EDWARD WESTON
Nautilus, 1927

Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 by 7 1/2 inches
Pre-sale est.: $300,000-$500,000

Price realized: $1,082,500

SOTHEBY's; 'Photographs", N08624,

April 13, 2010

Lot #122

Illustration courtesy Sotheby's Images Ltd., 2010

Spring 2010 New York Photography Auction Re-Cap

By Brian Appel


In the spring of 2008 when confidence in the market was high, and inflated prices were flushing out stellar images, 34 photographic lots from the top three houses in New York reached prices above $200,000. This season— with consignors holding on to their art trophies amidst economic jitters—only 12 lots managed to reach that bar.

Sotheby’s
Sotheby’s—whose house slimmed down dramatically from their $17.3 million high in April of 2008 to this spring’s much more modest $5 million—saw a rare and exquisitely rendered vintage print of Edward Weston’s famous “Nautilus” realize more than 20% of their season’s grand total with a $1,082,500 payday. Purchased in 1927 on the installment plan until its grand total of ten dollars was paid, it stayed with collector Bernice Lovett for almost 75 years before it ended up on Sotheby’s auction block. In a 2007 catalog entry where another vintage “Nautilus” sold for $1,105,000) the text states:

"In the present image, the most famous of Weston’s shell studies, the photographer has presented his subject literally, in all of its corporeal reality. The shell stands in luminous relief against the deep black background, the striations of its exterior as well as its nacreous interior described with precise delicacy on the matte-surface paper that Weston favored in 1927. By isolating the shell, and rendering it with such intensity, Weston has transcended photographic documentation to create an image that operates on a higher level of representation."

Weston had successfully interpenetrated two separate texts in one photograph: the image presents an extremely high resolution “mimetic” representation of a Nautilus shell—with a verisimilitude and transparency that only a large format camera can provide. It also presents (if the viewer stands the image on its head) a “symbolic”, abstract image reducing woman to her genital essence; the two lips of her vagina.

Tina Modotti, a photographer, model, silent film actress and Weston’s muse and lover exclaimed upon seeing this work:

"Edward—nothing before in art has affected me like these photographs. I cannot look at them long without feeling exceedingly perturbed; they disturbed me not only mentally but physically. There is something so pure and at the same time so perverse about them. They contain both the innocence of natural things and the morbidity of a sophisticated, distorted mind. They make me think of lilies and embryos. They are mystical and erotic."

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy photograms—which the artist felt provided richer and more important insights into the meaning of the photographic procedure than do shots often taken quite mechanically with the camera—are deceptively simple: an object, or a series of objects are placed on top of a sheet of photographic paper and exposed to filtered or unfiltered light.
 


LASZLO MOHOLY-NAGY
Photogram, c. 1920s
Printing -out paper
9 3/8 by 7 inches
Pre-sale est.: $200,000-$300,000
Price realized: $290,500
SOTHEBY'S; "Photographs", N08624,
April 13, 2010
Lot #143
Illustration courtesy Sotheby's Images Ltd., 2010


As the catalog illustrates, this unique image, an exceedingly rare, early 1920s photogram, was produced by using a muzzle, the metal case of a roll film and a child’s rattle and through Moholy-Nagy’s manipulations “… transcend their quotidian associations and become instead pure abstracted elements within a precise and deliberate composition.”

The brown tonality and glossy surface of this print are characteristic of the ‘printing-out’ paper Moholy-Nagy favored early on in his experiments with the photogram. This type of photographic paper, with a silver-chloride emulsion, required sunlight, as opposed to artificial light, for exposure.

This unique, 9 3/8 by 7 inch object, signed and inscribed to Christian Zervos, the publisher and editor of the famed arts journal “Cahiers d’ Art”, brought $290,500. It was the second-highest price ever paid for a photogram since another Moholy-Nagy photogram from the storied 2008 “Quillan Collection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Photographs” sale—also at Sotheby’s—brought $301,000.

The Hungarian master’s unique image made-without-a-camera printing-out paper beauty placed 6th overall in the top 20 photo lots of the season.
 

MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE
Gargoyle, Chrysler Building, New York, 1929/1930
Warm-toned gelatin silver print with black ink borders
13 by 9 1/4 inches
Pre-sale est.: $120,000-$180,000
Price realized: $206,500
SOTHEBY'S, N.Y.: "Photographs", N08624,
April 13, 2010
Lot #78
Illustration courtesy Sotheby's Images Ltd., 2010


Margaret Bourke-White, arguably one of the most prominent photo-journalists of the day—she authored the front cover shot of the first issue of “Life” magazine—is represented in the Sotheby’s catalog with her famous black-and-white stunner, “Gargoyle Chrysler Building, New York”, 1929-1930. Commissioned by the Chrysler Corporation to photograph their new 77-story, 1,046-foot skyscraper while still under construction, Bourke-White made the exposure from the 61st floor, just outside her new studio 800 feet above 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue in New York City. Fascinated and challenged by technology at a time when technology seemed an answer to all things, the swashbuckling photographer captured the wonderful shine dancing off one of the eight eagle-headed stainless steel gargoyles on the building which was inspired by the 1929 Chrysler Plymouth hood ornament.

The 13 by 9 ¼ inch warm-toned gelatin silver print came with a $120,000-$180,000 pre-sale estimate. Its take home price was $206,500.  Another rare print of this image realized $96,000 in the fall of 1998 at Christie’s, New York.
 


EDWARD WESTON
Civilian Defence, 1942
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $152,500
SOTHEBY'S, N.Y.: "Photographs", N08624,
April 13, 2010
Lot #126
Illustration courtesy Sotheby's Images Ltd., 2010


Edward Weston’s “Civilian Defence”, a 1942 nude image of his model and muse, Charis Weston wearing a gas mask, was snapped up by the well-known Weston collectors Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg. Charis, who was Weston’s model for his famous dune nudes, was also responsible for writing the artist’s application that resulted in the first ever Guggenheim award in photography.

Rare to auction—the image has seen the gavel only twice before this spring’s sale—the 7 ½ by 9 ½ inch black-and-white print brought $152,500.
 

ROBERT FRANK
Butte. Montana, 1956
From "The Americans" (print date unknown)
Gelatin silver print
9 by 13 1/8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $30,000-$50,000
Price realized: $146,500
SOTHEBY'S, N.Y.: "Photographs", N08624,
April 13, 2010
Lot #160
Illustration courtesy Sotheby's Images Ltd., 2010


“Butte, Montana”, a 1956 image from Robert Frank’s iconic 83-image “The Americans” series was last seen at auction as part of the Seagram Collection at Phillips de Pury & Luxemboug, N.Y., in the spring of 2003. At the time, the brilliant image capturing a bleak and depressed, small-town America realized just over $25,000. The 9 by 13 1/8 inch print—that came with no estimated printing date—landed in at just under $150,000. Its modest pre-sale estimate was a very conservative $30,000-$50,000 belying the image’s central position within the artist’s oeuvre.

Christie’s
Offering enduring art with yesterday’s estimates was the strategy Christie’s implemented with their three sales of the season.

Their first single-owner sale, “Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs from the Collection of Patricia McCabe” turned out to be the success of the season.

The house’s modest low/high pre-sale estimate of $1.3 million to $2 million was easily surpassed with a commanding $3.8 million “white-glove” sell-through (70 lots offered and 70 lots sold) with the season’s highest per lot average of just over $55,000.

Mrs. McCabe, Irving Penn’s administrative assistant and ‘dependable right hand’ for more than 30 years was the lucky recipient of photographs that Penn had gifted to her over the years. The catalog describes how Penn would choose a print he knew she liked and inscribe it to her on the back, often drawing a heart around or beneath his name.

Philippe Garner, Christie’s International Head of Photography and auctioneer of this propitious event gives the reader an insightful backstory into the photographer’s close relationship with his trusted administrator with the following quote from Penn:

"Pat McCabe is the rock on which our studio stands. Among her many duties, a primary one has been as protector and caretaker of these photographs through the years. My professional decisions are made in consultation with her. She is the voice of our studio, its spirit and its conscience."

By the time of her death in 2004, McCabe had amassed 67 of Penn’s lush, radically minimalist images. Honoring her wishes, McCabe’s heirs waited until after Irving Penn’s death in 2009 to de-access.
 


