MAN RAY

Untitled (Photomontage with Nude and Studio Light), 1933
Gelatin silver print
11 5/8 x 8 ¼ in., 29.5 x 22.1 cm.
Pre-sale est.: $100,000 - $150,000
Price realized: $410,500
SOTHEBY'S, N.Y.: "Photographs", N08730
April 6, 2011
Lot #92
Illustration courtesy SOTHEBY'S IMAGES LTD., 2011

2011 Spring Photography Auctions in New York

By Brian Appel


Despite the flagging pace of recovery from the global financial crisis and new polls that show a darkening mood across America, the fine art photography market’s health seems to be improving.

Sotheby’s—still the average price per lot leader—jumped from $25,361 in the fall of 2010 to a vigorous $39,945 this spring. Christie’s had a more modest rise from $21,265 to $23,549 but Phillips de Pury & Co.—sagely switching sales rooms from hip Chelsea to their new, posh uptown digs on Park Avenue with Simon de Pury at the podium—had the biggest jump of all. A modest $15,700 per lot average from last fall turned into an impressive $24,690.

Overall sales totals from the big three climbed from just under $15 million last season to $19.6 million this spring. Tellingly, ten lots this spring broke the $200,000 mark as compared to a paltry two from last fall. Things were much more upbeat this season when compared to last but keeping this recovery in context is crucial. Totals from the big three hit $35.6 million with 31 lots surpassing the $200,000 mark three years ago this April at the market’s apex.

Sotheby’s
Auctions always provide a window into current tastes and fashions and Emmanuel Radnitzky’s (a.k.a. Man Ray) landmark Surrealist work, “Untitled (Photomontage with Nude and Studio Light)” from 1933, emerged as a powerful political and aesthetic force at their spring sale landing on the front page of their auction catalog and in the house’s top spot with $410,500.

Lot notes for the 11 5/8 by 8 ¼ inch gelatin silver print offered here is one of only four extant prints of the image and the only one in private hands. The other three are in museum collections: MoMA, J.P.Getty, and the Biblioteque National de France in Paris. Bidding for the “classically-rendered” female nude torso superimposed over a separate negative of a studio light and reflector brought memories of the heady days of 2005-2008 when photographic prices were soaring and images were being acquired at record breaking prices.

At the time of this image’s execution, Man Ray was in his early 40s, at the height of his aesthetic powers, and particularly interested in Freud’s theories on the unconscious and the importance of dreams in uncovering fears and desires.

One of the first proponents of Surrealism—he believed that it was within the unconscious mind of the dreamer where the rationality of bourgeois morality was forgotten. Sexuality, death and the unconscious as universal human traits were seen as being the foundation of surrealist philosophy. For Man Ray, the camera was not there to record reality but rather to bend it, transform it, and make it strange.

Superimposition along with solarization and the making of Rayographs—a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a photo sensitive material such as photographic paper—were techniques employed by this master to open wide narrative associations. The creative use of “mistakes”—akin to automatic writing—both in the taking of the picture or using darkroom manipulations (or both) were employed to render the “real” unreal or the “unreal” real.

The female nude torso with a studio light and reflector is really a self-portrait of the master. Man Ray and his studio are eerily visible in the image, a dream-like doppelganger of the artist and his world in 1933.

JAROMIR FUNKE
Composition (from Abstraktní Foto), 1929
Gelatin silver print
11 5/8 x 9 ¼ in., 29.5 x 23.5 cm.
Presale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $350,500
SOTHEBY'S, N.Y.: "Photographs", N08730
April 6, 2011
Lot #96
Illustration courtesy SOTHEBY'S IMAGES LTD., 2011


Jaromir Funke, (1896-1945), one of Czechoslovakia’s most important photographers during the 1920s-1940s, captured the second highest lot of the sale with a $350,500 take home and a new world auction record for the artist’s 1929 “Composition (From Abstraktni Foto)”.

Although many of his early images were influenced by the soft-focus pictorial style, by the early 1920s the photographer joined Joseph Sudek and Adolf Schneeberger to found the Czech Photographic Society whose work reflected a growing interest in modernist ideas.

This lot, believed to be the only print of this image to appear at auction, demonstrates the artist’s interest in composition and lighting as well as his innovations with diagonal perspective.

Funke’s photographs of chance arrangements and object trouves sought a supra-reality in reality—a fiction set beyond and above reality like a martial arts-based movie or the magic of fantasy fiction. The artist’s awareness of abstract form and the play of light and shadow also connects Funke with the French surrealists, especially Man Ray’s experiments with photograms.

MATHEW B. BRADY
John C. Calhoun, 1849
Whole plate daguerreotype
Pre-sale est. $30,000-$50,000
Price realized: $338,500
SOTHEBY'S, N.Y.: "Photographs", N08730
April 6, 2011
Lot #41
Illustration courtesy SOTHEBY'S IMAGES LTD., 2011


Following Funke’s lead, Mathew Brady (1823-1896), one of the most celebrated American photographers of his time, set a new worldwide auction record at the podium as well. Referred to as the father of photojournalism and the greatest historian of the 19th century—it’s Brady’s picture (taken by Anthony Berger) of Abe Lincoln on the five dollar bill—the lensman’s stately whole-plate daguerreotype of the popular congressman, Secretary of War, Secretary of State, senator, and Vice President of the United States, John Caldwell Calhoun brought $338,500. Pre-sale estimates for the 6 ½ by 8 ½ inch image had been conservatively set at $30,000-$50,000.

