Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  

Richard Avedon
Andy Warhol, Artist, New York City, Aug. 20, 1969
est. $50,000-$70,000
Phillips, de Pury & Co.
Apr. 27, 2005

Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Mary and Babe
est. $20,000-$30,000
Phillips, de Pury & Co.
Apr. 27, 2005

Albert Renger-Patzsch
Buchenlandschaft (Forest)
est. $20,000-$30,000
Phillps, de Pury & Co.
Apr. 27, 2005

Man Ray
Érotique Voilée
est. $140,000-$180,000
Christie's New York
Apr. 26, 2005

Hiroshi Sugimoto
Brooklyn Bridge 2001
est. $100,000-$150,000
Sotheby's New York
Apr. 27, 2005

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
Photogram with Diagonal Shape
est. $200,000-$300,000
Sotheby's New York
Apr. 27, 2005

Art Market Watch

One thing is clear from the spring photography sales in New York -- the upstart auctioneer, Phillips, de Pury & Co., is carving out a new niche for itself in the photo market. While all three of the houses carry the traditional fare of Stieglitz, Man Ray, Weston and Arbus (and doing quite well with it, too -- the $250,000 photograph is now a commonplace) -- Phillips is specializing in a livelier, more contemporary mix.

Under its new team of Rick Wester and Lisa Newlin (a veteran of Christie's, Wester moved to Phillips last summer, while the then-head of Phillips' photo dept., Joshua Holdeman, joined Christie's), Phillips is offering photographers who sell in the fine art market, like Philip-Lorca DiCorcia and Stephen Shore, as well as artists who work in photography, like Roni Horn.

The ordinarily restrained Wester took the auctioneer's podium for Phillips' two days of sales, Apr. 27-28, 2005, and turned in a lively performance -- "it was like he was a different person," noted one observer. (Phillips' founder, Simon de Pury, is also known for his animated way with the gavel.) In his post-auction statement, Wester referred to the "wild enthusiasm" of the evening sale. "Rarely does the auction theater reverberate with the action and energy we hosted," he said.

The overall Phillips total was $4,284,720, and the auction included about 330 lots; though the house didn't report a sold-unsold breakdown, back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that about a quarter of the works failed to find buyers. In general, the sale contained sexier, more interesting material -- entire swaths of the auction seemed to consist of nudes -- as can be seen by referring to Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.

The Phillips sale set new records for Richard Avedon ($96,000 for a 1969 portrait of Andy Warhol from an edition of 10), Tina Barney ($42,000, from an edition of 10), Philip-Lorca DiCorcia ($62,400), Louis Faurer ($63,600), Lee Friedlander ($78,000), Robert Heinecken ($60,000), Roni Horn ($26,400), Vik Muniz ($102,000, for a 1997 portrait of Jackson Pollock done in dripped chocolate syrup, from an edition of three), Albert Renger-Patzsch ($114,000), Stephen Shore ($33,600 for a portfolio of 12 color photos from 1976, done in an edition of 50) and Joel Sternfeld ($21,600).

Top lot was an oversized (ca. 19 x 26 in.) Ansel Adams exhibition print of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1941, printed ca. 1960-69) that sold for $120,000 (est. $100,000-$150,000).

Works by the legendary U.S. photographer Lee Friedlander (b. 1934), by the way, made a notably good showing at all of the auctions, with about 10 lots all selling substantially above their presale estimates. Perhaps buyers are anticipating the forthcoming Friedlander retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, organized by Peter Galassi and scheduled to open June 5-Aug. 29, 2005

Christie's New York Apr. 26 sale of photographs turned in the biggest numbers, with total proceeds of $5,001,140. In all, 253 of 334 lots sold, or 76 percent. "We were exhilarated by the level of healthy activity both in the room and from abroad," said Christie's photo expert Joshua Holdeman, "illustrating the further expansion of this market."

Top lot was Diane Arbus' Child with a Toy Hand Grenade, Central Park, N.Y.C. (1962), which sold to an anonymous European collector for $408,000, just above its presale high estimate of $400,000. The number two lot was Man Ray's equally famous Érotique voilée, his 1933 portrait of an ink-stained nude posing suggestively with a printing press, that brought $284,800 (est. $140,000-$180,000).

Other top lots included a complete set of Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Work (1903-17), which sold for $284,800; Edward Weston's palladium print of an imposing row of proto-minimalist, industrial-strength smokestacks, Steel: Armco, Middletown, Ohio (1922), which went for $240,000; Robert Mapplethorpe's unbearably elegant Tulips (1977), which sold for $156,000; and William Eggleston's moody dye-transfer print of a young man slouching in a southern parlor, Greenwood, Mississippi (1973), which sold for $120,000.

At Sotheby's New York sale on Apr. 27, the total was $4,972,900, with 176 of the 197 lots finding buyers, or more than 89 percent. The top lot was "a box of ten photographs" by Diane Arbus, printed by Neil Selkirk, which sold for $553,600, above its presale high estimate of $350,000 and a record for an Arbus lot at auction.

Other top lots at Sotheby's included Hiroshi Sugimoto's blurry, straight-on portrait of the Brooklyn Bridge (2001), which sold late in the sale for $168,000 (in an edition of five), just above its presale high estimate of $150,000. The auction also set a record for Clarence White (1871-1925), whose 1903 photograph of a boy with a glass sphere, looking out a window on a rainy day, Drops of Rain, sold for $105,500 (est. $25,000-$35,000).

Sotheby's also held a separate auction of nine photograms by Lászlo Moholy-Nagy, which totaled $782,400, with seven of the nine lots finding buyers (the house reported that the remaining two photographs sold after the auction). The works ranged in price from around $28,000 to $240,000, paid by an anonymous private collector for a 1926 Photogram with Diagonal Shape.