Polaroids famed collection of photographs is headed for the Sotheby’s auction block, after the bankrupt company was unable to secure any formal bids on its own.
Polaroid is asking the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Minneapolis for permission to hire the auction house to organize an auction and, possibly, private sales. Since Polaroid filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last December, a number of companies have tried to acquire its assets; the company then sold the majority of those assets to a joint venture of Hilco Consumer Capital Corp. and Gordon Brothers Brands in April but excluded the art collection from the deal. Court papers give no appraisal price for the collection of some 16,000 images, and under the deal’s terms Sotheby’s will take 10 percent on private sales but no commission from the auction. The wide-ranging collection, which dates back to the birth of the first Polaroid instant camera in the late ’40s, includes considerable caches of works by such renowned photographers as Ansel Adams and William Wegman as well as samples from such artists as Warhol, Rauschenberg, Lucas Samaras, and Imogen Cunningham. Currently stored in Somerville, Mass., and Le Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland, the collection has been displayed in museums around the world.