The Sotheby’s catalog states “… he [John C. Calhoun] was a photographic subject perfectly suited to the ambitions of Mathew Brady. It was Brady’s goal to photograph the great men of the young country, and it was Brady who saw the business opportunities to be had from marketing these images to the public.”

Brady photographed 18 of the 19 American presidents from John Quincy Adams to William McKinley and went on to photograph the American Civil War. Hiring Alexander Gardner, Timothy H. O’Sullivan and a host of others—each of whom were given traveling darkrooms to go out and shoot scenes on the battlefront—it was the first time that Americans saw the realities of war in photographs as distinct from previous “artists’ impressions”.


PETER BEARD
Maureen Gallagher and a Night Feeder at Hog Ranch, 1987
Unique mural-sized object
50 x 84 ½ inches
Pre-sale est.:$120,000--$180,000
Price realized: $326,500
SOTHEBY'S, N.Y.: "Photographs", N08730
April 6, 2011
Lot #145
Illustration courtesy SOTHEBY'S IMAGES LTD., 2011


Wildlife and fashion photographer Peter Beard (b. 1938) studied Old Master drawing at Yale University and has filled countless diary pages and collages with the sort of random but somehow entwined information that seems to spring from some meld of Leonardo, Bosch and Blake.

“Maureen Gallagher and a Night Feeder at Hog Ranch” from 1987— printed in 1998—shattered his personal best world auction record. A mural-sized object seven foot long by four foot high includes a gelatin silver print of nude model Maureen Gallagher feeding a giraffe at night. Extensive illustrations by local African artists Mathenge Kivoi and E. Mwangi Kuria in colored tempera paint frame his picture. The unique artwork combines Beard’s love of the beautiful female body captured outside of the slick, clichéd pages of the sanitized fashion magazine with the pristine poetry of African wildlife.

What Beard saw—what he was reacting against—was that well-meaning outsiders were killing the wild game with kindness, while the Africans themselves were busily ruining things with an explosive birth rate. “Maureen Gallagher” is the artist’s ode to rural-integrity, and the diversity of nature; it certainly is his most celebrated image. The lot brought $326,500.

RICHARD AVEDON
Avedon/Paris, 1948-1957
A portfolio of 11 photographs
Each approx. 14 1/4 by 18 inches
Ed.: '15/75'
Pre-sale est.: $150,000-$250,000
Price realized: $314,500
SOTHEBY'S, N.Y., "Photographs", N08730
April 6, 2011
Lot #111
Illustration courtesy SOTHEBY'S IMAGES LTD., 2011


Richard Avedon’s “Paris” portfolio, a collection of eleven fashion photographs taken between 1948 and 1957 and printed in 1978 on the occasion of a retrospective exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art came with a pre-sale estimate of $150,000-$250,000. The self-published portfolio—in an edition of 75—hit $314,500 in spirited bidding. Another example from the same portfolio had sold previously at Christie’s on two different occasions since 2004; once in December of 2008 for $170,500 and once in April of 2007 for $240,000. A portfolio sold at Sotheby’s in October of 2008 for $146,000.

World War 11 had cut off access of the American fashion magazine industry to Paris so when the war was over and the magazines could go back to Paris they were ecstatic. Avedon, brought with him a new, fresh, American sensibility creating a more complex version of the energetic 20th century woman in motion—some of the best of which is represented in this now-legendary “Paris” portfolio.

The catalog states that the copy of Richard Avedon’s “Paris” portfolio offered at the house came originally from the collection of the photographer’s close personal friend, the actress and author Carol Matthau (1925-2003). Good provenance (from the French provenir “to come from”) almost always increases the value and desirability of a work of art because, first, it authenticates the art and also provides important information about and insight into a work of art’s history. No doubt the celebrity cachet of the work’s provenance carried great prestige thereby adding perhaps 10%-20% value to the portfolio.

Christie’s

RICHARD AVEDON
Marilyn Monroe, New York City, May 6, 1957, 1957
Gelatin silver print / printed 1980
40 by 30 inches
Ed.: '9/10'
Pre-sale est.: $200,000-$300,000
Price realized: $482,500
CHRISTIE'S, N.Y.: "Photographs", #2431
April 8, 2011
Lot #504
Illustration courtesy CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD., 2011


People are desperate for good material and, arguably, Christie’s supplied the most beautiful photograph of the spring season. “Marilyn Monroe, New York City, May 6, 1957”, shot by Richard Avedon at the end of an emotionally draining and flirtatious session with the actress is understood by many collectors and curators as his ultimate study of the complex nature of celebrity and fame.

The famous portrait is imbued with a sense of interiority that seems worlds away from the carefully crafted sexy bombshell persona that Monroe herself meticulous created. For Avedon, beauty had an element of tragedy—it faded for one thing, or it came at a terrific loss of self.

When referencing this portrait, Avedon has said that Monroe was totally aware of the camera when the shutter was opened to record this image. But the tone of the photograph, which is unflinchingly naturalistic and refuses to flatter or idealize, dismantles his sitter’s scatter-brained blonde bimbo fabrication allowing for a profoundly more authentic and vulnerable presentation.

