Source Credit:  Content and images from Surface Magazine by .  Read the original article - https://www.surfacemag.com/articles/swann-auction-galleries-queer-art-ephemera/