National Geographic putting its archives on the auction block
In this 1998 photo provided by National Geographic via Christie’s Auction House, Huli Tribesman, in Papua New Guinea are shown. The photo is among a small selection of the National Geographic Society's most indelible photographs that will be sold at Christie’s next month at an auction expected to bring about $3 million. (National Geographic / Jodi Cobb)
The Associated Press
Published Monday, October 22, 2012 7:12AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 22, 2012 8:15AM EDT
NEW YORK -- The National Geographic Society is selling parts of its massive archive of world exploration for the first time, offering 240 pieces spanning from the late 1800s to the present at an auction expected to bring in about $3 million.
National Geographic has chronicled scientific expeditions, explorations, archaeology, wildlife and world cultures for more than 100 years, amassing a collection of 11.5 million photos and original illustrations.
Among the items to be sold at Christie's in December are some of National Geographic's most indelible photographs, including that of an Afghan girl during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a portrait of Admiral Robert Peary at his 1908 expedition to the North Pole, a roaring lion in South Africa and the face of a Papua New Guinea aborigine.
Paintings and illustrations include N.C. Wyeth's historical scene of sword-fighting pirates, Charles Bittinger's view of Earth as seen from the moon and Charles Knight's depictions of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.
They are being auctioned "to celebrate our legacy ... and to give people a chance to buy a little part of this great institution's history," said Maura Mulvihill, senior vice-president of National Geographic's image and video archives.
Proceeds from the Dec. 6 auction, just weeks before National Geographic's 125th anniversary, will go for the promotion and preservation of the archive and "the nurturing of young photographers, artists and explorers ... who are the future of the organization," Mulvihill said.
National Geographic sponsors and funds scientific research and exploration through its official journal, National Geographic Magazine, which reaches 8.8 million people worldwide in 36 countries and in 27 languages. The society reaches millions more through its National Geographic Channel, books and other sources.
While National Geographic is known today for its photography, early magazines were filled with artwork.
Among the fine art being offered is an oil painting by Tom Lovell of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Civil War surrender at Appomattox. It's expected to fetch $20,000 to $30,000.
Steve McCurry's photograph of the Afghan girl carries an $8,000 to $12,000 pre-sale estimate. McCurry has made a special print of the image for the sale, and part of the proceeds from it will be donated to the Afghan Girls' Fund.
The sale also contains some images that have never been published, including a selection from Herbert Ponting, who produced some of the most enduring images of the Antarctic.