The end result of their meeting not only created an iconic photographic stand-in for Monroe, but also brilliantly anticipates the paparazzi-style “ambush” photography that has now become a staple of celebrity magazines like “The National Enquirer”, “People” or “Us Weekly” and syndicated television shows like “Entertainment Tonight” or “Inside Edition”.

The 40 by 30 inch print—the largest size the artist made of this shot of Marilyn—with its tight, vertical cropping of his Rolleiflex’s 2 ¼ by 2 ¼ negative came with a pre-sale estimate of $200,000-$300,000. It not only captured the number one spot at Christie’s it became the top lot of the spring season with a take-home of $482,500.

Shortly after the sale, the Larry Gagosian Gallery announced it had taken over the exclusive worldwide representation of Avedon poaching the artist’s estate from the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. For the new owner of the “Marilyn” print this bodes well; perhaps the buyer was privy to the switch before it was officially announced.

When artists or their estates join Gagosian’s gallery their prices rise precipitously. Gagosian is known for being aggressive about boosting and protecting his artists’ prices in both the primary and secondary markets and can promote and sell their work from eleven high profile galleries around the globe.

As importantly, Avedon’s work will be exhibited alongside other photographic works that have squeezed through the selectively permeable membrane that separates the photography world with the much headier (and pricier) sales area of contemporary art. Like fellow lensman Andreas Gursky, Avedon’s work will be seen within the rarified world of work by Robert Rauschenberg, John Chamberlain, Kazimir Malevich and James Turrell, all of whom have been seduced into the Gagosian roster in the past twelve months.

ROBERT FRANK
Parade--Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955
Gelatin silver print / printed 1970s
9 by 13 3/4 inches
Pre-sale est.: $70,000-$90,000
Price realized: $170,500
CHRISTIE'S, N.Y.: "Photographs", #2421
April 8, 2011
Lot #441
Illustration courtesy CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD., 2011


Robert Frank’s “Parade—Hoboken, New Jersey” from 1955 has come to the market in New York only five times since 2004 and always attracts multiple bidders. The opening photograph from the artist’s most celebrated 83-image work, “The Americans”, it sets the tone thematically, conceptually and formally, presenting a haunting document of mid-century America in the midst of an identity crisis.
In 1955, America was on a collision course with the Soviet Union to see who could launch the world’s first satellite into space and there was widespread belief that American Communists were conducting atomic espionage for the Soviet Union. It was at the height of the cold war fueling paranoia and naïve racism and broadening the gap between rich and poor, blacks and whites and leaders and followers.

Showing the American flag was a way to broadcast where your sentiments truly are. But here Frank is uninterested in the primary-colored pageantry of a parade with its stars and stripes symbolism. Instead, his gaze is drawn to the sad, sad Americans who fill out the background of a tired patriotic spectacle.

With a subversive relish the lens man plays havoc with geometrically-determined forms of composition which are neatly balanced by the symmetry of the window frames which themselves act as a frame for the two female figures in the shot. A flag flaps in the wind seemingly cutting off the head of one woman in the right frame of the window, her hand clutching her neck, while on the left we catch a woman whose face is almost completely in shadow from a white window blind at half mast. The image is powerful but it is also infuriatingly ambiguous. It is an image of life half glimpsed; its meaning is elusive, amorphous.

Previous lots of this opening image have gone from $84,000 to $198,000 depending upon when the print was made, its condition, and the provenance of the work. At Christie’s this time the 9 by 13 ¾ inch 1970s print of the image brought a solid $170,500. It came with a $70,000-$90,000 pre-sale estimate.

ROBERT FRANK
U.S. 285, New Mexico, 1955
Gelatin silver print / printed 1970s
13 1/8 by 8 3/4 inches
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $110,500
CHRISTIE'S, N.Y.: "Crossing America: Photographs from the Consolidated Freightways Collection, Part 1", #2522
April 7, 2011
Lot #330
Illustration courtesy CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD., 2011


Christie’s had another still from Frank’s opus on the block, this time the closing image of their single-owner sale “Crossing America: Photographs from the Consolidated Freightways Collection, Part 1.”

The quintessential evocation of life on the road and an homage to both the “Beat Generation” and the philosophy of existentialism, “U.S. 285, New Mexico” (1955), sums up the American heartland and the romance of Kerouac, Whitman and Guthrie.

This image of the vast emptiness of the desolate New Mexico landscape—both dynamic and solemn—communicates a powerful sense of isolation. The center lines of the highway plunging toward the glowing horizon line which is pushed far up toward the top of the image divides the image into two parts. A car just visible in the left hand lane in the distance might represent the future; the asphalt which stretches off the end of the image on the bottom of the photograph might symbolize the past. The photograph is gritty and high-contrast, with very light lights and dark darks revealing a bleaker, more dislocated view of America, a view that Americans at that time were unable or unwilling to embrace.

The image has been at the auction block only four times since 2004; a print from 1986 realized $44,200 in the fall of 2007, a print from before 1970 ran up to $156,000 in the winter of 2006 and the other two images (both prints executed in the mid-1970s) racked up prices around $80,000. This time up to bat, the c. 1970 print realized $110,500.

ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE
Sonia Resika, 1988
Gelatin silver print
23 by 19 1/4 inches
Ed.: '9/10'
Pre-sale est.: $20,000-$30,000
Price realized: $43,750
CHRISTIE'S, N.Y.: "The Feminine Ideal: An Important Private Collection of Photographs", #2525
April 7, 2011
Lot #43
Illustration courtesy CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD., 2011


During the early 1980s, Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs began a shift toward a phase of refinement of subject and an emphasis on classical, formal beauty. During this period he concentrated on statuesque male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and formal portraits of artists and celebrities.

In the Christie’s single owner sale “The Feminine Ideal: An Important Private Collection of Photographs” Mapplethorpe was represented by two images both of which exemplified his strive for balance and perfection establishing him in the top rank of 20th Century artists. “Sonia Resika” from 1988, taken barely a year before his death from complications from AIDS is a perfect example of why he gained a reputation as the avatar of a rigorous formalism stunningly wedded to graphic and some would say controversial subject matter. Estimated to bring from $20,000-$30,000, the 23 by 19 ¼ inch black-and-white three-quarter length shot of the dancer and model climbed up to $43,750.

ANDRE KERTESZ
Washington Square, January 9, 1954, 1954
Gelatin silver print / printed later
9 5/8 by 7 1/2 inches
Pre-sale est.: $7,000-9,000
Price realized: $12,500
CHRISTIE'S, N.Y.: "Crossing America: Photographs from the Consolidated Freightways Collection, Part 1", #2522
April 7, 2011
Lot #220
Illustration courtesy CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD., 2011


Andre Kertesz (1894-1985) the Hungarian-born photographic artist moved into the new apartment building at 2 Fifth Avenue, in 1952 and, over the next 25 years amassed a brilliant portfolio of images of New York’s historical Washington Square, mostly taken from his balcony overlooking the park.

Since coming to New York from Paris in 1936—he emigrated to the USA due to the German persecution of the Jews and the threat of WW11—Kertesz had intermittently photographed the square, but it was his move to the 12th-floor apartment that provided him the platform from which he broadly explored the subject. Using a telephoto lens, Kertesz photographed all elements of the park and the surrounding neighborhood. He executed variations of several closely related photographic themes and created abstract and ephemeral images of solitary figures walking in the park, of the tire tracks left by park vehicles left in the snow, of the park illuminated by electric light, of the fountain in the center of the park, and of a folk-art rooster in front of an apartment window cloaked in the overcast atmosphere of a rainy day. The image here—one of thousands he took from the balcony of his apartment overlooking Washington Square gardens—illustrates the lens man’s formal perfection with the inky black branches of the trees and a lone figure silhouetted against the white of the snow.

The writer Brendon Gill often visited Kertesz and his wife Elizabeth at their apartment. Gill related the experience: “For almost a quarter of a century the Kerteszes have occupied a charming twelfth-story apartment directly over-looking that eight-acre rectangle of trees, paved walks and dusty, scruffy grass. The little cantilevered balcony of the Kertesz apartment hangs in space like a crow’s nest of some impossibly high mastered barkentime; all year round, winds blow fiercely around it, in summer the sun bedazzles, in winter the snow silently doubles and redoubles the thickness of its railings. One is close to the elements up there and feels the force and hazard of them; at the same time one becomes a part of an immense cityscape of gleaming towers, tarred roofs, and zigzag bonneted chimney pots… Kertesz on his balcony arms himself with his camera and bulky zoom lens to shoot the many lives of the Square.” (Brendon Gill, “Appreciation,” in Andre Kertesz, “Washington Square” [New York: Grossman Publishers, 1975, n.p.). A lucky buyer walked away with the pristine 1980s print of the image for $12,500.

Phillips de Pury & Co.

CINDY SHERMAN
Untitled #278, 1993
Color coupler print
71 by 47 1/4 inches
Ed.: '2/6'
Pre-sale est: $200,000-$300,000
Price realized: $242,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO.: "Photographs", #NY040111
April 9, 2011
Lot #171
Illustration courtesy PHILLIPS de PURY & CO. IMAGES LTD., 2011


Phillips’ top selling image of their sale was a Cindy Sherman ‘fashion’ image the artist had created for “Harper’s Bazaar” in 1993.

Sherman produced four groups of works that quote from fashion photography. The first series was commissioned by shop owner Diane Benson in 1983 where Sherman created, not surprisingly, the antithesis of glamour ads. The second commission came from Dorothee Bis, a French fashion company where the models look dejected, exaggeratedly wrinkled and possibly homicidal. In 1993, Sherman created works for an issue of “Harper’s Bazaar” which were more fantastical and made full use of clothes as costumes to completely transform Sherman and turn backgrounds into theatrical settings. In 1994 she produced fashion shots for the Japanese fashion house Comme de Garcons which, like all her fashion work, undermine the desirability of such images by emphasizing their contrived nature and the vain attempts to convert the fashion buyer into a more ‘perfect’ version of herself.

”Untitled #278” from the “Harper’s Bazaar” work may be read as a strident critique of the drastic criteria imposed by the fashion world on its professional models. The model is a stand-in for the ordinary individual for whom the clothes are ultimately destined: namely youth, slenderness, and beauty. Instead, Sherman provides us with an image that is the antithesis of sexualized glamour of femininity in advertising.

The prototypical fashion image of women which reiterates the “to-be-looked-at-ness” of femininity and a response to what the British feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey refers to as the “male gaze” is short-circuited by a narrative of the aftermath of some gruesome encounter that leaves the model collapsed and bruised and humiliated. Using the tools of theatre—dramatic lighting, vivid color, costumes, wigs, and props—Sherman creates the inversion of an entirely disturbing image of the cliché of a girl waiting for her “prince”. In this work, the body has been besieged, rearranged; the ‘model’ has been assaulted, possibly raped by her suitor.