IRVING PENN
2 Guedras, 1972
Platinum-palladium print, flush-mounted on aluminum
21 18 by 17 1/8 inches
Edition: '33/40', printed 1977
Pre-sale est.: $40,000-$60,000
Price realized: $314,500
CHRISTIE'S, N.Y.: "Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs from the Collection of Patricia McCabe", #2397
April 14, 2010
Lot #56
Copyright: The Irving Penn Foundation
Illustration courtesy Christie's Images Ltd., 2010


Landing in at $314,500, the top selling lot, “2 Guedras” from 1972, achieved a selling price almost five times the pre-sale estimate. Utilizing his signature minimalist grey canvas
background and buttery-soft natural lighting, the portrait of two Guedra dancers captures an unprecedented sense of drama the artist is capable of bringing to his subjects—even ones whose faces are mostly hidden.
 


IRVING PENN
Broken Egg, New York, 1959
Dye-transfer print (printed no later than 1964)
22 5/8 by 18 3/4 inches
Pre-sale est.: $7,000-$9,000
Price realized: $206,500
CHRISTIE'S, N.Y.: "Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs from the Collection of Patricia McCabe", #2397
April 14, 2010
Lot #6
Copyright: The Irving Penn Foundation
Illustration courtesy Christie's Images Ltd., 2010


Penn’s “Broken Egg, New York”, (1959), is the perfect illustration of an image created for a “job” in a commercial setting—in this case an advertisement for the manufacturer Ansco—that went through various types of promotional re-publication, then to scholarly monographs, and finally to the realm of the vastly expensive artwork. It’s the classic trajectory for a Penn photograph—this image, which graced the inside front cover of a “1960 Photography Annual” was fought over until it hammered at $170,000 ($206,000 with buyer’s premium), 19 times its $9,000 high pre-sale estimate.

In contrast to Penn’s more regular tasks as a fashion photographer and a portraitist of major cultural figures, the lensman exposed about 250 large-format portraits of tradesmen between 1950 and 1951. Dressed in work clothes and carrying the tools of their occupations, McCabe’s cache of these images in the sale—“Street Photographer, New York”, “Butcher, London”, Train Sandwich Vendor, New York”, “Plumber, New York” and “Motorcycle Policeman, New York”—present themselves with an eloquent simplicity and a dignity and pride that only a masterful photographer steeped in a humanist approach with roots in existentialism could possibly capture. Focused on the depth of the human psyche, these eloquent images (due to copyright restrictions these images are unavailable for reproduction in this article) brought hammer prices in the range of $50,000 to the high $70,000s. Pre-sale estimates hovered around $20,000-$30,000. Five years ago these hopeful, psychoanalytic portraits (when available) were trading in the $15,000-$25,000 range.

The momentum built by the white-glove Penn sale dissipated somewhat in the house’s second single-owner sale. “Selections from the Baio Collection of Photography” offered 119 lots of which only 86 found buyers. The per lot average was a much more modest $16,575. But at $686,500, Eugene Atget’s, “Joueur d’Orgue”, an image of “great drama and mystery”, circa 1898-1899, radically changed the fate of the auction.
 


EUGENE ATGET
Joueur d'Orgue, c. 1898-1899
Gelatin silver chloride print
8 3/4 by 6 7/8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $100,000-$150,000
Price realized: $686,500
CHRISTIE'S, N.Y.: "Selections from the Baio Collection of Photography", #2407
April 15, 2010
Lot #171
Illustration courtesy Christie's Images Ltd., 2010
*WORLD AUCTION RECORD FOR THE ARTIST


Setting a new world record price for the artist, the Atget image echoed Penn’s pictures of tradesmen in the McCabe sale. The Frenchman’s portrait of an organ grinder and a joyous young woman took home $686,500 as the highest image of the sale (by more than $630,000) and the second highest image of the season after Weston’s “Nautilus”. Without the world auction record this Atget brought in, the sale would have averaged a mere $8,694 a lot.

The catalog notes are particularly illuminating in ascertaining why this image captured both the spirit of the times in Paris as well as its huge hammer price:

"When this photograph of a Parisian organ grinder was made, life on the street was a common form of entertainment. Cinema was a brand new art and television was not yet imagined. Between 1898 and 1901, early in his career as a photographer, Eugene Atget made a series of portraits of the denizens of the ‘rue’. This picture belongs to a series of ‘petits metiers’, a common pictorial tradition since at least the seventeeth century. Always conscious of a world that was about to disappear, Atget published about eighty of his portraits of street tradespeople as postcards in 1905. Except for this series, Atget’s photographs are usually devoid of people. We find quite the opposite in “Joueur d’Orgue, one of Atget’s few records of a person smiling."

