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Lunn (Harry) Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Harry Lunn Papers
    Date (inclusive): 1855-1999, bulk 1965-1999
    Number: 2004.M.17
    Creator/Collector: Lunn, Harry H. (Harry Hyatt), 1933-
    Physical Description: 88.6 Linear Feet (190 boxes)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The Harry Lunn papers document the business dealings of the print and photography dealer from the mid-1960s until his death in 1998, and provide a glimpse into the workings of one of the creators of the photography art market during the second half of the twentieth century.
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    Language: Collection material is in English with some French.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Harry Hyatt Lunn, Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 29, 1933 to Harry Hyatt and Flora S. Lunn. The senior Lunn, a civil engineer for Detroit Edison and amateur architect, designed the family home based on a Cotswold cottage – a certain anomaly in the otherwise post-war neighborhood in which they lived. Lunn was educated in Detroit public schools and attended the University of Michigan on a Regents-Alumni Scholarship, graduating with an honors degree in economics. During his senior year at Michigan Lunn was editor-in-chief of the Michigan Daily, the university's student newspaper. Prior to the beginning of the school year he attended the National Student Association (NSA) annual meeting in his capacity as incoming editor, and the following year (1954-1955) he was elected president of the organization. The NSA, a confederation of American college and university student governments, was founded at the University of Wisconsin in 1947. From the early 1950s until 1967, the NSA's international program and some of its domestic activities were secretly underwritten by the Central Intelligence Agency. Following his year as NSA president Lunn was recruited by the CIA and traveled throughout Southeast Asia as a member of an International Student Conference (ISC) delegation for the next year and a half. He then served in the army from 1956 to 1958, before becoming a research analyst in the United States Department of Defense. During this time he took part in the activities of the anti-communist Independent Research Service at the 1959 Vienna Youth Festival.
    Lunn was posted to the political desk at the US Embassy in Paris in 1961, and then worked at the Agency for International Development (AID) on President John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress, before becoming executive secretary of the Foundation for Youth and Student Affairs (FYSA) in 1965. The FYSA was a front organization established by the CIA to fund and control the activities of student organizations such as the NSA. In 1967, the NSA's ties to the CIA via the FYSA were revealed in an exposé by Ramparts magazine, and Lunn's name was mentioned. The CIA's subsequent withdrawal of its financial backing threw the NSA into an organizational and financial crisis, and with his cover blown, Lunn resigned from the FYSA.
    Lunn then made a foray into the real estate business, selling Capitol Hill properties before turning to an earlier interest from his days at the US Embassy in Paris when he had begun collecting and selling fine prints. Rather than collecting prints by well-known artists, Lunn's strategy had been to purchase less costly work by emerging artists. He also amassed an inventory of prints by the Danish artist Lars Bo who gave him one print for every two that he sold. In 1968 Lunn opened his first gallery in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill, soon moving it to Georgetown and thence to 406 Seventh Street NW. Lunn Gallery and the company he formed, Graphics International, initially specialized in late-nineteenth and twentieth century fine prints. Lunn became the agent for all of Marlborough Gallery's multiples and graphics in 1970, and in 1971 he acquired the inventory of two important print dealers - Felix Landau Gallery (Los Angeles) and the estate of New York dealer Peter Dietsch. With this large stock at his disposal Lunn was able to consign and sell wholesale to other dealers without impinging on his own retail business.