From her earliest pictures, Sherman has played to our desire, our fantasies and obsessions. In “Untitled #278” the fantasies and obsessions have now created a victim; the very modes of passivity and object-ness projected onto her via the male gaze has shifted from erotic reverie to misogyny and brutality.

PETER LINDBERGH
Kate Moss, Harper's Bazaar US, Long Island, NY, USA, 1994
Gelatin silver print /printed later
58 by 46 inches
Ed.: '3/3'
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $68,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO.: "Photographs", #NY040111
April 9, 2011
Lot #173
Illustration courtesy PHILLIPS de PURY & CO. IMAGES LTD., 2011


Powerful and fragile, straightforward yet playful, emancipated and sensual, Peter Lindbergh’s delicate black and white photograph of Kate Moss for “Harper’s Bazaar” in 1994 can be credited for the “waif” comeback that Twiggy popularized in the 1960s. Lindbergh’s picture reveals—behind the artificial styling and makeup—an intimate glimpse of the model’s inner essence that injects a new dynamism into the fashion photograph catapulting it across social divisions to create a new cultural identity in the fine art arena.

The denim overalls, the clapboard background and the ‘appearance’ of a skinny and frail body image could also arguably make a sly reference to the famous Walker Evans Farm Security Administration photograph of Allie Mae Burroughs. Both images could be said to ‘document’ a moving portrait of rural poverty with Peter Lindbergh’s bricolage-like photograph appropriating these symbols of Depression era poverty and subverting their original straight meanings. The photograph takes the notion of authenticity with its definition of undisputed origin and turns it on its head to great effect. The image—at almost five feet tall—came with a $50,000-$70,000 pre-sale estimate. It landed nicely taking in $68,500 with buyer’s premium.

ANDRES SERRANO
Piss Christ from "Immersions", 1987
Dye destruction print
23 1/4 15 3/4 inches
Pre-sale est.: $30,000-$50,000
Price realized: $84,100
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO.: "Photographs", #NY040111
April 9, 2011
Lot #207
Illustration courtesy PHILLIPS de PURY & CO. IMAGES LTD., 2011


“Immersion (Piss Christ)” by Andreas Serrano was made in 1987 as part of the artist’s series showing religious objects submerged in fluids such as blood and milk. In 1989, right wing Christian senators’ criticism of “Piss Christ” led to a heated U.S. debate on public arts funding. Republican Jessie Helms told the Senate that Serrano was “not an artist. He’s a jerk.”

Serrano defended his photograph as a criticism of the “billion-dollar Christ-for-profit industry” and a “condemnation of those who abuse the teachings of Christ for their own ignoble needs.”

One could argue that Serrano’s crucifix evokes the same kind of popular religiosity Andy Warhol paid homage to in his “Last Supper” series, especially the paintings with the “General Electric”, “Dove” soap and “Wise” potato chip logos tagged on top of the painting of Christ and the disciples.

ROBERT FRANK
Fourth of July--Jay, New York, 1955
Gelatin silver print /printed 1970s
12 1/2 by 8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $92,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO.: "Photographs", #NY040111
April 9, 2011
Lot #109
Illustration courtesy PHILLIPS de PURY & CO. IMAGES LTD., 2011


Robert Frank’s “Fourth of July--Jay, New York”, another image from “The Americans” taken in 1955, easily made its $50,000-$70,000 pre-sale estimate. With buyer’s premium, the 1970s print walked out the door for $92,500. The Phillips de Pury & Co. catalog entry for this lot is particularly telling:

“The Flag in “Fourth of July” appears to be prominent in its central occupation of the scene, a closer inspection subverts said perception. Evidence of haphazard restoration abounds, from the mismatched patches to the extensive stitches across the stripes, collectively turning the flag to a worn, scarred drape. Moreover, a gaping tear along the lower edge speaks of the flag’s unraveling on literal and figurative levels alike. Its cropping at the top reflects the waning respect with which it has come to be treated. Of significance also, is the flag being see-through, a ghost of sorts, standing motionless over the scene unfolding in front of the viewers. Despite, or perhaps because of his foreign origin, Frank neatly captured the country’s shifting attitude toward patriotism, and expressed his nostalgia for a bygone era.”

Marisa Nakasone, writing for “Wunderkammer” magazine in 2009, comments on the same image:

“Unlike the uplifting “open and shut” photo narratives popularized by “Life” and “Look!” magazines, Frank’s image here tells a decidedly critical and uncertain tale of American culture. The most glaring irony of this image lies in the homogeneous, WASP population of this middle class gathering, which signifies by virtue of its conspicuous whiteness, the absence of minorities, particularly African-Americans—a community which confronts the ironies and disparities of living as second class citizens in a country founded on the tenet that all men are created equal. The flag, fragmented by the borders of the photograph, mirrors the disintegration of a supposedly unified and equal American population.”