Made by the artist himself, this well-preserved gelatin silver chloride print—characterized by a much longer and richer tonal scale than standard developing-out papers—is one of only two prints that are in similar condition. The other is in the Gilman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Adding to the rarity of the work is the image’s stellar provenance. Part of a group of thirteen Atget photographs purchased by the avant-garde Dadaist poet, performance artist and writer Tristan Tzara (a.k.a. Samuel Rosenstock) in the early 1920s, the prints were bought directly from Atget when he lived at the Hotel Istria, a few doors away from the artist’s rue Campagne-Premiere apartment.

The final sale at Christie’s—its various owners “Photographs” auction—brought just over $4 million with 118 lots out of the 158 offered or 87% sold by lot. The average per lot final price (incl. buyer’s premium) was $34,365 making it the second highest per lot average of the season after the Irving Penn/McCabe sale.
 


IRVING PENN
Woman in Moroccan Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), 1951
Platinum-palladium print, flush-mounted on aluminum
19 3/4 by 19 5/8 inches
Edition: '36/40', Printed 1983
Pre-sale est.: $300,000-$500,000
Price realized: $446,500
CHRISTIE'S, N.Y.: "Photographs", #2304
April 15, 2010
Lot #325
Illustration courtesy Christie's Images Ltd., 2010


Leading the sale was a Penn print again; this time one of his most famous images, “Woman in Moroccan Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), Marrakech” from 1951. The platinum-palladium print, printed in 1983 and flush-mounted on aluminum came with an aggressive $300,000-$500,000 estimate. Edition number ‘36/40’ ultimately brought a very strong $446,500 making it the photographer’s third most expensive print ever at auction; his number one world record holder being “Cuzco Children” sold in New York at Christie’s at $529,000 in April of 2008 followed by “Black and White Vogue Cover, 1950”at the same auction at $481,000 which also featured his wife (Lisa Fonssagrives Penn).
 


CHARLES SHEELER
Bucks County Barn, 1918
Gelatin silver print
7 3/8 by 9 3/8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $100,000-$150,000
Price realized: $386,500
CHRISTIE'S, N.Y.: "Photographs", #2304
April 15, 2010
Lot #380
Illustration courtesy Christie's Images Ltd., 2010


Throughout his career, Charles Sheeler seems to have negotiated a truce between the incompatible extremes of European modernist abstraction (Cezanne) and conservative American social realism. “Bucks County Barn” from 1918, a just about perfect blending of American vernacular subject matter with cubist doctrine, grabbed the second highest spot of the sale at $386,500.

Alfred Stieglitz himself was one of Sheeler’s earliest supporters praising the photographer’s “straight” or new objective photography that diverged from his own more hazy abstractions of the city and the landscape. It was only later, when Sheeler had ventured into the lucrative world of advertising, accepting handsome commissions from Kodak, Firestone, Champion and Henry Ford that the lensman’s work became an anathema to him. Stieglitz believed that Sheeler’s almost religious pieties about industry was a violation of the “moral, virtuous aspirations” that Stieglitz believed drove all art.

Vintage mounted prints with the original overmat such as this lot are very rare. The catalog elucidates:

"The presence of the signature, title and date in Sheeler’s hand on the mount and the overmat with the careful lettering on the face make this a very special object. As the print itself has been mounted to the board untrimmed, it proves that Sheeler himself took extra care to cut the window mat to crop the image precisely as he envisioned it while allowing us, by lifting the mat, to see what he chose to eliminate from the negative. This uncommon handling allows us the knowledge of his working methods usually only available to those who have access to the photographer’s contacts or negatives."

Robert Mapplethorpe’s capturing of the seductive Zantedeschia Aethiopica a.k.a. “Calla Lily” at the instant of its peak of bloom captured the third top spot in the sale at $326,500. It was a record for the image by the artist at auction.

A committed formalist determined to distill the most beautiful aspect of any subject, critics have suggested his images are the prodigious offspring of Julia Cameron and Nadar portraits, Weston vegetables, Man Ray condensations and Cecil Beaton black figures all effectively mutated into exquisite contemporary hybrids.
 


ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE
Calla Lily, 1984
Gelatin silver print
Ed.: '9/10'
15 1/4 x 15 1/4 inches
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $326,500
CHRISTIE'S, N.Y.: "Photographs", #2304/2409; April 15, 2010
Lot #425
Copyright The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by Permission.
Illustration courtesy The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.


In this lot, Mapplethorpe’s “Calla Lily” emerges from darkness to aggressively occupy the photograph’s surface; “like slivers of alabaster that both absorb and emit light”, the sensuous presence of the flower as seen from below is thrust toward the viewer with the chilling confidence of an entity with nothing if not a forceful conviction. It is as if an attitude of challenge and aloofness is emanating from the seductive ‘pose’ of the lily.

Mapplethorpe makes a point here of not distinguishing between his flower studies and his provocative images of black nudes, male couples, a body builder’s perfected body, Patti Smith’s straightforward gaze—dramatic lighting and precise composition democratically pulverize their diversities and convert them into homogeneous statements offered up for our predilection and imagination.

Adding considerable cache and monetary value to the image is its infamous inclusion as the cover shot on the catalog of a traveling exhibition of 150-Mapplethorpe works entitled “The Perfect Moment” that were barred from being seen at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C..*  Pressured by the constitutionally forbidden mixed forces of church and state, the hierarchy of the Corcoran (Christina Ohr-Cahill and her board) and several members of congress (led by Jesse Helms) agreed to censor Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs. In June, 1989—three months after Mapplethorpe died of complications from AIDS)—on the night “The Perfect Moment” was cancelled, the Washington D.C. arts community projected Robert Mapplethorpe’s most explicit photographs, including self-portraits of the artist, to billboard size on the outside walls of the Corcoran. The exhibition opened a few days later at The Washington Project for the Arts near the nation’s Capital building and the office of Senator Jesse Helms. Ohr-Cahill, who did not explain why her board at the Concoran agreed to censor Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs, was “… virtually lynched by the art world and sent into exile in Florida.”

Phillips de Pury & Company
Phillips has traditionally attempted to combine the experiences and culture of the postmodernist generation of artists (as represented by Richard Prince, David LaChapelle and Andy Warhol among others) with the more classical, modernist image-makers like Harry Callahan, Irving Penn, and the two Edwards—Weston and Steichen. In their spring 2010 offerings, the Phillips team— led by their New York Director Vanessa Kramer—reached sales levels in line with totals at the height of the market two years ago but per lot averages have fallen preciptously.

In the spring of 2008, 154 lots sold for a total of $3.3 million, yielding a $21,230 per lot average. This spring’s total of $3.5 million saw 245 lots find buyers but with a lower $14,166 per lot total.
 


EDWARD STEICHEN
Wheelbarrow with Flower Pots, France, 1920
Palladium and ferroprussiate print
9 5/8 by 7 5/8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $150,000-$200,000
Price realized: $194,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO.: "Photographs", NY040110
April 16, 2010
Lot #216
Illustration courtesy Phillips de Pury & Co. Images Ltd., 2010


Edward Steichen’s rare palladium and ferroprussiate print entitled “Wheelbarrow with Flower Pots, France” from 1920 led their various owners’ “Photographs” sale with a hammer price that fell nicely within its pre-sale estimate at $194,500 (with buyer’s premium). Other prints of this image have come up for auction before (in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2004) but all were gelatin silver prints that brought in prices from $10,000-$32,000 depending on size, condition and provenance.

The catalog gives a clear description of Steichen’s experimental printing methods that went into the making of this much rarer print:

"The base for the image is a platinum print, or platinotype. The inertia of platinum renders the end product permanent from an archival standpoint since the platinum is partially absorbed into the paper. Moreover, the superior level of hand crafting skills necessitated by the process surpasses that of any other printing method at the time the image was produced. However, the plainotype is still limited in the feasible chromatic range, which prompted Steichen to conceive a means to add a richness, density and color without compromising the benefits of using the platinum process. The platinotype, upon completion, was recoated with a ferroprussiate (also known as a cyanotype or blueprint process) sensitizer in order to form a re-registered negative that was then reprinted. The final image benefits from the clarity and permanence of the platinum process, but with the heightened level of depth and realism proffered by the color re-processing."

