Photography is schizoid by nature. On the one hand it is devoted to fashion, documentary and history, on the other it plumbs the heights of carnality. So in the spirit of "link baiting," we offer you a quick review of last week's spring photo sales in New York from an erotic perspective. Sex, it's all about the life force, after all. You can write your own punch lines. Forgive us if we couldn't help throwing in a tricycle, and a picture of Marilyn Monroe.
Man Ray, Untitled (Photomontage with nude and studio light), 1933, $410,500
Signed & stamped, estimated at $100,000-$150,000 at Sotheby’s New York on Apr. 6, 2011, the week’s top lot. Only four prints of the image are known, and the others are at MoMA, the Getty and the Bibilothèque Nationale; this is the sole example signed by the photographer. To the left, you can see in the reflector an image of Man Ray in his bathrobe.
Peter Beard, Maureen Gallagher and a Night Feeder at Hog Ranch, 1987/1998 $326,500
This well-known if ridiculous image -- what could be more fashionable than a model wandering naked in the bush, feeding the wildlife? -- set a new record for a Peter Beard photograph. It is a later print, with margins decorated with African scenes (by two other artists), sold at Sotheby’s New York, Apr. 6, 2011.
William Eggleston, Memphis (Tricycle), ca. 1969-70/1980, $266,500
A dye-transfer print of one of the Southern colorists most iconic photographs, from an edition of 20 made later, sold at Christie’s New York on Apr. 8, 2011
Brassai, Le Corset Noir, 1932, $40,625
Probably printed in the 1950s or ’60s, photo sold at Sotheby’s New York on Apr. 6, 2011.
Lillian Bassman, Lingerie, 1951, $10,625
Straight from the Harpers Bazaar photo files, a gelatin silver print, in Christie’s "The Feminine Ideal" collection, sold on Apr. 7, 2011.
Brett Weston, Nude, 1981, $7,500
Keeping it clean in the water, from "The Feminine Ideal" at Christie’s New York, Apr. 7, 2011.
Stephane Graff, Rear Constriction I, 1991, $8,125
A celebration of bondage from a fashion photographer with a definite taste for erotica, this lot included a second photograph, not shown, both printed in editions of 25, part of "The Feminine Ideal" at Christie’s New York, Apr. 7, 2011.
A gelatin silver print, edition of 25, sold at Phillips de Pury & Company New York, Apr. 9, 2011
Richard Avedon, Marilyn Monroe, New York City, 1957/80, $482,500
The iconic picture of Sad Marilyn, this oversized (40 x 30 in) print was done in an edition of 10 in 1980, 23 years after the original negative was taken. The price was more than double the presale low estimate, and a new high for the image, at Christie’s New York on Apr. 8, 2011
Tom Kelley, Marilyn Monroe on Red Velvet, Pose #1, 1949, passed
Funny thing about these late prints of the famous Playboy calendar image, they don’t sell so well. Estimated at $10,000-$20,000, printed ca. 1950-59, this one failed to sell at Sotheby’s New York on Apr. 6, 2011
Albert Watson, Nude, New York City, 1986, $6,875
A similar pose from the fashion photographer Watson, who manages to imbue it with a bit more carnal energy. A later print in an edition of 10, measuring 56 x 38 in. and flush-mounted to aluminum, it sold just below its presale low estimate at Sotheby’s New York on Apr. 6, 2011
Gavin Bond, Legs from Backstage: Volume 1, 2008, $33,750
An enviable gig, photographing the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, and a smart vantage point, down there on the floor. Sold at Phillips de Pury & Company New York, Apr. 9, 2011.
Horst P. Horst, Round the Clock I, New York, 1987, $18,750
It’s an easy idea to get, this one of photographing up women’s skirts. This month was all about underwear with Horst, whose famous Mainbocher Corset sold for $57,500, as well as Black Corset, N.Y. (1948) and Round the Clock II, New York (1987), among other photographs, but we like this one, sold at Christie’s New York on Apr. 8, 2011
Helmut Newton, Two Pairs of Legs in Black Stockings, Paris, 1979, $31,250
No survey of the photo market would be complete without Helmut Newton, probably the most successful of the nude photographers. This photo, which sold at Sotheby’s New York on Apr. 6, 2011, was inscribed "to Adrian" -- perhaps it is Adrian Maben, who directed the documentary Helmut Newton: Frames from the Edge (1989).