DFN: I tend to side with Matthew Adams regarding the authenticity, Ansel’s wife would have known how to spell various places in the Yosemite Valley, her handwritting should be similar to other sample and the the clincher for me, is a different scheme for numbering the slides.
Garage sale find called pricey Ansel Adams lot
California man paid $45 for glass negatives which may fetch $200 million
Ten years ago, Rick Norsigian made a $200 million find.
The Fresno, Calif., painter — who has a penchant for antique hunting on his days off — was rummaging through boxes at a garage sale when he came across 65 glass negatives that were wrapped in newspapers from 1942 and 1943.
Turns out the negatives, which Norsigian bought for $45 after talking the seller down from $70, are those of the famous nature photographer Ansel Adams. And they’re worth hundreds of millions, according to some appraisers.
"It truly is a missing link of Ansel Adams and history and his career," David W. Streets, the appraiser who is hosting the unveiling of the negatives in his Los Angeles gallery on Tuesday, told CNN.
A team of experts put together by Norsigian said the glass plates, which portray scenes from Yosemite National Park and San Francisco, were likely taken between 1919 and the early 1930s. They were previously believed to have been destroyed in a 1937 darkroom fire that consumed 5,000 glass negatives.
"This illuminates a very important part of his evolution as an artist because this is the work that he did in his 20s,” Patrick Alt, a photography expert who says the prints are authentic, told the L.A. Daily News in November 2009. “He had images that didn’t fit in anywhere, that show he is trying to discover his voice, to fully realized Ansel Adams masterpieces."
An attorney hired by Norsigian said in news conference Tuesday that a team of experts have verified that the glass plates are from the early work of Adams.
The real deal?
Others, however, are not entirely convinced the prints are the real deal.
Although Streets and Alt say Norsigian’s find is an authentic collection of some of Adams’ early work, Adams’ own grandson is a skeptic.
“I don’t think you can prove absolutely that they are or that they are not real,” Matthew Adams, who is president of the Ansel Adams Gallery, told msnbc.com Tuesday. “And I think it’s irresponsible to claim they are Ansel’s without more proof.”
Matthew Adams said the writing on the sleeves of the negatives, which is attributed to Ansel Adams’ wife, Virginia, is inconsistent with other samples of her handwriting and contains a number of misspellings of the names of places in Yosemite that Virginia would have known how to spell.
He also said the numbering of the slides is inconsistent with Ansel Adams’ method for numbering his works.
Even if they were real, Matthew Adams said it is unlikely they would be worth $200 million.
Streets, however, defended the collection as the real McCoy on Tuesday, as media and visitors filled his gallery for the unveiling of the 65 negatives.
“The Ansel Adams family, they really never participated in this,” Streets said, referencing the investigation into the negatives. “I think you’ve got a whole team of people over 10 years who have taken the time to really look at these in various ways to authenticate them.”
Streets said the negatives and prints of them will start to go on sale within the next six months, and he expects them to go for upwards of $200 million.
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