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Harry Lunn Papers, 1855-1999, bulk 1965-1999

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Lunn (Harry) Papers

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.

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