Published: March 23, 2021
Review by Greg Smith, Photographs Courtesy Scott Daniel’s Auction
HIGH FALLS, N.Y.- On March 13, Scott Daniel’s Auction released 177 lots of photographs taken by Twentieth Century photographer Pamela Rankin-Smith.
The photographs had never before hit the market and were released by a family member of the artist. In 1994, Rankin-Smith published Perfectly Candid, a 151-page title that featured “Photographs of Famous People.” Many of the photographs offered in this sale were published in that book.
“We were contacted by the granddaughter, an heir to the estate,” auctioneer Scott Daniel said. “They really thought there was nothing of significance regarding the photographs and the signatures. They weren’t sure what existed and what didn’t. The granddaughters were aware that she took photographs of famous people, not realizing the extent of her past, that she was actually a socialite and friends with these people.”
Rankin-Smith was raised in the small town of Mission, Texas and arrived in New York City an aspiring model. For a time, she was the face of Peter Pan Peanut Butter, though she would would find her ultimate medium in photography, where she had showings in New York City galleries, including the Nikon Camera Club. She was among the ranks of numerous photography and writing associations, including the Friend of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists association; Photographic Adminstrs., Inc.; Actors Equity Association; American Society Media Photographers; Ikebana International; Municipal Art Society; National Arts Club; Camera Club New York; Circle of Confusion; and Society Scribes.
On the sale, Daniel related, “The buyers of these works found it unbelievable that she was able to get so close to these people. They were making comparisons of Annie Leibovitz. They couldn’t believe the work was not known about prior to this.”
Daniel said that he believed numerous auction records were established for signed photographs, including those for Al Hirschfeld, $2,580; Andy Warhol, $2,220; Liberace, depicting the pianist signing an autograph with no less than three rings and two bracelets on one hand, $1,800; Jackie Onassis, $1,200; Vladimir Horowitz, $1,080; and architect IM Pei, $750.
Other photographs in the sale included those for Sammy Davis Jr, Christopher Reeve, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Elizabeth Taylor, John Cage, Leonard Bernstein, Tennessee Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Stephen Sondheim, Isaac Asimov, Roy Lichtenstein, Ansel Adams and many more.
“She not only had the photographs, but a great book collection,” Daniel said. “Her whole thing was acquiring treasures and wealth. One of the pieces we have is a 4.74-carat Harry Winston diamond, which she demanded of her last husband if he wanted to get married to her. He paid $120,000. That’s coming up in a future sale. We also have a series of books on Shakespeare, there’s only one other that has ever come to auction of this series that we could find. It’s from an edition of 75; these are in pristine condition and appear practically unopened since published in 1865.”
Scott Daniel’s Auction will mount an auction from the estate of Pamela Rankin-Smith on April 24. They will mount three more sales of her photographs to commence in May.
All prices reported include buyer’s premium. For additional information, www.scottdanielsauction.com or 845-372-4787.
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