Swann Auction Galleries



2015-06-26 10:50:59

Swann Auction Galleries is an auction house based in New York, specializing in rare books, manuscripts, posters and works of art on paper. Swann has separate departments devoted to photographs, posters and prints & drawings, in addition to books, maps & atlases and autographs.

As a member of International Auctioneers, an alliance of prestigious auction houses, their sales are publicized to auction clients around the world.


Swann Galleries was founded in New York in 1941 by antiquarian book dealer Benjamin Swann as an auction house specializing in rare and antiquarian books. George Lowry acquired the business and became president in 1970 upon Mr. Swann`s retirement.

At that time, a staff of four organized and conducted book auctions for a customer-base composed mainly of dealers. As the auction world opened to the general public, separate departments were established for different fields of collecting: first photographs, then autographs, and in the late 1980s-early 90s, prints and drawings and vintage posters. Swann is now a world leader in the auction market for works of art on paper.

Nicholas Lowry joined Swann in 1995 as head of the Poster department. He was named Principal Auctioneer in 1998 and Vice-President in 2000. In January 2001, he assumed the title of President and took over day-to-day management of the company, which now has a staff of 30; George Lowry stepped up to the new title of Chairman.

For over 25 years, Swann has been located on East 25th Street, just one block east of Madison Square Park, adjacent to the historic Murray Hill, Gramercy Park, and Flatiron districts, and right across town from Chelsea. The premises doubled in size in 1999 with the addition of a second gallery and salesroom.



Specialists: George S. Lowry, Marco Tomaschett

Swann conducts several Autograph auctions a year-offering letters, historic documents, literary and musical manuscripts, inscribed books and signed photographs.

Their sales feature presidents, signers of the Declaration of Independence, military figures, statesmen, royalty and nobility, writers, scientists, artists, musicians, and entertainers.


Specialists: Tobias Abeloff, Christine von der Linn, Rick Stattler, Gary Garland, Wyatt H. Day

Swann's book department conducts approximately 20 book auctions a year, each devoted to a specific collecting area, ranging from 15th century printing to 20th century literature.

They are the only auction house in North America to hold regular sales of early printed, medical, and scientific books. They also conduct frequent auctions of natural history and plate books; fine bindings; art and architecture books; fine press and illustrated books; and printed and manuscript Americana.


Specialist: Gary Garland

Swann is one of the few auction houses to hold regular sales of maps and atlases. They conduct auctions twice a year that attract scholars, historians, and cartographers, as well as interior decorators and others seeking attractive decorative images.

These sales contain atlases and individual maps of locations around the world, as well as fine natural history and historical prints and other decorative graphics.


Specialists: Daile Kaplan, Jennifer O'Neil, Deborah Rogal

Swann regularly conducts auctions devoted to Photographs. Their sales feature works by classical photographers, such as Edward Curtis and Ansel Adams, prints by the photojournalist Lewis Hine, and pictures by contemporary artists Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, and Robert Mapplethorpe.


Specialists: Nicholas D. Lowry, Kristina Goodstadt

Swann has been instrumental in bringing posters to the forefront of the auction scene.

They held their first poster auction in 1978, and currently conduct five or more poster sales per year. Their winter poster auction contains a selection of ski posters, and our summer sale includes beach and summer resort images. They hold auctions of important Travel Posters in November, and Modernist Posters in May.

Prints & Drawings

Specialists: Todd Weyman, Shawna Brickley, Amelia Foster, Erin Bennett

Swann has actively participated in the international prints and drawings market since the 1980s. Over the past decade, the Works of Art on Paper department has become a world leader in museum-quality old master through modern prints, drawings and watercolors.

African American Fine Art

Specialists: Nigel Freeman, Hillary Brody

Swann launched a new department devoted to African-American Fine Art in February 2007. Today, they are the only major auction house to conduct regular sales of this material. At each African-American Fine Art auction benchmarks have been set for works by important and lesser-known artists.

Notable sales

  • A letter Signed, "G:Washington," to the Reverend Doctor John Lathrop ("Sir"), Mount Vernon, 22 February 1788 sold in October 2009 for $18,000.
  • A late 15th century Book of Hours illuminated vellum manuscript in Latin and French, sold for $52,800 in November 2010.
  • A large 3-sheet engraved case map by Thomas Hutchins entitled ‘A New Map of the Western Parts of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina; Comprehending the River Ohio [etc.]’ (1778), sold in June 2008 for a record price of $168,000.
  • A 1948 silver print of the Ansel Adams photograph entitled ‘Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico’ sold for $360,000 in December 2009.
  • A Montague Birrel Black's White Star Line poster featuring the Olympic and the Titanic, circa 1910, sold for $36,000 in November 2010.
  • A print of James A. M. Whistler's ‘Nocturne’ (1879-80), sold for $282,000 in October 2010, a record price for a print by the artist, as well as the top-selling print ever sold at Swann.
  • An oil on canvas by Malvin Gray Johnson entitled Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (1928-29), sold in February 2010 for $228,000.
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