1920s Montauk poster expected to draw thousands at auction
A 1920s poster depicting Montauk in its full destination resort splendor is expected to sell for as much as $18,000 at auction Friday in Manhattan.
The print shows Montauk as it might have been -- flapper-era sportsmen, fox hunters, croquet players, a bathing beauty and a yacht captain peering over the ocean with binoculars.
"125 miles out in the cool Atlantic!" the poster, circa 1929, proclaims. "On the Slender tip of Long Island, N.Y."
The iconic Montauk lighthouse sits in the background.
"It has the Great Gatsby vibe, a wonderful art-deco feel to it," said Nicholas Lowry, president of Swann Auction Gallery and director of its vintage poster department. " . . . It hits every exciting visual: women in bathing suits, cars, sport fishing, aviation."
Robin Strong, archivist with the Montauk Library, has a reproduction of the poster displayed on a library wall.
"It's a beautiful piece of art," Strong said. "The feeling, the color -- that '20s sort of vibe."
The image represents what industrialist Carl Fisher, who a few years earlier had been involved in the development of Miami Beach, wanted to make of Montauk, she said.
Based around "the Manor" advertised in the poster, Fisher envisioned "the most fabulous summer resort ever imagined in the Western world," with a yacht club, polo fields, glass-enclosed tennis courts and a half-mile-long ocean boardwalk.
The hotel was completed in 1927, but grander plans for Montauk were scuttled when a storm wiped out some of Fisher's Miami holdings and the Great Depression hit. By 1932, the project was bankrupt.
"We would've been a really exclusive type of place if he was successful," Strong said, noting that the poster represents "what would have been, if there wasn't a crash."
Montauk Manor is now a resort hotel and condominium.
Lowry said he believes the poster was part of an advertising campaign and was intended to be displayed at train stations to draw visitors out to the East End. The scarcity of prints available today indicates that only between 500 and 1,000 were produced, he said. The artist is unknown.
The poster, to be auctioned as part of a full lot of travel posters, has a small crease line and touched-up areas around the edges. Those signs of age reduced its value, Lowry said. Another original print -- in near-perfect condition -- sold in 2011 for $26,000.
Even with imperfections, the Montauk poster is the cream of the show, Lowry said, adding that "it has the golden name of Montauk."
Lowry declined to disclose the name of the seller, but said it was a collector from the art world.
Mark J. Weinbaum, a Manhattan vintage poster collector, owned two of the Montauk posters that he acquired "through railroad people." He said he only knows of five or six still in existence.
Weinbaum had owned the print that sold in 2011. The second print, which Weinbaum still has, was used to create reproductions that for a time were available through White's Drug and Department Store in Montauk and are now sold online for $275.
Weinbaum said the posters were never displayed in 1929 because of the stock market crash. "It would have been too in-the-face of people suffering," he said.
But today, he said, the poster's design has a special allure.
"It speaks to the ego and power of one man, who was trying to create something."