Covered Car— Long Beach, California

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  • Condition Report

  • Provenance

    Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1986
    Sotheby's, New York, Important Photographs from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, including Works from the Gilman Paper Company Collection, 15 February 2006, lot 100

  • Literature

    The Americans, no. 77
    Greenough, Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, p. 250
    Greenough, Robert Frank: Moving Out, p. 187
    Bayer, et al., Concerning Photography: Some Thoughts About Reading Photographs, p. 52
    Galassi, Walker Evans & Company, pl. 102
    Green, American Photography: A Critical History 1945-Present, p. 169
    Hinson, The Cleveland Museum of Art: Catalogue of Photography, p. 167
    Papageorge, Walker Evans and Robert Frank: An Essay on Influence, p. 45
    Szarkowski, The Photographer's Eye, p. 26

  • Catalogue Essay

    The American automobile was a source of fascination for Robert Frank, and cars—specifically the gleaming boxy models that were Detroit’s pride during the post-World War II years—appear as a repeating motif throughout Robert Frank’s seminal book, The Americans, and more broadly in the other work he created during that time (see lots 73 and 74). Covered Car—Long Beach, California, is perhaps Frank’s most iconic car image, albeit one in which the car is hidden by its protective cover. The tonal values of this photograph, ranging from the shimmering white of the cover’s fabric to the absolute black of the shadows, give the image an otherworldly, almost Surreal, quality. Within the sequential context of The Americans, this composition foreshadows the illustration which comes directly after, of the covered subject of Car Accident—U.S. 66, Between Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona.

    Car culture was a novelty to Frank whose Swiss upbringing did not prepare him for the love and attention Americans lavished upon the automobile. Many Californians had arrived in the state in the broken-down cars so memorably depicted in the photographs of Dorothea Lange. Two decades later, in 1950s California, Frank discovered that the automobile had undergone a remarkable transformation from a frequently unreliable jalopy into a fetish object. Jack Kerouac, in his freewheeling introduction to The Americans, comments on the irony so aptly captured by Frank in this photograph: ‘Car shrouded in fancy expensive designed tarpolian to keep soots of no-soot Malibu from falling on new simonize job as owner who is two-dollar-an-hour carpenter snoozes in house with wife, and TV, all under palm trees for nothing, in the cemeterial California night.’

  • Artist Bio

    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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132

World View: Property from a Private Collection

Covered Car— Long Beach, California

1955-1956
Gelatin silver print, printed circa 1977.
9 1/4 x 13 7/8 in. (23.5 x 35.2 cm)
Signed in ink in the margin; The Metropolitan Museum of Art collection stamp on the verso.

Estimate
$70,000 - 90,000 

Place Advance Bid
Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas

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Photographs

New York Auction 1 October 2019