Auction  June 19, 2019  Chandra Noyes

History in the Making: Gay Art and Icons at Auction for Pride Month

Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Sunglasses from the archive of Candy Darling, 1950s-70s.

This month people around the world are celebrating Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising with parades, parties and protests. Swann Auction Galleries has a unique way to mark this auspicious occasion: by adding a piece of LBGTQ+ history to your collection. 

With over 250 lots going up at auction on June 20, the inaugural Pride Sale has important works of art and literature, as well as memorabilia related to nearly every gay icon you can think of. Below is a sampling of the objects being offered, showing a breadth of creative works and historical impact that is certainly something to be proud of.

Gerda Wegener, Two Women in a Window, watercolor, crayon, charcoal & wash, circa 1920.
Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Gerda Wegener (1886 - 1940) was a Danish illustrator and painter working in Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. Her illustrations of chic young women graced the pages of many magazines, showing bohemian youth at their most fashionable. Her favorite model was her spouse, Lili Elbe, whom she married as a man in 1904. Their love story and Lili's transition is the subject of the book and film The Danish Girl. Since their lifetimes her work and their story has had a cult following.

Gerda Wegener, Two Women in a Window, watercolor, crayon, charcoal & wash, circa 1920.

Estimate $15,000 to $25,000.

Fred McDarrah, Sip In, silver print, 1966, printed 1990s.
Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

A famous documenter of mid-century New York, Fred McDarrah (1926 - 2007) captured generations of the counter culture as a photographer for the Village Voice. His photographs of pride parades and gay culture in New York, including this one, are collected in his book Gay Pride: Photographs from Stonewall to Today (1994).

Fred McDarrah, Sip In, silver print, 1966, printed 1990s.

Estimate $1,500 to $2,000.

Walt Whitman, Memoranda During the War, Remembrance Copy, inscribed to Peter Doyle
Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Perhaps America’s greatest poet, Walt Whitman’s (1819 - 1892) sexuality has been debated for decades, and will likely be a subject of controversy to scholars for years to come. This copy of Memoranda During War is personally addressed to Peter Doyle, one of Whitman’s allegedly lovers.

Walt Whitman, Memoranda During the War, Remembrance Copy, inscribed to Peter Doyle, from "the author with his love," Camden, NJ, 1875-76.

Estimate $50,000 to $75,000.

Archive of 134 photographs by Hank O'Neal depicting Pride parades in New York City, each annotated by Allen Ginsberg, silver prints, 1970s.
Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Hank O’Neal (b. 1940) captured the earliest pride events held in New York, compiled in his book Gay Day: The Golden Age of the Christopher Street Parade, 1974-1983 (2006). This image shows activist and transgender grande-dame Marsha P. Johnson, quoted on the back by Allen Ginsberg as saying, “If I keep dressing up like this I’ll save the world from nuclear apocalypse, but will anyone love me for it? I’ll have to save the world anyway. I know what looks good.”

Archive of 134 photographs by Hank O'Neal depicting Pride parades in New York City, each annotated by Allen Ginsberg, silver prints, 1970s.

Estimate $70,000 to $100,000.

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, extra-limited first edition, signed, London, 1899.
Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

A signed first edition of Oscar Wilde’s (1854-1900) The Importance of Being Earnest is a rare and valuable find indeed. One of the most popular authors and playwrights of his day, his talent and fame didn’t stop him from being prosecuted and jailed for “gross indecency with men” in 1895.

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, extra-limited first edition, signed, London, 1899.

Estimate $50,000 to $70,000. 

Keith Haring, autograph guitar signed with an original Haring drawing, circa 1985
Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

One of the most famous and popular artists of the 1980s, Keith Haring’s (1958 - 1990) trademark stick-figures are still iconic around the world. This guitar, which Haring autographed and drew on for a fan in Tokyo in 1988, shows the fun and free spirit of Haring’s drawings, and generosity with which he gave them to fans.

Keith Haring, autograph guitar signed with an original Haring drawing, circa 1985.

Estimate $12,000 to $18,000.

Harvey Milk, autograph letter signed as the acting Mayor of San Francisco, March 7, 1978.
Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Harvey Milk (1930 - 1978) sent this simple and joyful note to friends on official mayoral stationary when he served briefly as acting mayor. He writes, "Thought you should have a memo from the 1st up front gay mayor of any city--it's for real!!!" Milk, the nation’s first openly gay elected official, would be assassinated later that year.

Harvey Milk, autograph letter signed as the acting Mayor of San Francisco, March 7, 1978.

Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.

An archive of Candy Darling including her diary, photographs and sunglasses, 1950s-70s.
Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Part of a lot of more than 100 items from the archives of Candy Darling (1944 - 1974) are diaries, objects (like a pair of her sunglasses), and photographs like this one, which show the trans icon at her most glamorous. An actress and singer, Darling was a favorite muse of Andy Warhol, who cast her in his films Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971).

An archive of Candy Darling including her diary, photographs and sunglasses, 1950s-70s.

Estimate $20,000 to $30,000.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra Noyes is Managing Editor for Art & Object.

Latest News

Kay Nielsen’s Enchanted Vision
More than a century ago, Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen (1886–1957) created…
Female photographers who shaped the way we look at the world
This year’s summer exhibition at the New-York Historical Society presents more…
Tuscan Winery Toasts 30th Anniversary of Keith Haring's Last Mural
When Italian university student Piergiorgio Castellani booked his winter-break…
Legacy: Selections from the Gillett G. Griffin Collection
Gillett G. Griffin (1928-2016) was not only a respected curator, scholar and…
The Art History Babes: XL Art
Let’s talk about BIG ART. In this super-sized episode, Nat, Jen and Gin discuss…