BILL BRANDT
A snicket,'Hail, Hell and Halifax', 1937
Gelatin silver print / printed 1970s
13 3/8 by 11 3/8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $10,000-$15,000
Price reized: $21,250
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO.: "Photographs", #NY040111
April 9, 2011
Lot #61
Illustration courtesy PHILLIPS de PURY & CO. IMAGES LTD., 2011


Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1904 to an English father and a German mother, Bill Brandt worked as an assistant to Man Ray in 1929 in Paris in the golden age of Surrealism. Famous mostly for his portraits and reportage style work, Brandt also had a passion for landscape and imposed his personality on every picture.

“A Snicket, Hail, Hell and Halifax” (1937), like many of his photographs of the 1930s, serves two different aims. On one level it documents part of an industrial town which was later sold to a popular magazine called “Lilliput” that greatly admired his photographic style and nurtured his talent. At another, it constructs a dreamscape that utilizes the steep path, the gleaming cobbles of the lane and the strong converging lines made by the walls and the handrail on either side of the path to transport the viewer to a place with a timeless and surreal quality. It is a classic example of atmosphere achieved through subtraction.

Although recognizably linked to a particular place, “A Snicket” related as much to Brandt’s inner vision as to the external world. Brandt’s process of photographing at the site (lens and film selection, framing, exposure, etc.) and his intensification of atmosphere later in the darkroom would not look out of place in a German Expressionist film such as Robert Wiene’s “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920). This combination of the found and the imagined was Brandt’s distinctive contribution to photography.

Recap
Enthusiasts looking to invest in mature and high-performing photographs are still caught in a supply and demand imbalance. With so much turbulence in the world, collectors and dealers are still reluctant to let great things go, making it hard to find good material. Artworks from great artists that display values and attitudes that can be clearly defined and are a product or viewpoint of a particular time are being snapped up when available and for prices that seem huge in this economy.

Thanks go to www.artnet.com for extending its ‘Price Database’ to track previous prices on some of the photographs referenced in this article.

RESERVES & BUY-INS: All lots from all sales are offered subject to a “RESERVE”, which is a confidential minimum price below which the lot will not be sold. The reserve cannot exceed the low estimate printed in the catalog or on-line. If the auctioneer decides that any bid is below the reserve of the article offered, he may invent bids up to the reserve of the article offered, after which he has to find a real bidder. The auctioneer may reject the same and withdraw the article from sale if the highest bidder is below the reserve of the article offered. The withdrawal is accompanied at the sound of the gavel and the auctioneer saying “PASS” as the hammer goes down on the article. Passed items are also referred to as “BUY-INS” and appear as missing lot numbers on the results page published by the house after the sale.

HAMMER PRICE, BUYER’S PREMIUM & ESTIMATES: For lots that are sold the last price for the lot as announced by the auctioneer is the “HAMMER PRICE”. Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips de Pury & Co. charge a premium to the buyer on the final bid price on each lot sold. The “BUYER’S PREMIUM” is 25% of the final bid price of any lot up to and including $50,000, 20% of the excess of the hammer price above $50,000 and up to and including $1,000,000 and 12% of the excess of the hammer price above $1,000,000. Prices in the “TOP 20” below include the buyer’s premium. Estimates of the selling price might reflect vendors’ expectations which might be too high or reflect an auction house’s strategy to publish unrealistically low figures to attract potential buyers. In most cases, the estimates reflect buyers’ and sellers’ expectations and/or prices realized from previously recorded transactions. Either way, auction house published low/high estimates should not be relied upon as a statement of the price at which the item will sell or its value for any other purpose. Auction house “ESTIMATES” do not include the buyer’s premium.

TOP 20

1) RICHARD AVEDON (1923-2004)
Marilyn Monroe, New York City, May 6, 1957
Gelatin silver print
40 by 30 inches
Executed: 1957 / printed: 1980
Ed.: ‘9/10’
Pre-sale est.: $200,000-$300,000
Price realized: $482,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, #2431, April 8, 2011
Lot #504


2) MAN RAY (1890-1976)
Untitled (Photomontage with Nude and Studio Light)
Gelatin silver print
11 5/8 by 8 ¼ inches
Executed and printed: 1933
Pre-sale est.: $100,000-$150,000
Price realized: $410,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, N08730, April 6, 2011
Lot #92


3) JAROMIR FUNKE (1896-1945)
Composition (From Abstraktni Foto)
Gelatin silver print
11 5/8 by 9 ¼ inches
Executed and printed: 1929
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $350,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, N08730, April 6, 2011
Lot #96
*WORLD AUCTION RECORD FOR THE ARTIST


4) MATHEW B. BRADY (1823-1896)
John C. Calhoun
Whole-plate daguerreotype in a gilt wood mat
Executed: 1849
Pre-sale est.: $30,000-$50,000
Price realized: $338,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, N08730, April 6, 2011
Lot #41
*WORLD AUCTION RECORD FOR THE ARTIST


5) PETER BEARD (B. 1938)
Maureen Gallagher and a Night Feeder at Hog Ranch
A unique mural-sized object with gelatin silver print and extensive illustrations in colored tempera paint in the margins with artist frame
Executed: 1987 / Printed: 1998
Pre-sale est.: $120,000-$180,000
Price realized: $326,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, N08730, April 6, 2011
Lot #145


6) RICHARD AVEDON (1923-2004)
Avedon/Paris
A portfolio of 11 gelatin silver photographs
Each approx.: 14 ¼ by 18 inches
Executed: 1948-1957 / printed: 1978
Ed.: ‘15/75’
Pre-sale est.: $150,000-$250,000
Price realized: $314,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, N08730, April 6, 2011
Lot #111


