Diane Arbus - ULTIMATE Evening & Photographs Day Sales London Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
    Afterimage Gallery, Dallas
    Private Collection, Europe

  • Literature

    Diane Arbus, New York: Aperture, 1972, n.p.
    S. Kismaric, American Children: Photographs from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York: MoMA, 1980, p. 20
    J. Green, American Photography: A Critical History 1945 to the Present, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1984, p. 119
    P. Galassi, American Photography 1890-1965 from the Museum of Modern Art, New York: MoMA, 1996, p. 243
    Diane Arbus: Revelations, New York: Random House, 2003, pp. 104–105, p. 164 (contact sheet)
    A. Nemervo, Silent Dialogues: Diane Arbus and Howard Nemerov, New York: D.A.P., 2015, p. 31
    J. Rosenheim, diane arbus: in the beginning, New York: The MET, 2016, p. 257

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don’t like to arrange things. If I stand in front of something, instead of arranging it, I arrange myself.’

    Diane Arbus

    One of the most important and recognisable images within Diane Arbus’s oeuvre, Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C., 1962, reflects a new chapter in her photographic practice as she switched from the 35mm Nikon camera to the twin‐lens Rolleiflex, which used a 2¼ x 2¼ inch film. The lower viewpoint of the Rolleiflex, which she used for this shot, allowed Arbus to maintain eye contact and interact with her subjects. Colin Wood, identified as the subject here, recalled, ‘I was not directed, but there was a collusion of some kind. There’s almost this “is this what you want?” feeling on my face.’

    In 1962, the same year in which this photograph was taken, Arbus wrote to close friend Marvin Israel expressing ideas for a project she wished to pursue: ‘I wanna do the children the overprivileged ones…who are almost toomuchblessed [sic] as freaks.’ Wood was one such child. He came from a well‐off family on Park Avenue and was frequently abandoned to the care of nannies while his parents were in the midst of a divorce. By his own admission, Wood was a lonely and troubled child, deeply affected by his parents’ separation, exasperated and at odds with the world, as implied by Arbus’s original title Exasperated boy with toy hand grenade. As one of the first images Arbus created with the Rolleiflex, Child with a toy hand grenade represents a significant moment in her career – the birth of her signature aesthetic.

    In 1964, Child with a toy hand grenade was one of only seven Arbus photographs acquired by John Szarkowski for the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which was the first time her work had entered a museum collection. In MoMA’s 1967 landmark New Documents show, the only major exhibition of Arbus’s work during her lifetime, this image was one of 30 Arbus prints featured.

  • 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. 

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ULTIMATE Property from an Important European Collection


Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C.

Gelatin silver print, printed later by Neil Selkirk.
37 x 36 cm (14 5/8 x 14 1/8 in.)
Stamped 'A Diane Arbus Photograph', signed, titled, dated and numbered 67/75 by Doon Arbus, Executor, in ink, Estate, copyright credit and reproduction limitation stamps on the verso.

This work is number 67 from the edition of 75. As of this writing, Tate Modern, London/National Galleries, Scotland; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Akron Art Museum; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; SFMOMA and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, hold other prints from this edition.

£70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for £71,250

Contact Specialist
Genevieve Janvrin
Co-Head of Photographs, Europe
+33 1 53 71 77 87

Yuka Yamaji
Co-Head of Photographs, Europe
+44 20 7318 4098

ULTIMATE Evening & Photographs Day Sales

London Auction 18 May 2018