Diane Arbus - Photographs London Friday, May 19, 2023 | Phillips
  • ‘‘For me the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture. And more complicated.’’ 
    —Diane Arbus 

    This fresh-to-auction portrait of an Elizabeth Taylor look-alike was captured in 1969 while Diane Arbus was in London on an assignment for ground-breaking women’s magazine Nova (1965-1975). For her proposed story ‘People Who Think They Look Like Other People’, Arbus photographed people who thought they looked like famous people. The subjects were discovered after the magazine placed the following advertisement in The Times and the Evening Standard, generating an astounding response: ‘Have you ever been told you look the double of someone famous? Like Elizabeth Taylor...Twiggy, The Queen, Mick Jagger, Sir Winston Churchill? If you think you are the double of someone famous, you could be famous too.’  


    Peter Crookston, Arbus’s former editor at Nova remembers her passion for seeing and recording life: 


    [She] had an insatiable curiosity about people and how they live. As an artist, she wanted to convey an impression of these lives in her own particular way through the medium of her camera. She could do this by stopping people on the streets or in the park in New York, as she frequently did – but journalism gave her access to other, more intimate worlds.


    Arbus’s undeniable genius for creating enduring photographs that transcend the printed page is evident in the present work. 


    This lifetime print of Arbus’s evocative image of an Elizabeth Taylor look-alike is part of a curated selection of five exceptional portraits of women by Arbus (lots 22-26) from an Important Collection, UK. 

    • Provenance

      Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, 2012

    • 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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Elizabeth Taylor look-alike reclining on a bed, London, England

Gelatin silver print, printed no later than 1971.
28 x 26.5 cm (11 x 10 3/8 in.)
Stamped 'A Diane Arbus Print', signed by Doon Arbus, Executor, in ink, copyright credit and reproduction limitation stamps on the verso.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for £24,130

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London Auction 19 May 2023