7) WILLIAM EGGLESTON (B. 1939)
Memphis (Tricycle)
Dye-transfer print
11 ¾ by 17 3/8 inches
Executed: c 1969-1970 / printed: 1980
Ed.: ‘7/20’
Pre-sale est.: $200,000-$300,000
Price realized: $266,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, #2431, April 8, 2011
Lot #480


8)3-WAY TIE
EUGENE ATGET (1857-1927)
La Villette, rue Asselin
Gelatin silver chloride print
9 by 7 inches
Executed and printed: 1921
Pre-sale est.: $40,000-$60,000
Price realized: $242,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, #2431, April 8, 2011
Lot #593

ROBERT FRANK (B. 1924)
Peru
39 gelatin silver prints mounted back-to-back with a spiral binding
The Museum of Modern Art, New York printed label affixed on the inside front cover
7 5/8 by 9 5/8 inches
Executed and printed: 1948
Pre-sale est.: $100,000-$150,000
Price realized: $242,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, #2431, April 8, 2011
Lot #452

CINDY SHERMAN (B. 1954)
Untitled #278
Color coupler print
71 by 47 ¼ inches
Executed and printed: 1978
Ed.: ‘2/6’
Pre-sale est.: $200,000-$300,000
Price realized: $242,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., N.Y.: “Photographs”, NY040111, April 9, 2011
Lot #171


9) DESIREE DOLRON (B. 1963)
Xteriors
Color coupler print, Diasec mounted
33 ¼ by 31 inches
Executed and printed: 2003
Ed.: ‘3/8’
Pre-sale est.: $40,000-$60,000
Price realized: $194,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., N.Y.: “Photographs”, NY040111, April 9, 2011
Lot #211


3-WAY-TIE
10) ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)
Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada, From Manzanar, California
Mural-sized, flush-mounted gelatin silver print w’ frame
30 ¾ by 38 ½ inches
Executed: 1944 / “probably printed” in the 1960s
Pre-sale est.: $100,000-$150,000
Price realized: $182,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.” “Photographs”, N08730, April 6, 2011
Lot #13

ROBERT FRANK (B. 1924)
Café Beaufort, South Carolina
Gelatin silver print
12 ½ by 18 ¾ inches
Executed: 1955 / printed: 1960s
Pre-sale est.: $40,000-$60,000
Price realized: $182,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO.: “Photographs”, NY040111, April 9, 2011
Lot #145

IRVING PENN (1917-2009)
Bee on Lips, New York, September 22, 1995
Dye-transfer print
15 7/8 by 22 ½ inches
Executed: 1995 / printed: 1999
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $182,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, #2431, April 8, 2011
Lot #573


2-WAY-TIE
11) ROBERT FRANK (B. 1924)
Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey
Gelatin silver print
9 by 13 ¾ inches
Executed: 1955 / printed: 1970s
Pre-sale est.: $70,000-$90,000
Price realized: $170,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, #2431, April 8, 2011
Lot #441

IRVING PENN (1917-2009)
Black and White Vogue Cover (B) (Jean Patchett), New York, 1950
Gelatin silver print
16 by 15 1/8 inches
Executed: 1950 / printed: 1984
Ed.: ‘1/16’
Pre-sale est.: $100,000-$150,000
Price realized: $170,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, #2431, April 8, 2011
Lot #458


3-WAY-TIE
12) ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE (1946-1989)
Flag
Gelatin silver print
19 ¼ by 23 inches
Executed and printed: 1987
Ed.: ‘2/10’
Pre-sale est.: $70,000-$90,000
Price realized: $158,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Crossing America: Photographs from the Consolidated Freightways Collection, Part 1”, #2522, April 7, 2011
Lot #293

IRVING PENN (1917-2009)
After Dinner Games, New York
Dye-transfer print
22 1/8 by 18 inches
Executed: 1947 / printed: 1985
Edition of 23
Pre-sale est.: $40,000-$60,000
Price realized: $158,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, #2431, April 8, 2011
Lot #578

EDWARD WESTON (1886-1958)
Dunes, Oceana
Gelatin silver print
7 ½ by 9 ½ inches
Executed: 1936 / “probably printed” in the 1940s
Pre-sale est.: $70,000-$100,000
Price realized: $158,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, N08730, April 6, 2011
Lot #20


5-WAY-TIE
13) DOROTHEA LANGE (1895-1965)
Migrant Mother
Gelatin silver print
9 ¼ by 7 1/8 inches
Executed: 1936 / printed: later
Pre-sale est.: $30,000-$50,000
Price realized: $134,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Crossing America: Photographs from the Consolidated Freightways Collection, Part 1. #2522, April 7, 2011
Lot #25

TIMOTHY O’SULLIVAN (1840-1882)
Ancient Ruins in the Canon De Chelle, N. M.
Albumen print, on the two-toned Wheeler Survey mount
10 5/8 by 8 inches
Executed: 1873
Pre-sale est.: $15,000-$25,000
Price realized: $134,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, N08730, April 6, 2011
Lot #42
*WORLD AUCTION RECORD FOR THE ARTIST

IRVING PENN (1917-2009)
Mermaid Dress (Rochas), Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, Vogue
Platinum-palladium print, flush-mounted on aluminum
19 5/8 by 19 5/8 inches
Executed: 1950 / printed: 1979
Ed.: ‘10/25’
Pre-sale est.: $80,000-$120,000
Price realized: $134,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, #2431, April 8, 2011
Lot #591

