LÁSZLÓ MOHOLY-NAGY | 'UMSCHLAG FÜR DIE ZEITSCHRIFT “BROOM”' (PHOTOGRAM 'COVER FOR THE MAGAZINE "BROOM"')
Estimate: 400,000 - 600,000 USD
'UMSCHLAG FÜR DIE ZEITSCHRIFT “BROOM”' (PHOTOGRAM 'COVER FOR THE MAGAZINE "BROOM"')
a unique object, on printing-out paper, signed 'L. Moholy = Nagy,' titled, dated '1922,' annotated '(fotogramm),' 'New York,' 'Original / sehr vorsichtig behandeln!' [Original / treat very carefully!], and with enlargement notations in pencil on the reverse, 1922
7 by 5⅛ in. (18 by 13 cm.)
The nuanced, subtly-shifting tones of this strikingly-graphic early photogram range from a rich, sepia brown to a glowing, crisp cream. It is on single-weight printing-out paper with a characteristic glossy surface. A patina of lush, age-appropriate silvering is faintly visible in raking light near the edges. The tip of the lower right corner is subtly-rounded. When the print is examined closely at different angles, several small, insignificant creases are visible near the edges, some of which may break the emulsion. There is a sharp diagonal crease measuring approx. ¼-inch over the 'A' near the lower edge. None of the aforementioned are immediately apparent nor do they detract in any meaningful way from the overall fine appearance of this unique, early object.
The reverse of the photogram is reproduced in the hard copy and online versions of the catalogue. As is visible, the handwriting remains crisp and legible and the reverse is evenly toned.
This photogram has undergone conversation, primarily to release it from a modern mount. For a full report, please contact the photographs department.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE INCLUDED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Collection of the photographer
By descent through the family to the present owner
Valencia, IVAM Centre Julio Gonzalez, László Moholy-Nagy, February - April 1991, and traveling thereafter to:
Kassel, Fridericianum Museum, April - June 1991
Marseille, Musée Cantini, June - September 1991
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, László Moholy-Nagy: Retrospective, October 2009 - February 2010
Hayama, The Museum of Modern Art, Moholy-Nagy in Motion, April - July 2011, and traveling thereafter to:
Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art, July - September 2011
Kawamura, The Kawamura DIC Museum of Modern Art, September - December 2011
Winnipeg, Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, Sensing the Future: Moholy-Nagy, Media and the Arts, March - June 2014
Berlin, Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung, November 2014 - February 2015
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Moholy-Nagy: Future Present, May - September 2016, and traveling thereafter to:
The Art Institute of Chicago, October 2016 - January 2017
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, February - June 2017
Berlin, Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung and Berlinische Galerie, original bauhaus: The Centenary Exhibition - 100 years of bauhaus, September 2019 - January 2020
László Moholy-Nagy, 'Die Photographie in der Reklame,' Photographische Korrespondenz 63, September 1927, no. 9, fig. 5
László Moholy-Nagy (Valencia: IVAM Centre Julio González, 1991), p. 349
Renate Heyne, Floris M. Neusüss, and Herbert Molderings, László Moholy-Nagy: Fotogramme 1922 – 1943 (Essen: Museum Folkwang, 1996), p. 156
Herbert Molderings, Floris M. Neusüss, and Renate Heyne, Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms: Catalogue Raisonné (Ostfildern, 2009), fgm 19
Ingrid Pfeiffer and Max Hollein, eds., László Moholy-Nagy: Retrospective (Munich, 2009), p. 116
Moholy-Nagy: Laboratory Of Vision (Kokushokankokai, 2011), p. 75
Oliver A. I. Botar, Sensing the Future: Moholy-Nagy, Media and the Arts (Zurich, 2014), p. 45
Matthew S. Witkovsky, Carol S. Eliel, and Karole P. B. Vail, Moholy-Nagy: Future Present (The Art Institute of Chicago, 2016), pl. 60
Nina Wiedemeyer, ed., original bauhaus (Berlin: Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung, 2019), p. 42, fig. 3
Other photograms in the series:
Leland D. Rice and David W. Steadman, eds., Photographs of Moholy-Nagy from the Collection of William Larson (The Galleries of the Claremont Colleges, 1975), p. 15
Eleanor M. Hight, Picturing Modernism: Moholy-Nagy and Photography in Weimar Germany (Cambridge, 1995), pl. 38
Eleanor M. Hight, Moholy-Nagy: Photography and Film in Weimar Germany (Wellesley College Museum, 1985), pl. 25
The brilliant photogram offered here was conceived of by László Moholy-Nagy as a possible cover design for the March 1923 issue of Broom: An International Magazine of the Arts (vol. 4, no. 4). Moholy-Nagy, the renowned Hungarian-born painter, photographer, writer, and instructor of the Bauhaus school, became a master of the photogram, the cameraless photography process by which an object was placed directly on photographic paper and exposed to light. For this issue of Broom, he conceived at least three additional cover designs. Two of these photograms are now in museum collections— at the Museum Folkwang, Essen (fgm 20) and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (fgm 22). The third work, formerly in the collection of Eugene and Dorothy Prakapas, was sold in these rooms on 27 April 2005.
An international modernist review, Broom was very much a part of the little-magazine movement that swept the United States and parts of Europe in the first decades of the twentieth century. Founded in 1921 by Harold Loeb, part owner of the ‘Sunwise Turn’ bookshop in New York City, and his friend Alfred Kreymborg, Broom was published first in Rome (1921-22), where the magazine was printed on luxurious Fabriano paper. Its impressive large scale and bold, graphic, original cover art quickly set Broom apart from its competitors. Production moved to Berlin briefly (1922-23), before printing its last issues in New York City (1923-24). Before Broom ceased publication after 21 issues, it had showcased a remarkable number of important writers and artists, from Cocteau to Gertrude Stein and e. e. cummings; Picasso to Rockwell Kent and El Lissitzky; and the photographers Man Ray, Paul Strand, and Moholy-Nagy.
While none of Moholy-Nagy’s exceptional photogram designs were used for the magazine’s cover, Broom published his essay ‘Light: A Medium of Plastic Expression’, illustrated by four of his more abstract photograms as well as four Rayographs by Man Ray. Although cameraless photography had been used since the birth of the medium, it was not until the early 20th century that interest was re-invigorated by a new generation of avantgarde artists. Moholy-Nagy’s nascent experimentation with the photogram began only a few months prior to the March 1923 issue of Broom, which marked not only the first publication of his photograms but also the first translation of his writings from German to English. March 1923 also marked the start of Moholy-Nagy’s tenure teaching at the Bauhaus.
The present work is an exquisite example of what Moholy-Nagy would later refer to as a typophoto, a work that blended photography and typeface to produce a new means of visual communication. In his Broom photograms, Moholy-Nagy explored different configurations of the magazine’s letters (B R O O M), layering shapes of different density to create degrees of opacity or translucency. Moholy-Nagy appears to have created cover designs for Broom in earnest, but the costs associated with reproducing a photogram might have been daunting for the publication. As discussed in Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms: Catalogue Raisonné, the creation of a halftone plate measuring 33.5 by 23 cm. would have been necessary to reproduce Moholy’s photogram in the scale of the large-format publication (p. 57). Moholy-Nagy’s enlargement notations (‘24 cm’) and handling instructions (‘Original / treat very carefully!’) on the reverse of the present photogram, however, may indeed suggest that this unique work was considered for publication.