Diane Arbus - Photographs New York Monday, April 4, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Literature

    Arbus, Sussman, Philips, Selkirk and Rosenheim, Diane Arbus: Revelations, pp. 58-59 and p. 184 for an installation view
    Deschin, 'People Seen As Curiosity', New York Times, 5 March 1967, p. 129

  • Catalogue Essay

    In the summer of 1962, Diane Arbus traveled cross-country to Los Angeles in hopes of photographing the various subcultures of the region. Her days roaming the city took her to amusement parks, fortune-tellers, art fairs, astrologists, and, as we see in the present lot, Venice Beach, once coined “The Coney Island of the Pacific."

    On the cusp of defining her unique aesthetic that would delve into the beautiful oddities of humanity, but still years away from institutional recognition, Arbus turned her lens on the Miss Venice Beach beauty pageant where she photographed as a spectator in the crowd. Instead of focusing exclusively on the females parading across the stage in their bathing suits, Arbus took one step back, taking in the male audience as well as the women themselves, and thereby subtly transforming the subject from the pageant itself to the cultural ritual of such an event; one where women perform and compete for the title as crowds ogle and look on.

    As evident in the current lot, the idea of ritual in the form of ceremony and pageantry is a theme that runs throughout Arbus’ work. In her 1962 application for a Guggenheim fellowship, Arbus noted “I want to photograph the considerable ceremonies of our present” and, indeed, that is exactly what she would do over the next nine years until her death in 1971. From the Junior Interstate Ballroom Dance Champions, Yonkers, N.Y., 1962 to Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade, N.Y.C., 1967, and King and Queen of a senior citizens' dance, N.Y.C., 1970, Arbus’ fascination with ritual permeates her most beloved images, giving iconic status to everyday celebration.

    This image was included in John Szarkowski’s groundbreaking New Documents exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1967. Diane Arbus: In the Beginning, an exhibition focusing on Arbus’s work from 1956-1962, is being organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and scheduled to open July 2016.

    Signed, lifetime prints by Diane Arbus are rare in the current market.

  • Artist Biography

    Diane Arbus

    American • 1923 - 1971

    Transgressing traditional boundaries, Diane Arbus is known for her highly desirable, groundbreaking portraiture taken primarily in the American Northeast during the late 1950s and 1960s. Famous for establishing strong personal relationships with her subjects, Arbus' evocative images capture them in varied levels of intimacy. Whether in their living rooms or on the street, their surreal beauty transcends the common distance found in documentary photography.

    Taken as a whole, Arbus' oeuvre presents the great diversity of American society — nudists, twins, babies, beauty queens and giants — while each distinct image brings the viewer into contact with an exceptional individual brought to light through Arbus' undeniable genius. 

    View More Works


Miss Venice Beach, Cal.

Gelatin silver print, printed between 1966 and 1967.
8 x 11 1/2 in. (20.3 x 29.2 cm)
Signed, titled 'Beauty contest Venice Beach California', dated in pencil by the artist, stamped 'A Diane Arbus print', further signed, dated by Doon Arbus, Executor, in ink, copyright credit and reproduction limitation stamps on the verso.

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $40,000

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New York Auction 4 April 2016