The catalog also gives a fine explanation for the relevance and importance of the image:

"Steichen, at the onset of his career, and in keeping with the many artists who had been dabbling in photography at the turn of the last century, was heavily influenced by Pictorialism, with its strong emphasis on figural subject matter and Impressionist feel. In the present image, however, despite the romanticized title, the end result is far more Formalist than Pictorialist, of which Steichen has said, “[It] was certainly as realistic a photograph as I had ever made. Yet friends remarked that it made them think of one thing or another that had nothing to do with the wheelbarrow and the flower pots."

For years now, as Paul Laster has noted in his column in “The New York Observer”, David LaChapelle has made his living and his reputation as an outlandish fashion and celebrity photographer. Brazilian super-model Gisele Bundchen, Naomi Campbell, Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson, Madonna and Leonardo DiCaprio have been subjects for his camera. More recently, the lensman has gone on to direct surreal music videos earning him both VH1 awards and an A-list lifestyle. Then, five years ago:

"… the artist, now 47, stepped back from commercial work, bought a farm in Hawaii and decided to focus on making art for galleries and museums. (A move that met with skepticism, snobbery—and a spate of sales and museum shows from Tel Aviv to Taipei.)"
 


DAVID LACHAPELLE
Last Supper (Jesus is my Homeboy), New York, 2003
Color coupler print
61 1/2 by 119 3/4 inches
Pre-sale est.: $60,000-$80,000
Price realized: $134,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO.: "Photographs", NY040110
April 16, 2010
Lot #144
Illustration courtesy Phillips de Pury & Co. Images Ltd., 2010


Realizing $134,500 (with buyer’s premium) against a pre-sale high estimate of $80,000, “Last Supper (Jesus is my Homeboy), New York” from 2003 is a riff on Leonardo’s “Last Supper” where the artist tackles issues of religion and spirituality with a sense of humour. LaChapelle does a make-over of the famous biblical scene by replacing the apostles with characters out of a rap video; the wine replaced with beer bottles, the white robes replaced by Adidas jackets, baseball sweaters, corn rows and bling. The epic color coupler print (edition ‘5/5’) is almost ten foot wide.

Robert Mapplethorpe’s most covetable, vintage pieces in excellent condition are now beyond the reach of the merely wealthy photography collectors and have entered the league of the super-rich. With collectors from the world of high-end contemporary art competing for the same brand signature pieces that photography collectors lust after, prices are inching skyward.
 


ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE (American, 1946-1989)
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984
Platinum print
Ed.: '2/3' plus 1 A/P
19 1/2 x 19 3/4 inches
Pre-sale est.: $60,000-$80,000
Price realized: $110,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., N.Y.: "Photographs", NY040110; April 16, 2010
Lot #63
Copyright The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by Permission.
Illustration courtesy The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.


“Ken Moody and Robert Sherman”, a vintage platinum print in an edition of only three with one A/P in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum of Art is a case in point. Mapplethorpe’s celebration of homoeroticism, sexual liberty and inter-racial coupling, actualized within his signature, stylishly formal execution, makes this image a particularly sought-after trophy. The artist, who has been referred to as “the best classicizing photographer of his generation” and arguably America’s most important “connoisseur of subculture” died just five years after this image was committed to posterity, at the peak of his powers.

This print, which provides an exceptional example of an appropriation of stylistic devices from prewar studio photography (whether “Vogue” fashion spreads or neoclassical nudes) hammered at $90,000, well above its high pre-sale estimate with a take-home (after buyer’s premium) of $110,500 placing a comfortable third in Phillips’s top ten.
 

* A variant of the "Calla Lily" illustrated in this article.

 


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

PLEASE NOTE: Final prices for the 2010 Spring sales include the commission paid to the auction house: 25% of the final bid price of each 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. Estimates do not reflect commissions.


TOP 20
1) EDWARD WESTON (American, 1886-1958)
Nautilus, 1927
Gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 ½ inches
Pre-sale est.: $300,000-$500,000
Price realized: $1,082,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, N08624
April 13, 2010
Lot #122

2) EUGENE ATGET (French, 1857-1927)
Joueur d’Orgue, c. 1898-1899
Gelatin silver chloride print
8 ¾ x 6 7/8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $100,000-$150,000
Price realized: $686,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Selections from the Baio Collection of Photography”, #2407
April 15, 2010
Lot #171
*WORLD AUCTION RECORD FOR THE ARTIST

