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Polaroid collection saved by Vienna museum

A historic collection of Polaroid photographs by Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams and 800 other artists stored in Lausanne has been saved by Vienna's Westlicht Museum.

This content was published on March 29, 2011 - 11:54
swissinfo.ch and agencies

Westlicht acquired the collection from the liquidators of the Polaroid company, which went bankrupt twice, in 2001 and 2008.

The collection of 4,400 prints was held in the archives of Lausanne’s Musée de l’Elysée until it was seized along with other company assets in the bankruptcy proceeding.

"At the last minute I was able to save this collection from being broken up in an auction," Peter Coeln, director of Westlicht, told the AFP news agency.

Westlicht acquired the trove with the help of the Impossible Project, founded by photo enthusiasts and entrepreneurs who saved the last Polaroid instant-film plant in the Netherlands and are now producing new film for Polaroid cameras.

The Polaroid collection was started in the 1950s by Edwin Land, inventor of the cult instant camera and co-founder of Polaroid.

Land and a group of creatives at the firm handed out free cameras and film to professional photographers, artists and students, on condition that in return they give him a few photos and ideas for developing their products. Over time it built up into a unique, experimental collection of 16,000 images, most of which were stored at Boston in the United States.

After Polaroid went under in 2008, a Minnesota bankruptcy court ordered the company to sell a portion of the collection; an auction of some of the works at Sotheby’s in 2010 generated $12.4 million (SFr11.4 million).

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