New York to Sotheby’s:”You Want A Piece Of Me?”

New Yorkers: We’re a jaded bunch often forgetting, amidst the complexities of life here that we really do live in the world’s greatest city. For those who are native to the Big Apple, those who are transplants, or those who dream of NYC as their home, even if you can’t afford to own a piece of it, Sotheby’s has something for you to gawk at. I toured the New York sale (it was nearly empty save Rosanna Scotto and her cameraman) which is to take place on April 1st at 8 p.m. The exhibit is open for viewing every day until the evening of the sale if you’d like to get up close and personal with the lit up letters that graced the side of the old Yankee Stadium, the Mets Bullpen car from the late ’60s, or a bronze Statue of Liberty cast from an exact model of the original and authenticated by the Musees des arts et metiers, just to name a few highlights.

Mets bullpen car used to bring players to and from the field
(Click on images for larger views)

If you’re not a sports fan, the New York sale, just like the city, has plenty of other things to offer in the way of architecture, fine art, jewelry, decorative arts, photography, fashion, and of course, history. The Mets bullpen car and the Statue of Liberty (which threw off a large wall shadow) are right there in the lobby. If you take the elevator to the 7th floor you will immediately be struck with the size of the giant Yankee Stadium “N” and “Y” letters; hard to miss at 10 ft. tall. All thirteen letters are estimated at $300,000 to $600,000 and are currently owned by Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson. They were in place for 32 years, from the 1976 renovation of Yankee Stadium until its closure in 2008. Also in the vestibule area are a Leroy Neiman screenprint of “Lady Liberty,” a small Jeff Koons Balloon Dog (Red) encased in a lucite frame, as well as a spectacular painting with colorful and broad brushstrokes by Tom Christopher entitled “UPS Truck.”

“Red Canoe” by William Helburn 1956

The exhibit moves on to some important fashion moments: William Helburn’s “Red Canoe” photograph which was an advertisement for Supima cotton in the late ’50s, Bill Blass sketches (80 of them) from the 1980’s-90s, and the piece de resistance, Ormond Gigli’s “New York City: Girls in the Windows.” “Red Canoe” is a photo of Barbara Mullen, a favorite face of the 1950s, modeling an ‘Atmosheer’ Supima cotton chambray dress designed by John Moore for Talmack. Along with the titular boat, a black Rolls Royce rounds out the frame. Helburn was influenced by Irving Penn and Richard Avedon in the ’40s and later came to prominence with a 10-page spread in Harper’s Bazaar for Junior Bazaar. He photographed iconic models such as Dovima, Carmen Dell’Orefice and Jean Shrimpton for LIFE, Town & Country, Ladies’ Home Journal, and McCall’s as well as for the Madison Avenue agencies of the “Mad Men” era. The photo was taken outside 19 Gramercy Park South, one of the “greatest private houses in private hands in New York” with 18,000 square feet and a top floor ballroom.

Bill Blass sketches

Bill Blass began his career as a fashion illustrator in his native Indiana eventually saving up enough money to move to New York. He was called into a ‘special army unit’ of creative professionals where he sketched his fashion drawings all the while and sold his drawings for $2 apiece before eventually opening his own company. This collection of what appear to be working sketches for American sportswear include the word “use” on ones that actually found their way into various spring collections employing lightweight fabrics. Arrows are shown to mark the spots where the clothing should hit the body while various textiles as well as jeweled ornamentation are specified in the drawing portfolio. The sketches go for considerably more than $2 (estimated at $8,000 to $10,000).

“Girls in the Window” by Ormond Gigli

The most iconic fashion photograph ($25,000-$35,000) has to be that of Ormond Gigli who only had one hour to execute his legendary masterpiece. In 1960 he was living in a townhouse on East 58th Street and observed how the neighborhood was changing from the older style brownstones to the newer construction. Although he photographed many legends such as Barbara Streisand for “Funny Girl,” Anita Ekberg in the Trevi Fountain, Sophia Loren, Marlene Dietrich, Gina Lollobrigida and more, his most well known work, this photo, was self-assigned. Realizing that the building would face the wrecking ball and be torn down the next day, he somehow assembled 43 women (models, friends, even his wife) to appear in their finest outfits in the windows of the crumbling edifice. He had to enlist the construction manager’s help so that he could shoot on the construction crew’s lunch hour. The deal was struck after he promised to use the manager’s wife in the photo as well. There was an element of danger inherent here as the women bravely (or foolishly) volunteered to perch out on the window sills but luckily Gigli accomplished his goal getting 12-15 shots by standing on his fire escape and using a bullhorn to direct the shoot. The image for sale here is lucky #13 out of 20 and as no stylist was used I’m wondering if the women were free to run to a random spot in a random window or if he assigned them a number by clothing color. The shot is definitely focused towards the middle of the frame as the women towards the two sides are less distinct, including his wife who was on the second floor, far right. He somehow managed to arrange having a Bentley appear in the shot too.

Photo by Berenice Abbott

To represent the architectural aspect of a bygone New York City the sale includes several of Berenice Abbott’s quintessential black and white New York landscapes including her “New York At Night” ($7,000-$10,000), Brian Hamill’s “Manhattan” (familiar to anyone who saw the Woody Allen movie), and a portrait of John Lennon on his terrace at the Dakota from 1975. There are several interesting scenic paintings of New York in the snow such as Guy Arthur Wiggins’ “Mid-Winter at the Metropolitan Museum,” and Terence Coyle’s “After the Blizzard of ’96.” If you prefer New York in the sweltering heat there are works such as Alfred Mira’s “Summer Morning” and black and white photos by Ruth Orkin’s “Couple in Front of Their Candy Store” and “Mother and Baby in Gutter.” Quite literally the highs and lows of New York are on view here; look up and there are “Skyscrapers” in a black and white photo By Thurman Rotan; look down and there are the subways as represented by Red Grooms, Henry Chalfant and Richard Estes.

Weegee ‘The Critic’ 1943

What would a sale of NY be without some of its famed inhabitants represented? Andy Warhol’s lease for his first studio at 159 East 87th Street, (an old abandoned firehouse known as the 13th Hook and Ladder) which he paid $150 a month for, is on faded blue paper with his signature. There’s also a watch that he designed with different scenes of New York on it ($8,000-$12,000). One of Frank Sinatra’s geometric paintings, some Tiffany silver and several pieces of David Webb, Bulgari, Cartier and TIffany jewelry round out the sale.

Marilyn Monroe by Richard Avedon 1957

If you have time, also check out the Photography exhibit on the 10th floor where you’ll find works from just about every major photographer of the 20th century to the present including Alfred Steiglitz, Georgia O’Keefe, Diane Arbus, Weegee, Terry O’Neill (including his iconic photo of Faye Dunaway after her Oscar win for “Network”), Henri Cartier Bresson, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz (Angelica Huston 1985 is a must see), Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Peter Beard (great shots of Bianca Jagger and Beverly Johnson) and Julius Shulman (don’t miss his famous architectural photos of L.A.’s cliff overhanging, glass Stahl House at night).

Sotheby’s is located at 72nd Street and York Avenue. For more info visit their website,

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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