NEW YORK PHOTO SALES,
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.
Other top lots included a complete set of Alfred Stieglitz'sCamera
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
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.