Peter Hujar - Reframing Beauty: A Private Seattle Collection New York Thursday, October 7, 2021 | Phillips
  • "He was not just a portraitist who did other work besides, he was an artist for whom the portrait defined what art could be," curator Joel Smith comments in his introductory video for Peter Hujar: Speed of Life, the 2018 retrospective at the Morgan Library & Museum. Indeed, while Hujar’s practice extended beyond portraiture, as evident in his night scene of Greenwich Village (lot 46) and the seedy hallway of the Pier on Canal Street (lot 50), the photographic portrait allowed Hujar to showcase his inimitable talent at creating documents that fuse the individual with a greater cultural context.

    Along with Robert Mapplethorpe and Nan Goldin, both also represented in this collection and sale, Hujar’s photographs have come to embody New York subculture in the 1970s and 80s. Taken with the sensitivity and insight of an insider, his work created a narrative in direct contrast to the conservative media. While the AIDS epidemic ravaged the gay community, it did not define it, and Hujar’s portraits show the other side: the creative figures that formed his circle shown in moments of joy and pain; the moments that define a full life.

    Of all his subjects, one of the most present throughout his work is the artist David Wojnarowicz. Hujar and Wojnarowicz met in the early 1980s and a brief romance transformed into a friendship that lasted until Hujar’s death from AIDS in 1987. In his introductory text to Peter Hujar: Lost Downtown, Vince Aletti writes, “Peter loved a fabulous façade, but he was only happy when he could get past it, dig deeper, and connect.” The portraits of Wojnarowicz show just how deep and connected Hujar could get, and the range of these portraits demonstrates the collaborative nature of their relationship.

    This masterful print of the reclining Wojnarowicz highlights Hujar’s incredible technical skill in the darkroom. The heavy shadows cast across his torso and face introduce a sculptural element to the image and calls to mind the chiaroscuro effect of Renaissance painting.  This deep reference that extends beyond photography paired with Hujar’s close ties to the painters, writers and poets of his time help solidify his place within the larger context of contemporary art.

    Other prints of this image are in the collections of the Morgan Library & Museum, New York and Tate, London.

    • Provenance

      Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

    • Literature

      Smith, Gefter, and Turtell, Peter Hujar: Speed of Life, p. 106
      Fraenkel Gallery, Peter Hujar: Love & Lust, pl. 7
      Kertess, animal and nudes, n.p.

Reframing Beauty: A Private Seattle Collection


David Wojnarowicz Reclining (II)

Gelatin silver print.
14 5/8 x 14 3/4 in. (37.1 x 37.5 cm)
'Printed by the Artist' and estate copyright credit reproduction limitation stamps, and additionally signed, titled, dated and annotated by Stephen Koch, Executor, in pencil on the verso.

Full Cataloguing

$40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for $157,500

Contact Specialist

Caroline Deck
Senior Specialist
+1 212 940 1247


Vanessa Hallett
Deputy Chairwoman, Americas and Worldwide Head of Photographs
+1 212 940 1243

Reframing Beauty: A Private Seattle Collection

New York Auction 7 October 2021