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Sam Wagstaff

Sam Wagstaff was the supreme aesthete of his generation. Singlehandedly, and with an unparalleled intensity, he transformed the collecting of photography in this country from an idiosyncratic indulgence into an intellectual pursuit worthy of widespread recognition. He was a natural aristocrat. Tall and good looking, wearing denims and what looked like a secondhand jacket, he was always the most stylish man in any gathering. High in the sky, overlooking Washington Square, his apartment was the most elegant in New York. There was hardly anywhere to sit, the white walls were left bare, and at night the large windows let in the lights of the city and the stars. On the floor and on a few mirrored shelves were silver objects - pitchers, beakers, trays, napkin rings, flatware, punchbowls - an Ali Baba's cave floating above the city. Collecting Victorian silver was Sam Wagstaff's last passion. There, too, his unfailing eye made him a pioneer.

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