The George Eastman House Benefit Auction has raised more than $650,000 for the photography and film museum, making it the largest fundraiser in the museum's 63-year history. The auction featured more than 300 photographic items sold via a live auction at Sotheby's--the largest charity auction ever hosted by Sotheby's New York--as well as an online auction. All featured items were donations; none were from the museum's collections.
Nearly a half-million dollars was raised in less than two hours at Sotheby's on Oct. 4, with the highest-price fetched for Paul Outerbridge's "Conscious" at $65,000, a 1931 toned gelatin silver print. The next highest-selling price was $56,000 for a portfolio of Ansel Adams images and artist proofs. The online auction, conducted by iGavelAuctions.com, closed Oct. 8 and raised more than $160,000.
"This was by far one of the best charity auctions ever presented," said Lark Mason, president and founder of iGavelAuctions.com and a retired vice president with Sotheby's. "George Eastman House's online auction was perfectly blended with the live auction component, collectively presented as a true auction exhibition at Sotheby's and with each photograph displayed with equal exposure and weight. And this is what garnered the international attention with bidders from the entire sphere of the photography world, including the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia, as they were all made aware of this sale and participated."
Well over 300 people attended the Sotheby's auction on Monday night, Oct. 4, making it the best attended auction of the season. About one-quarter of the items were purchased by phone, as the highest-bidders were on the phone with Sotheby's representatives during the live auction. The auctioneer was Denise Bethel, vice president and director of the photographs department at Sotheby's.
Among the guests of honor was Francesa Calderone-Steichen, granddaughter of celebrated 20th-century photographer Edward Steichen, who encouraged the attendees to support George Eastman House and the preservation of its unparalleled collections. Steichen's widow, Joanna Steichen, was to have served as honorary chairwoman of the auction prior to her untimely passing in July at age 77. This auction was dedicated in her honor.
As museums look for creative ways to raise funds, what is so impressive about this benefit--beyond just the numbers of more than 300 items and 227 donors--is summed up by Eastman House director Anthony Bannon: "For more than 60 years George Eastman House has showcased and supported the celebrated artists of photography, and for this auction we turned to the photography world to support the museum. And we are overwhelmed by how enthusiastically all have embraced this effort."