    A pivotal moment came for Lunn in 1970 when he saw a photographic print of Ansel Adams's Moonrise, Hernandez, N.M., his first contact with Adams's work. In an oft-told story, he was so struck by the graphic qualities of the photograph that he immediately resolved to have an Adams exhibition. During his initial Adams exhibition, which opened in January 1971, Lunn sold $10,000 worth of photographs, an astounding sum for photographs at the time. He next exhibited a stellar selection of Man Ray photographs. By 1973, feeling that the fine print market price structure had peaked, Lunn converted his remaining Landau and Dietsch print inventories into photographic stock. While the Hill and Adamson album he purchased at auction in 1973 formed the basis of his nineteenth-century material, he also began acquiring large quantities of photographs by photographers who had worked primarily during the early-to-mid-twentieth century. In the 1970s, he bought 5,500 photographic prints each from the Lewis Hine and Walker Evans archives, 1,000 of Ansel Adams's last prints, and 1,600 Robert Frank prints. In partnership with Marlborough Gallery he purchased the stock of prints that Berenice Abbott had made from Eugène Atget's negatives, as well as Abbott's inventory of her own work. Through Marlborough he became the exclusive representative for George Brassaï, and he also represented the Diane Arbus estate.
    In tandem with the exclusivity these vast holdings represented, Lunn's business strategy was what he candidly termed the "creation of rarity." Lunn realized that most buyers desired the same few iconic images, and also that the number of existing vintage photographs was necessarily finite. He created demand among what was initially a small number of photography collectors by working with photographers or their estates to limit their prints of any given image to a relatively low number of editions. This limited material would sell out and go off the market, making formerly less-desirable images more valuable. Conversely, should the same limited material come back on the market, its prices would rise accordingly. To further control supply and demand Lunn also limited the number of prints he released yearly from his holdings of various artists' estates.
    Lunn was also influential in the creation of markets for a then-younger and often controversial generation of photographers ranging from Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano to McDermott & McGough and Pierre et Giles to Joel-Peter Witkin and Wouter Deruytter. He met Mapplethorpe in the late 1970s, and in 1981 Lunn Gallery hosted a Mapplethorpe retrospective. Between 1978 and 1981 Lunn, in partnership with the Robert Miller Gallery, published Mapplethorpe's X, Y, and Z Portfolios.
    Lunn was instrumental in the formation of many notable photography collections including those of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and the Gilman Paper Company in New York. He advised and sold frequently to private clients such as Sam Wagstaff and Manfred Heiting as they assembled their respective collections. His museum clients included such major institutions as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Art, Washington; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Musée d'Orsay, the J. Paul Getty Museum; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Ar (SFMoMA)t, yet he also dealt with and lent to smaller regional and local museums, university art galleries, other arts organizations, and commercial galleries.
    Lunn closed his last gallery in July 1983, and for the remainder of his career operated as a private dealer, first based in Washington, D.C. After 1985, he moved between his New York and Paris apartments. In the 1980s and 1990s,he intensified his participation at the leading international art expositions and frequently organized exhibitions for other commercial galleries. In 1973, Lunn became the first photography dealer to be elected to the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA). He was among the first three photography dealers to exhibit at the ADAA's annual Armory art show and the first photography dealer to exhibit at the Basel International Art Fair. In 1979, Lunn became a founding member of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers, Inc. (AIPAD), and remained actively involved in its annual trade fair and with networking among its membership. Lunn's shrewd business acumen was complimented by both his deep love of photography and by his generosity of spirit. His championing of photography as an art form was passionate and sincere. To this end he encouraged other photography dealers in their endeavors, seeing them not as competition but as colleagues whose existence strengthened the photography market.
    Lunn Myriam Dosseur in 1963. They had three children, Alexandra, Christophe, and Florence. Lunn suffered a massive heart attack in 1998 at age 65 while boarding a train to his home in Normandy, France, lapsed into a coma, and died in Paris shortly thereafter.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers, except for audio visual material, which is unavailable until reformatted, and sealed material in Box 176.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Harry Lunn Papers, 1855-1999, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2004.M.17.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 2004.

