If you haven’t yet heard, 1,300 images from the famous Polaroid Collection, with a pre-sale value estimated at between 7 and 11 million, are slated for auction by Sotheby’s this spring. Although this story has been developing for a while now, many photographers who have work in the 16,000-piece collection remain unaware of the upcoming sale and the events that led up to it. Take a look here and here to read a couple good summaries of what’s going on and how the sale came about.
Although a Minnesota judge has approved the sale, artists who have work in the collection may have some recourse, as explained on A.D. Coleman’s blog, Photocritic International. Coleman posts helpful information for photographers who may wish to establish standing in the case.
It’s safe to assume that the artists who gave or loaned work to the collection never thought the images would be put on the auction block to potentially compete with other work in the market. Beyond those who are personally impacted by the piecemeal sale of collection, the auction poses many important questions about the ownership and intellectual property rights of artists and the responsibilities, both legal and moral, of institutions to maintain collections and notify artists when the status of the collections changes.