RICHARD PRINCE (B. 1949)
Untitled (Cowboy Watering Horses)
Chromogenic print
6 ½ by 9 ½ inches
Executed and printed: 1983
Ed.: ‘1/2’
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $134,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, N08730, April 6, 2011
Lot #167

CINDY SHERMAN (B. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #55
Gelatin silver print
7 3/8 by 9 ¼ inches
Executed and printed: 1980
From an edition of 10
Pre-sale est.: $20,000-$30,000
Price realized: $134,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Crossing America: Photographs From the Consolidated Freightways Collection, Part 1”, April 7, 2011
Lot #294


2-WAY-TIE
14) IRVING PENN (1917-2009)
Miles Davis hand and trumpet, New York
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print
10 by 10 ½ inches
Executed: 1986 / printed: 1998
Pre-sale est.: $25,000-$35,000
Price realized: $122,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., N.Y.: “Photographs”, NY040111, April 9, 2011
Lot #94

MAN RAY (1890-1976)
Solarized Male Torso
Gelatin silver print
9 ¾ by 7 ¾ inches
Executed and printed: early 1930s
Pre-sale est.: $70,000-$100,000
Price realized: $122,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, N08730, April 6, 2011
Lot #92A


15) PETER BEARD (B. 1938)
Tsavo North on the Athi, circa 150 lbs. side Bull Elephant, February, 1965
Gelatin silver print with affixed color coupler prints
48 3/8 by 79 ¾ inches
Executed: 1965 / printed: later
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $120,100
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., N.Y.: “Photographs”, NY040111, April 9, 2011
Lot #50


2-WAY-TIE
16) GREGORY CREWDSON (B. 1962)
Dream House
12 chromogenic prints
Each: 24 7/8 by 40 inches
Executed and printed 2002
Ed.: ‘6/15’ plus 5 APs
Pre-sale est.: $60,000-$80,000
Price realized: $116,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, #2431, April 8, 2011
Lot #419

WALKER EVANS (1903-1975)
Negro Barbershop Interior
Gelatin silver print
7 ½ by 9 3/8
Executed: 1936 / printing: unknown
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $116,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, N08730, April 6, 2011
Lot #53


17) IRVING PENN (1917-2009)
Woman in Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), Marrakech, Morocco
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print

15 3/8 by 15 ¼ inches
Executed: 1951 / printed: 1992
One from an edition of 40
Pre-sale est.: $80,000-$120,000
Price realized: $112,900
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., N.Y.: “Photographs”, NY040111, April 9, 2011
Lot #48


18) ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE (1946-1989)
Flag
Gelatin silver print, flush-mounted
19 ¼ by 19 ¼ inches
Executed and printed: 1987
Pre-sale est.: $70,000-$90,000
Price realized: $110,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., N.Y.: “Photographs”, NY040111, April 9, 2011
Lot #92


19) DAVID HOCKNEY (B.1937)
Walking in the Zen Garden at the Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Feb. 21, 1983
Photographic collage, in the artist’s original frame
40 by 62 ½ inches
Executed and printed: 1983
Ed.: ‘14/20’
Pre-sale est.: $35,000-$55,000
Price realized: $108,100
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., N.Y.: “Photographs”, NY040111, April 9, 2011
Lot #195


3-WAY TIE
20) ROBERT FRANK (B. 1924)
Paris New Year (Young Man with Tulip)
Gelatin silver print
13 1/8 by 8 3/8 inches
Executed: 1949 / printed: 1970s
Pre-sale est.: $40,000-$60,000
Price realized: $104,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., N.Y.: “Photographs”, NY040111, April 9, 2011
Lot #33

FLORIAN MAIER-AICHEN (B. 1973)
Untitled
Color coupler print, Diasec mounted
69 by 69 ½ inches
Executed and printed: 2005
Ed.: ‘6/6’
Pre-sale est.: $80,000-$120,000
Price realized: $104,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., N.Y.: “Photographs”, NY040111, April 9, 2011
Lot #206

IRVING PENN (1917-2009)
Still Life With Watermelon (New York)
Dye-transfer print
22 by 17 ½ inches
Executed: 1947 / printed: 1985
One in an edition of 21
Pre-sale est.: $30,000-$50,000
Price realized: $104,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, N08730, April 6, 2011
Lot #154



Total Sales Spring 2011 ….. $19,582,501
722 lots sold / $27,123 per lot average
[Fall 2010 ….. $14,530,091 total sales / 712 lots sold /
$20,407 per lot average]


SOTHEBY’S: Sales Spring 2011 ….. $5,632,188
141 lots sold / $39,945 per lot average
[Fall 2010 ….. $4,970,764 total sales / 196 lots sold / $25,361 per lot average]

CHRISTIE’S: Sales Spring 2011 ….. $8,148,063
346 lots sold / $23,549 per lot average

[Fall 2010 ….. $5,571,537 total sales / 262 lots sold / $21,265 per lot average]

PHILLIPS de PURY & CO.: Sales Spring 2011 ….. $5,802,250
235 lots sold / $24,690 per lot average

[Fall 2010 ….. $3,987,800 total sales / 254 lots sold / $15,700 per lot average]

 

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