Sotheby’s is proud to present Pier 24 Photography from the Pilara Family Foundation Sold to Benefit Charitable Organizations, on 1 and 2 May in New York.

Opened to the public in 2010, Pier 24 Photography is the home of the Pilara Family Foundation Collection, which today exceeds 4,000 works spanning the history of the medium. It is particularly rich in portraiture, American color photography, contemporary Bay area photography, and the industrial landscape. Located on San Francisco’s historic Embarcadero, Pier 24 Photography is one of the largest spaces in the world devoted to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting photography. It has produced 11 exhibitions, published more than 20 books, provided free public programming, and collaborated with innumerable contemporary photographers on commissions and exhibition-related projects.

Left: Pier 24 Photography in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Pier 24 Photography.
Right: 2013 exhibition About Face. Photo courtesy of Pier 24 Photography.

Pier 24 Photography from the Pilara Family Foundation Sold to Benefit Charitable Organizations will be offered at Sotheby’s New York beginning this May across a series of single-owner sales throughout 2023. One of the most significant collections of photographs to ever come to auction, the sale series will launch with a season-defining Evening sale on May 1, showcasing a selection of the Foundation’s key masterworks by Richard Avedon, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Nicholas Nixon, Dorothea Lange, Lee Friedlander, Robert Adams, and Garry Winogrand, among others.

Robert Adams, Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, 1969

In July 2025, the Pilara Foundation will pivot its philanthropic focus by transitioning to a granting foundation focused on supporting organizations devoted to healthcare research, education, and the arts. 100% of the proceeds from the auctions of Pier 24 Photography from the Pilara Family Foundation Sold to Benefit Charitable Organizations will provide direct benefit to critical programs and research that will impact communities in need.