    Processing History

    Collection processed by Beth Ann Guynn, Linda Kleiger, and Lilly Tsukahira.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Harry Lunn papers document the business dealings of the print and photography dealer from the mid 1960s until his death in 1998, and provide a glimpse into the workings of one of the primary creators of the photography art market during the second half of the twentieth century. The records document Lunn's early dealings as he was beginning to sell fine art prints through the establishment of his Lunn Gallery and his firm Graphics International (later Lunn Ltd.) and his return to operating as a private dealer. Not incidentally, they chart the rising popularity of photography as a fine art commodity.
    Series I, Artists files, contains files for artists whose work was sold by Lunn, and whom in certain cases, such as photographers Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Robert Frank, and McDermott & McGough, and printmakers Lars Bo and Jacob Kainen, Lunn represented exclusively or for a substantial length of time, and in doing so shaped the market for that artist's work.
    Series II, Client files, contains general files for Lunn's extensive international roster of clients, as well as documentation of appraisals, consignments, and exhibition loans. His clients included major museums and corporations, yet he also dealt with smaller museums, university art galleries, other arts organizations, and commercial galleries of all sizes, and had a large roster of private collectors with modest collections.
    Series III, Auctions and art fairs, is concerned with the business transactions, both buying and selling, that took place through auction houses or at the national and international art fairs at which Lunn exhibited or had a booth, often on a yearly basis.
    The business files in Series IV encompass the history of the firm as it becomes a corporation, raises capital through stock offerings, and ultimately repurchases the shares and operates with Lunn as the sole stockholder. Included are corporate records, financial statements and tax returns, inventory lists, financial statement working papers, bank records, and a large volume of receipts for travel, business promotion and other business expenses.
    Series V, Gallery operations, contains files that detail the operations of the specific kind of business that was Lunn Ltd. Included are materials related to sales, purchases, and inventory such as invoices, ledgers, quarterly and monthly sales reports, art purchases, and inventory lists. Operations of a daily nature are documented in files containing advertising, press releases, gallery reviews, exhibition and price lists, office expenses, and employee matters.
    The clippings files in Series VI include topics such as the art market, both in general and on photography in particular; collectors and collecting; arts funding; and gallery reviews, openings, and notices. A small number of serials and newsletters are also related to these topics.
    Series VII contains materials relating to Lunn's professional life and covers his work both with student organizations in the 1960s and as an art dealer, with a small amount of material pertaining to his real estate business. Included are files on professional organizations of which he was a member; notes and texts for lectures and articles he delivered or wrote; clippings and articles about his activities as an art dealer; and biographical information.
    Series VIII consists of a small amount of personal papers, many of which overlap with Lunn's professional life as it was intertwined with his private life. Included are materials documenting banking and tax matters and personal gifts of artwork to institutions, and a small amount of mostly personal correspondence. Photographs include copies of portraits of Lunn made by a number of photographers including Michael Howells, Berenice Abbott, Wouter Deruytter, Robert Mapplethorpe, Yousuf Karsh, McDermott & McGough, and Pierre et Giles, and a few family snapshots.


    The collection is comprised of eight series: Series I. Artist files, 1901-1999, undated; Series II. Client files and related materials, 1965-1998, undated; Series III. Auctions and art fairs, 1974-1998; Series IV: Business files, 1965-1998; Series V: Gallery operations, 1949-1998; Series VI: Clippings and serials, 1855-1998, undated; Series VII: Professional activities, 1960-1998, undated; Series VIII: Personal papers, circa 1899-1998, undated.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Nègre, Charles, 1820-1880
    Serrano, Andres, 1950-
    Talbot, William Henry Fox, 1800-1877
    Witkin, Joel-Peter, 1939-
    Kainen, Jacob
    Karsh, Yousuf, 1908-2002
    Mapplethorpe, Robert
    Nadar, Félix, 1820-1910
    Deruytter, Wouter
    Beato, Felice, 1832-1909
    Brassaï, 1899-1984
    Disdéri, André-Adolphe-Eugène, 1819-1889
    Arbus, Diane, 1923-1971
    Atget, Eugène, 1857-1927
    Abbott, Berenice, 1898-1991
    Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984
    Hill, David Octavius, 1802-1870
    Frank, Robert, 1924-2019
    Howells, Michael
    Hine, Lewis Wickes, 1874-1940
    Cameron, Julia Margaret, 1815-1879
    Charnay, Désiré, 1828-1915
    Evans, Walker, 1903-1975
    Du Camp, Maxime, 1822-1894

    Subjects - Corporate Bodies

    Lunn Gallery
    Pierre et Gilles
    McDermott & McGough
    Graphics International Ltd
    Lunn Ltd

    Subjects - Topics

    Photographs -- Collectors and collecting -- United States -- 20th century
    Photographs -- Collectors and collecting
    Prints -- Collectors and collecting
    Art galleries, Commercial -- United States
    Art -- Collectors and collecting -- United States -- 20th century
    Art dealers -- United States -- 20th century

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Photographs, Original
    Photographic prints
    Compact discs
    Color slides -- 20th century
    Color transparencies -- 20th century


    Lunn, Harry H. (Harry Hyatt), 1933-