3) IRVING PENN (American, 1917-2009)
Women In Moroccan Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn),
Marrakech, 1951
Platinum-palladium print, flush mounted on aluminum Printed 1983
Ed.: ‘36/40’
19 ¾ x 19 5/8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $300,000-$500,000
Price realized: $446,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, #2304,
April 15, 2010
Lot #325

4) CHARLES SHEELER (American, 1883-1965)
Bucks County Barn, 1918
Gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 9 3/8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $100,000-$150,000
Price realized: $386,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, #2304
April 15, 2010
Lot #380

5) ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE (American, 1946-1989)
Calla Lily, 1984
Gelatin silver print
Ed.: ‘9/10’
15 ¼ x 15 ¼ inches
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $326,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, #2304
April 15, 2010
Lot #425

6) IRVING PENN (American, 1917-2009)
2 Guedras, 1972
Platinum-paladium print, flush-mounted on aluminum
Printed 1977
Ed.: ‘33/40’
21 1/8 x 17 1/8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $40,000-$60,000
Price realized: $314,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, #2304
April 14, 2010
Lot #56

7) LASZLO MOHOLY-NAGY (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Photogram, c. 1920s
Printing-out paper
9 3/8 x 7 inches
Pre-sale est.: $200,000-$300,000
Price realized: $290,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, N08624
April 13, 2010
Lot #143

8) ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE (American, 1946-1989)
Calla Lily, 1988
Platinum print
Ed.: ‘5/5’
26 x 22 inches
Pre-sale est.: $150,000-$250,000
Price realized: $266,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Photographs”, #2304
April 15, 2010
Lot #406

9) IRVING PENN (American, 1917-2009)
Four Guedras (Morocco), 1971
Platinum-palladium print flush-mounted on aluminum / printed 1985
Ed.: ‘6/18’
23 x 19 ¾ inches
Pre-sale est.: $40,000-$60,000
Price realized: $254,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs
From the Collection of Patricia McCabe”, #2397
April 14, 2010
Lot #65

10) IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM (American, 1883-1976)
Magnolia Blossom. 1925
Gelatin silver print
9 x 11 ½ inches
Pre-sale est.: $250,000-$350,000
Price realized: $242,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, #2304
April 15, 2010
Lot #319

3-WAY TIE
11) MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE (American, 1904-1971)
Gargoyle, Chrysler Building, New York, 1929/1930
Warm-toned gelatin silver print
13 x 9 ¼ inches
Pre-sale est.: $120,000-$180,000
Price realized: $206,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, N08624
April 13, 2010
Lot #78

IRVING PENN (American, 1917-2009)
Broken Egg, New York, 1959
Dye-transfer print / printed no later than 1964
22 5/8 x 18 ¾ inches
Pre-sale est.: $7,000-$9,000
Price realized: $206,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs
From the Collection of Patricia McCabe”, #2397
April 14, 2010
Lot #6

IRVING PENN (American, 1917-2009)
Cuzco Children, 1948
Gelatin silver print (possibly unique) printed 1964
22 ½ x 24 ¾ inches
Pre-sale est.: $100,000-$150,000
Price realized: $206,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs
From the Collection of Patricia McCabe”, #2397
April 14, 2010
Lot #14

12) EDWARD STEICHEN (American, 1879-1973)
Wheelbarrow with Flower Pots, France, 1920
Palladium and ferroprussiate print
9 5/8 x 7 5/8 inches
Pre-sale est. $150,000-$200,000
Price realized: $194,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., “Photographs”, NY040110
April 16, 2010
Lot #216

13) IRVING PENN (American, 1917-2009)
Poppy, Glowing Embers (New York), 1968
Dye-transfer print / printed1989
Ed.: one of an edition of 19
17 5/8 x 21 7/8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $70,000-$90,000
Price realized: $182,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs
From the Collection of Patricia McCabe”, #2397
April 14, 2010
Lot #5

14) IRVING PENN (American, 1917-2009)
Playing Card, (SM), Neg. XXXV1, 1975
Platinum-palladium print / printed 1976
Ed.: ‘33/55’
30 x 22 3/8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $20,000-$30,000
Price realized: $170,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs
From the Collection of Patricia McCabe”, #2397
April 14, 2010
Lot #9

