Elliott Erwitt - Photographs New York Tuesday, April 4, 2023 | Phillips

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  • The remarkable selection of photographs offered in this auction as lots 203 through 240 comes from the collection of Peter C. Bunnell (1937-2021), the pioneering curator, teacher, and photographic historian. All of the sale’s proceeds 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.


    Bunnell began his long career in photography as a student of Minor White’s at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the 1950s, and was recruited by White to work on the seminal periodical of artistic photography, Aperture. He joined the staff of The Museum of Modern Art in 1966 as a collection cataloguer, becoming Associate Curator and then Curator of Photography. At MoMA he curated the noteworthy exhibitions Photography as Printmaking (1968), Photography into Sculpture (1970), and the first retrospective of the work of Clarence H. White (1971). In 1972, he was hired as the inaugural David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton University. 


    Bunnell served as Director of the Princeton University Art Museum from 1973 to 1978, and as Acting Director from 1998 to 2000, while also being the Museum’s Curator of Photography throughout the entirety of his tenure. Bunnell built a broad-ranging collection of photographs at the Museum, the firsthand examination of which became a central element of the student experience in his classes and seminars. Bunnell also assembled a personal collection of photography over the course of his long career that reflects his vast and deep understanding of the medium. Begun in the 1950s, before photography galleries and dealers were commonplace, Bunnell’s collection is a deeply personal one, put together with a sense of joy and curiosity that includes both icons and lesser-known gems spanning the history of photography.

    • Provenance

      Gift of the photographer
      Collection of Peter C. Bunnell, Princeton, New Jersey

    • Literature

      Erwitt, Elliott Erwitt: Snaps, pp. 54-55, 58-59, 232-33, 302-03, 327, 370-71, 438-39, and 499 (select images)
      Bunnell, "A Portfolio of Ten Photographs by Elliott Erwitt," Inside the Photographs: Writings on Twentieth-Century Photography, p. 177 (Las Vegas, 1957)
      Bunnell, "Elliott Erwitt," Degrees of Guidance: Essays on Twentieth-Century American Photography, p. 111 (Las Vegas, 1957)
      Szarkowski, Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960, pg. 89 (Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami Beach, 1962)

    • Catalogue Essay

      The photographs included in this lot are as follows:

      New York, 1946
      Orleans, Frances, 1952
      Nicaragua, 1954
      Las Vegas, 1957
      Brasilia, 1961
      Brasilia, 1961
      Venice, 1965
      Bratsk, Siberia, 1967
      Florida, 1968
      Miami Beach, 1968

A Reverence for Beauty: The Peter C. Bunnell Collection, Part 2


Lot offered with No Reserve

A Portfolio of Ten Photographs

New York: Witkin-Berley, Ltd., 1974. Ten gelatin silver prints.
Each 8 7/8 x 13 3/8 in. (22.5 x 34 cm) or the reverse
Signed in ink on the mount; each with portfolio copyright credit label, inscribed with sequence number and 'A.P. 3 of 5' in ink, affixed to the reverse of the mount. Accompanied by printed title, colophon, introduction by Peter C. Bunnell, foreword inscribed 'For Peter B. - Elliot at 46 thanks you for the kind words, Erwitt 31 Oct 74,' and plate list. Acid-free paper interleaves. Enclosed within taupe cloth portfolio in slipcase. Artist proof 3 from an edition of 25 plus 5 artist's proofs.

Full Cataloguing

$5,000 - 7,000 

Sold for $15,240

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 4 April 2023