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Art Market Watch
Sept. 30, 2005 

New York's fall art-auction season is well under way, and things are looking good. Christie's held its second "First Open" sale on Sept. 23, 2005, a wide-ranging offering of contemporary art designed to appeal to "new collectors" that totaled $6,320,040, with 221 of 262 lots finding buyers, or 84 percent. (The first "First Open," held last March at the tail end of Armory Show week, totaled $5.4 million, with 172 of 192 lots selling, or about 90 percent). Prices given here include the auction-house buyer's premium of 20 percent on the first $200,000 and 12 percent on the remainder.

The "new collectors" are a pretty aggressive bunch -- world auction records were set for four artists, and the average sold-lot price was an impressive $28,597 (with premium). "From Jackson Pollock to Barnaby Furnas, the market showed a strong appetite," said Christie's expert Andrew Massad

Top lot in the sale was Dan Flavin's Puerto Rican Light (to Jeanie Blake), a vertical red, pink and yellow fluorescent light piece from 1965, which sold for $307,200, about double its presale high estimate of $150,000, to a European dealer.  Later in the sale, David Hockney's Zanzibar with Postcards and Kiosk (1980), a small (19 x 24 in.) if exotic pastel, sold for $204,000 (est. $60,000-$80,000). What's more, a medium-sized work by Christo and Jeanne-Claude for The Gates, Central Park, New York City (2003) -- a large pastel and graphite drawing and an aerial map of part of the park pathways -- sold for $180,000 (est. $150,000-$200,000), a price that reflects the general enthusiasm and good feeling that greeted the project as a whole.

An auction record was set for Peter Howson (b. 1958), the Glasgow figurative painter who has exhibited with Flowers gallery in New York and London, when his 6 x 8 ft. Sisters of Mercy (1989) sold for $186,000 (est. $80,000-$120,000). A 4 x 8 ft. multicolored stripe painting by the late Washington Color School painter Gene Davis, Flamingo (1965), came into the sale with an almost absurdly low estimate of $8,000-$12,000, a sense the market seems to have shared, since the work sold for $84,000, a new auction record (and a still relatively modest price).

Al Leslie's stunning realist painting of Constance West in a satin dress from 1968-69 sold for $72,000 (est. $15,000-$20,000), an auction record for the artist.

For complete, illustrated results, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.

The New York auction houses are getting ready for a week of photography sales in early October.

The week begins at Phillips, de Pury & Co., with an evening sale of 65 lots on Oct. 6, and a second session of about 120 photographs on the following morning, Oct. 7. The total presale estimate is $4 million-$5,8 million. Among the highlights is a complete set of 30 prints of Nicholas Nixon's 1975-2004 series, "The Brown Sisters," which was issued in an edition of 50 (and a version of which was recently put on view at the Museum of Modern Art); the presale estimate is $150,000-$200,000. The sale also features photos by Gregory Crewdson (est. $40,000-$60,000), Andreas Gursky ($150,000-$200,000), Richard Prince ($150,000-$200,000) and Vik Muniz ($30,000-$50,000).

Phillips is also offering 45 works from the collection of Ann and Jürgen Wilde, who have played an important role in saving from obscurity photographers such as Karl Blossfeldt, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Alfred Ehrhardt and Florence Henri, with the proceeds earmarked for the Wilde Foundation, which is devoted to public photographic research and preservation. The sale also features photographs by Larry Clark, Robert Frank and Helmut Newton from the holdings of photographer Ralph Gibson.

Christie's three-catalogue series takes place on Oct. 10 and Oct. 12, 2005. First up at 2 pm on Oct. 10 is the collection of Gert Elfering, a German photographer who now lives in London, Dubai and Miami and whose holdings focus on fashion, nude and celebrity photography in works ranging from Man Ray and Edward Weston to Cindy Sherman and Thomas Demand. The sale includes 162 lots and carries a total presale estimate of over $4 million.

Immediately following the Elfering collection is a special sale of almost 40 dye-transfer color photographs of flowers by Robert Mapplethorpe, including four prints that were exhibited at the artist's 1988 Whitney Museum exhibition. The group of works, assembled from several consignors, represents the first time in recent memory that so many of Mapplethorpe's color photos have been seen together. The total presale estimate is $1 million-plus.

On Oct. 12, Christie's offers a various-owner auction of some 200 lots of photographs, which has a presale total estimate of $3.5 million. Highlights include Diane Arbus' 1965 A Family One Evening in a Nudist Colony, Pa. (est. $250,000-$350,000), Southern Suite by William Eggleston (est. $80,000-$120,000) and a complete 20-volume set of Edward Curtis' North American Indian (est. $400,000-$600,000).

Sotheby's two photo sales begin on the evening of Oct. 10 with 34 lots of photos from the holdings of Joseph and LaVerne Schieszler, longtime photo collectors from Hinsdale, Ill. The group of works includes classic images by 19 artists (Margaret Bourke-White, Pierre Dubreuil, André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, Man Ray, Tina Modotti, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston), and is expected to bring $3.2 million-$4.8 million.

Sotheby's two-session, various-owner sale of photographs starts in the morning of Oct. 11, with about 200 lots that all together carry a presale estimate of $3.9 million-$5.7 million. Highlights include several photos by Diane Arbus, including a print from the late 1960s of the 1962 photograph, Exasperated Boy with Toy Hand Grenade, N.Y. (est. $350,000-$500,000), and a suite of 28 photographs by Nicholas Nixon from "The Brown Sisters" series (est. $80,000-$120,000).

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