Robert Frank - Photographs New York Saturday, April 9, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Lunn Gallery, Washington; Private Collection, California; Deborah Bell Photographs, New York

  • Literature

    National Gallery of Art, Washington/Steidl, Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, p. 270; Scalo, The Americans, pl. 50

  • Catalogue Essay

    Shortly before embarking on his Guggenheim Fellowship-sponsored travels across the continental United States, Robert Frank visited Detroit, by then the fifth-largest city in the United States. With Ford Motor Company the city's largest employer, Detroit became the center for automobile production and a beacon for commercial and cultural productivity. Of his visit to the Ford Motor Company River Rouge plant, Frank wrote: "Ford is an absolutely fantastic place. Every factory is really the same but this one is God's factory and if there is such a thing- I am sure that the devil gave him a helping hand to build up what is called Ford's River Rouge Plant. But all the cars come out at one end... At the other end, the beginning of the Plant, ships bring Iron-ore and from then on the whole car is built." (Tucker and Brookman, Robert Frank: New York to Nova Scotia, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, p. 22.) It is not surprising, therefore, that after Los Angeles, Detroit is the most prominently featured city in The Americans.

    Assembly Line-Detroit strikes a careful balance between awe and critique. The figures' blurry portrayal alludes to the heightened sense of rapid motion, bustling activity, strong discipline and swelling productivity. While the sense of individuality is compromised for the greater collective, Frank captured the quintessentially American success aura that characterized Detroit in the 1950s.

  • Artist Biography

    Robert Frank

    Swiss • 1924

    As one of the leading visionaries of mid-century American photography, Robert Frank has created an indelible body of work, rich in insight and poignant in foresight. In his famed series The Americans, Frank travelled the United States, capturing the parade of characters, hierarchies and imbalances that conveyed his view of the great American social landscape.

    Frank broke the mold of what was considered successful documentary photography with his "snapshot aesthetic." It is Frank's portrayal of the United States through grit and grain that once brought his work to the apex of criticism, but has now come to define the art of documentary photography.

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Assembly line-Detroit

Gelatin silver print, printed 1977.
8 3/4 x 13 1/8 in. (22.2 x 33.3 cm).
Signed and dated '1977' in ink in the margin; titled, numbered 217, annotated 'Americans 50' in an unidentified hand in pencil and Robert Frank Archive stamp on the verso.

$25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for $35,000


9 April 2011
New York