Landmark Exhibitions at Pier 24 Photography
  • 1 July 2019 - 31 March 2022
  • 1 June 2018 - 25 April 2019
  • 1 April 2017 - 31 March 2018
  • 2 May 2016 - 31 January 2017
  • 3 August 2015 - 29 February 2016
  • 1 August 2014 - 31 May 2015
  • 1 July 2013 - 30 May 2014
  • 15 May 2012 - 30 April 2013
  • 23 May 2011 - 31 January 2012
  • 16 September 2010 - 28 February 2011
  • 16 March 2010 - 16 June 2010
  • Looking Back: Ten Years of Pier 24 Photography
    The first of two consecutive exhibitions celebrating the tenth anniversary of Pier 24 Photography, Looking Back featured photographers and themes collected before the space opened. Looking Back was not meant to reflect the breadth of the collection as a whole, but rather to focus on some of its key building blocks. Many of these photographers—including Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Dorothea Lange, and Hiroshi Sugimoto—have been instrumental to the medium’s development. Reflecting the collection’s focus on the genre, the exhibition’s opening galleries highlight a wide range of portraiture, ranging from mugshots and works by unknown photographers to iconic images by celebrated figures in the history of photography.
  • This Land
    This Land focused on work made throughout the United States within the past decade. The photographers examine aspects of the country’s current social climate, from the mundane to the politicized. The exhibition's title was drawn from Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land Is Your Land” (1940). Viewed by many as an alternative national anthem, it alludes to the uneasy tensions fundamental to our vision of this nation filled with promise and peril, possibilities and letdowns. At the bottom of the sheet of paper on which Guthrie hand wrote the song's lyrics, he noted, “all you can write is what you see.” The artists included in this exhibition use cameras rather than pens, creating photographs that speak to what they see in the United States today.
  • The Grain of the Present
    The Grain of the Present, Pier 24 Photography’s ninth exhibition, examined the work of ten photographers at the core of the Pilara Foundation collection—Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Lee Friedlander, Nicholas Nixon, Stephen Shore, Henry Wessel, and Garry Winogrand—whose works share a commitment to looking at everyday life as it is. The Grain of the Present featured the work of these ten groundbreaking photographers alongside six contemporary practitioners of the medium—Eamonn Doyle, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Ed Panar, Alec Soth, Awoiska van der Molen, and Vanessa Winship.
  • Collected
    Collected—the eighth exhibition at Pier 24 Photography—brought together photographs from the Pilara Foundation and other Bay Area collections. Nine collectors were invited to select works from their holdings that reflect their interests in the medium. Spanning the last hundred years of the medium, the selections reflect each collector’s strong understanding of photography while also highlighting the singular sensibilities guiding the deeply personal act of collecting.
  • Paul Graham: The Whiteness of the Whale
    The Whiteness of the Whale was a solo exhibition by British photographer Paul Graham. The exhibition brought together three bodies of work made between 1998 and 2011, American Night (1998–2002), a shimmer of possibility (2004–06), and The Present (2009–11). The Whiteness of the Whale featured nearly sixty works, ranging from singular large-scale photographs to sequences of over twenty images.
  • Secondhand
    Secondhand was an exhibition featuring artists who build repositories of found images, from which they appropriate, construct, edit, and sequence in order to create something entirely new. Through this process, their distinctly personal approaches become as wide-ranging as their source material. These works were paired alongside selected vernacular photographs from the Pilara Foundation Collection, illustrating another instance in which found pictures can offer new meaning through a simple change of context.
  • A Sense of Place
    A Sense of Place was an exploration of how photographs shape the perception of our environments. Together, the exhibited works shifted in scale from room-sized installations to small, quiet photographs, transporting the viewer through a variety of locations, memories and emotive experiences.
  • About Face
    About Face encompassed wide-ranging approaches to portraiture from the mid-nineteenth century to present-day. Nearly one thousand photographs were on view, drawn primarily from the Pilara Foundation's permanent collection. The typology becomes a vehicle for chronicling individuals of a particular region and time in August Sander's Face of Our Time and Richard Avedon's The Family. Jim Goldberg's Rich and Poor and Larry Sultan's SF Society consider the socio-economic divide in San Francisco.
  • Here.
    With an emphasis on the late-twentieth century, HERE. highlighted the vibrancy of San Francisco and the surrounding areas through the work of 34 photographers and over 700 images, including works by Eadweard Muybridge, Mark Klett, Todd Hido, Bill Owens, Richard Misrach, and Larry Sultan.
  • From the Collection of Randi and Bob Fisher
    This exhibition examined the work of many canonical twentieth century American photographers. From the Collection of Randi and Bob Fisher follows the exhibition Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. That exhibition, which was on view during the summer of 2010, presented selections from the collection of Doris and Donald Fisher, co-founders of Gap and parents of Bob Fisher.
  • Pier 24: The Inaugural Exhibition
    Pier 24 Photography's The Inaugural Exhibition featured works acquired between 2003 and 2009 by the Pilara Foundation Collection. The Inaugural Exhibition brought together over 350 works that epitomize the genres and subjects most prominently featured in the collection such as contemporary Bay Area photography, American color photography, and portraiture, alongside photographs of historic San Francisco and the industrial landscape.

Nicholas Nixon, The Brown Sisters (detail), 1975-2022 (48 photographs)

The Guest Book from Pier 24 Photography

With education so central to his own journey as a collector, Andy Pilara, along with his wife Mary, established Pier 24 not only to house and exhibit their growing collection of photographs but also to offer educational opportunities to the public, and in particular to young people. With Pier 24’s exhibitions always free and open to the public, the space was a popular destination for children from local schools, ranging from elementary to high school, welcoming thousands of students over the last decade.

Since Pier 24 first opened to the public in 2010, guestbooks have been signed by photographers, curators, writers, and visitors from all over the world who came to see the impactful exhibitions.

Pier 24 Photography: Collection with Purpose | A conversation with Andy Pilara and Vince Aletti

Pier 24 Photography: Collection with Purpose | A conversation with Andy Pilara and Vince Aletti

Join Andy Pilara, collector and founder of Pier 24 Photography, and Vince Aletti, photography critic, writer, and curator, for a conversation in celebration of Pier 24 Photography from the Pilara Family Foundation Sold to Benefit Charitable Organizations.

Sunday, 30 April | 12PM

1334 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021


Exhibition Information

Exhibition Information

There will be a full exhibition in advance of the auctions on 1 May and 2 May.

New York | 27–30 April

Highlights from the Collection will debut to the public in Sotheby's New York galleries from 4–9 March, followed by a series of global travelling exhibitions at various Sotheby's locations (full schedule below).

New York | 4–9 March, 1–4 April, 14–21 April
Palm Beach | 23–26 March
Hong Kong | 1–5 April
London | 12–16 April