2-WAY TIE
15) PETER BEARD (American, b. 1938)
Orphaned Cheetah Cubs, from The End of the Game, 1968
Gelatin silver print with ink, blood handwork and collage (printed 1998)
41 x 49 ¾ inches
Pre-sale est.: $40,000-$60,000
Price realized: $152,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, #2304
April 15, 2010
Lot #340

EDWARD WESTON (American, 1886-1958)
Civilian Defense, 1942
Gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $152,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, N08624
April 13, 2010
Lot #126

16) ROBERT FRANK (American, b. Zurich, 1924)
Butte, Montana, 1956
Gelatin silver print / printing date unknown
9 x 13 1/8 inches
Pre-sale est.: $30,000-$50,000
Price realized: $146,500
SOTHEBY’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, N08624
April 13, 2010
Lot #160

2-WAY TIE
17) DAVID LACHAPELLE (American, b. 1964)
Last Supper (Jesus is my Homeboy), New York, 2003
Color Coupler print
Ed.: ‘5/5’
61 ½ x 119 ¾ inches
Pre-sale est.: $60,000-$80,000
Price realized: $134,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., “Photographs”, NY040110
April16, 2010
Lot #144

IRVING PENN (American, 1917-2009)
Brother and Sister (Morocco), 1971
Platinum-palladium flush-mounted on aluminum / printed 1991
Ed.: ‘1/10’
12 x 12 inches
Pre-sale est.: $25,000-$35,000
Price realized: $134,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs
From the Collection of Patricia McCabe”, #2397
April 14, 2010
Lot #50

18) HELMUT NEWTON (German-Australian, b. Berlin, 1920-2004)
Self-Portrait with Wife and Models, Paris (Vogue Hommes), 1981
Gelatin silver contact enlargement
Ed.: ‘5/15’
64 x 49 inches
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $128,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, #2304
April 15, 2010
Lot #318

2-WAY TIE
19) JAROMIR FUNKE (Czechoslovakian, 1896-1945)
Kompozice, c. 1924
Gelatin silver print
9 1/8 x 11 ¾ inches
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $116,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Photographs”, #2304
April 15, 2010
Lot #360

IRVING PENN (American, 1917-2009)
Lavender Glory Poppy (New York), 1968
Dye-transfer print / printed 1984
Ed.: one from an edition of 21
23 1/8 x 18 ¼ inches
Pre-sale est.: $50,000-$70,000
Price realized: $116,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.: “Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs
From the Collection of Patricia McCabe”, #2397
April 14, 2010
Lot #34

2-WAY TIE
20) ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE (American, 1946-1989)
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984
Platinum print
Ed.: ‘2/3’ in the artist’s original frame
19 ½ x 19 ¾ inches
Pre-sale est.: $60,000-$80,000
Price realized: $110,500
PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., “Photographs”, NY040110
April 16, 2010
Lot #63

IRVING PENN (American 1917-2009)
Three Asaro Mudmen, New Guinea, 1970
Gelatin silver print / printed 1984
Ed.: one from an edition of 25
19 x 19 inches
Pre-sale est.: $40,000-$60,000
Price realized: $110,500
CHRISTIE’S, N.Y., “Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs
From the Collection of Patricia McCabe”, #2397
April 14, 2010
Lot #19


TOTAL SALES SPRING 2010
$17,883,815 ($35,577,525 spring 2008)

SOTHEBY’S, N.Y.
$5,081,265 ($17,302,050 spring 2008)
Photographs / N08624 / April 13, 2010 / $5,081,265 / 240 lots offered / 196 lots sold / per lot average $25,925 ($63,146 spring 2008)

CHRISTIE’S, N.Y.
$9,331,875 ($15,006,075 spring 2008)
Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs from the Collection of Patricia McCabe / #2397 / April 14, 2010 / $3,851,250 / 70 lots offered / 70 lots sold / per lot average $55,018
Selections From the Baio Collection / #2407 / April 15, 2010 / $1,425,500 / 120 lots offered / 86 lots sold / per lot average $16,576
Photographs / #2304/2409 / April 15, 2010 / $4,055,125 / 158 lots offered / 118 lots sold / per lot average $34,365

PHILLIPS de PURY & CO., N.Y.
$3,470,675 ($3,269,400 spring 2008)
Photographs / NY040110 / April 16, 2010 / $3,470,675 / 349 lots offered / 245 sold / per lot average $14,166 ($21,230 spring 2008)
 

 

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