Just weeks before the National Geographic Society’s 125th anniversary, the organization plans to auction off pieces from its extensive archive collection including some of the most enduring photographic images, paintings and illustrations in its history.
Since the late 1800s, National Geographic has shown images of the world’s cultures, wildlife, scientific explorations, and places in its magazines, books and television channel.
The institution has stockpiled 11.5 million photos and illustrations in its massive archive, and 240 of those pieces will be auctioned “to celebrate our legacy …. and to give people a chance to buy a little part of this great institution’s history,” Maura Mulvihill, senior vice president of National Geographic’s image and video archives, told the Associated Press.
“We think of ourselves as the unsung fathers of modern photojournalism,” Mulvihill said. “I don’t think people are aware of what a massive instructive archive this is.”
This is the first time National Geographic will sell pieces from its collection. The auction, which could bring in as much as $3 million, will be held in December at Christie’s in New York, an international company that holds art auctions and private sales around the world.
The auction’s proceeds will be used to promote and preserve the archive and be used for “the nurturing of young photographers, artists and explorers … who are the future of the organization,” Mulvihill said.
The items to be sold include some of National Geographic’s most iconic photographs, including the picture of the young Afghan girl with piercing eyes taken during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and a picture of Admiral Robert Peary during his expedition to the North Pole in 1908.
Many of the organization’s magazines were filled with illustrations that will also be sold, including a piece by Charles Bittinger depicting a view of Earth seen from the moon and artwork of dinosaurs created by Charles Knight.
Some fine art pieces will also be auctioned off, including an oil painting of General Robert E. Lee created by Tom Lovell, which could earn as much $30,000 at auction. A painting by American artist N.C. Wyeth of two pirates, “The Duel On The Beach,” could fetch as much as $1.2 million, the AP reported.
The auction also includes the sale of items that have never been published, including photographs taken in the Antarctic by photographer Herbert Ponting.