Peter Hujar - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 1, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Literature

    Hujar, Portraits in Life and Death, pl. 2
    Scalo, Peter Hujar: A Retrospective, p. 87

  • Catalogue Essay

    “He had this incredible intimacy in his pictures. An interiority about them. But also an ability to just make pictures. The word that I would use for Hujar is 'tenderness.' That’s the feeling that I get from Hujar over and over again.” – Alec Soth

    Peter Hujar created images that are irrevocably tied to their time and place but have never lost their immediacy or their relevance in the intervening years. Working primarily in Manhattan, and within the overlapping circles of the city’s vibrant artistic and gay and transgender communities, Hujar’s work comprises a collective portrait which includes those, like Hujar himself, whose promise was cut short by AIDS-related illness, and those who survived to create lasting and continuing contributions to the culture. Falling into this latter category is the director, actor, designer, and artist Robert Wilson, shown here in 1975 in his Vestry Street apartment in lower Manhattan.

    In 1975, Wilson had already achieved a degree of fame. He had won the first of his two Guggenheim Fellowships, and had earned acclaim and a Drama Desk Award for his wordless play, Deafman Glance. In the year Hujar’s photograph was taken, Wilson was collaborating with composer Philip Glass on the genre-defying operatic production Einstein on the Beach, which premiered in 1976. Since that time, few people have continued to have as significant an impact as Wilson upon the modern theatrical experience.

    Hujar included his image of Wilson as one of 29 portraits in his seminal, and now scarce, book Portraits in Life and Death published in 1976. The book reproduced portraits of sitters who, as Joel Smith observes, ‘toiled somewhere between underground fame and mainstream obscurity,’ adding ‘to recognize everyone in the book was to feel like an insider’ (Peter Hujar: Speed of Life, p. 25). The book remains the definitive artistic statement of Hujar’s lifetime.


Robert Wilson - Vestry Street (I)

Gelatin silver print.
14 5/8 x 14 3/4 in. (37.1 x 37.5 cm)
Signed in ink and titled in pencil on the verso.

$10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for $10,625

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Sarah Krueger
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Vanessa Hallett
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New York Auction 1 October 2019