DAYTIME PORTION OF SOTHEBY'S MULTI-OWNER SALE SPOTLIGHTS WATKINS AND WESTON IMAGES; BE-HOLD AUCTION'S PART I HELD THIS THURSDAY, FEB. 21ST; PART II SELLS MARCH 13TH ON EBAY LIVE; HOUSTON AIPAD DEALER JOHN CLEARY SUCCUMBS TO PANCREATIC CANCER PHOTO BOOK REVIEW: PHOTOFILE SERIES
DAYTIME PORTION OF SOTHEBY'S MULTI-OWNER
SALE SPOTLIGHTS WATKINS AND WESTON IMAGES
By Alex Novak
I am still digging out on the Fall auctions. Sorry for the delay. The daytime portion of the multi-owner sale at Sotheby's this past October never broke into the top ten of this auction, but there were still some good pieces in this part of the sale that certainly would have been in a top ten at many, if not most, auctions. The audience did dwindle down a lot in the afternoon to only about forty people. For the other parts of Sotheby's sales, see our last two newsletters archived here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/news/article_arch.php
. The prices here include Sotheby's new outrageously high buyer's premium. Christie's has instituted an equally high buyer's premium, but, of course, the two dominant auction companies' virtually simultaneous price hikes were not an example of a continuing pattern of market price fixing--just two megaliths following each other's lead. What is really sad is that I feel that this has really had a negative financial effect on both houses, as they feel freer to give guarantees to the big art consignors with the thought that buyers will foot their bills, which certainly hasn't worked out for Sotheby's, according to the New York Times and other sources. I suspect that Christie's has suffered the same, albeit less public, fate. Buyers are simply going to be more reluctant to bid as much with such fees and sellers will get less because of it, no matter what these auction house offer as inducements to those sellers. But they have gotten away with it in the past and their managements seem to assume that the sky is the limit. We will see. Thank goodness these particular auction houses are only one part of this market.
The Carleton E. Watkins' lots were strong and the bidding supported this quality. They were also early prints, unlike the previous major Watkins sale here, which brought way too high prices for that later material in my opinion. Lot 116, Watkins' Hutchings Hotel, Yosemite sold to a collector for $97,000. The same collector bought the next lot (Watkins' Yosemite Valley, No.4) for $109,000, underbid by dealer Deborah Bell. And then this collector bought lot 120 (Watkins' Yosemite Falls from Glacier Point) for $58,600. His string of Watkins was only broken by commission bids on lots 118 (Watkins' View in Webber (sic) Canon, UT) for $67,000 and 119 (The Devil's Slide, Webber (sic) Canyon, UT) for $39,400. The same commission bidder on lot 118 also picked up lot 121 (Watkins' Yosemite Falls, Front View) for $79,000.
On lot 127, Watkins' album, "Photographic Views of Kern County (misspelled by Sotheby's as Country), California", San Francisco dealer Paul Hertzmann was totally stunned to realize that he had stolen the lot for a mere $41,800, nearly a third below the low estimate. The album was a fascinating mixture of images and the photographs of close ups of fruit trees was reminiscent of similar images in the Charles Simart-attributed album that came from the Andre Jammes sale (and will soon be offered by Hans Kraus, Jr.). As Paul told me later, he never expected to get this gem for that low a bid.
One lot that should have made it into the top ten of this sale, but didn't, was lot 132, a complete set of Camera Work. Estimated at $100,000-150,000, the lot soared upward to $229,000 and was snagged by a man in the room.
An exceptional print of Gertrude Kasebier's "The Manger" (lot 133) sold to New York dealer Peter MacGill for just below the low estimate at $39,400.
One of my favorite lots was number 134, a waxed platinum print of Alfred Stieglitz's Marie Rapp in fur coat. Estimated at a very reasonable $20,000-30,000, the lot quickly doubled its low estimate and wound up--with buyers' fee--at $49,000. The phone bidder did very well indeed on this one. Another platinum print of Rapp (lot 137) was also nice, but not quite as enthralling, and it sold at low estimate to another phone for only $12,500, still a very good deal.
New York dealer Howard Greenberg fended off fellow dealer Bruce Silverstein and several others to come away with Walker Evan's Brooklyn, NY (Clotheslines and Smokestacks), lot 141, for double the low estimate at $49,000. But he couldn't prevail on the next lot (a large format, posthumous print of Evan's iconic "Main Street, Saratoga Springs), which a phone bidder snagged for $32,200. It seemed very high for a print made in an edition of 75 and printed five years after Evans died. A commission bidder then picked up Evans' portfolio (lot 144) for $56,200.
Lot 145, a variant of Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother in a Resettlement Administration print, flew over its estimate range of $20,000-30,000 to land in the hands of dealer Howard Greenberg for $56,200. Greenberg had to outlast lots of phones and commission bids on this one.
After a quick break for lunch, we came back to a nearly empty room of about 30 people, but with the phones and commission bids, Sotheby's still got the job done.
A phone picked up Ansel Adams' Oak Tree, Sunset (lot 149) for more than double the low estimate at $44,200. Another phone picked off Adams' Aspens, Northern New Mexico for just above the high estimate at $41,800. Still another phone went just over the high estimate on lot 162, Adams' The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, WY, at $73,000. Finally, on lot 163, the room picked up one, Adams' Rose and Driftwood, San Francisco. A woman at the front of the room got it for $73,000. But then it was back to the phones on the next lot, another Aspens, New Mexico, but in a larger 16 x 20 inch print, which this time sold for the high estimate at $85,000.
Collector Gary Davis (with Howard Greenberg's assistance) had to fight off a flock of dealers for Adams' Political Signs and Circus Poster, San Francisco, including Lee Marks, Paul Hertzmann and others. Estimated at a too-tempting $8,000-12,000, lot 168 soared to $44,200 before Davis could claim it as his own. The next lot, Adams' Oak Tree, Snowstorm, Yosemite National Park sold to a phone bidder for $53,800.
Edward Weston's Shell and Rock--Arrangement (lot 179) sold to a phone bidder for just over the high estimate at $44,200. Likewise, Weston's Dunes, Oceano (lot 181) sold to another phone for midrange at $46,600.
The second highest lot of this daytime session was Edward Weston's Nude on Sand, Oceano, which could have been printed just prior to a show in Paris in January 1950 at which it was exhibited. While New York dealer Edwynn Houk and the phones did give him a tussle, dealer Howard Greenberg still walked away with the prize at just over the high estimate at $193,000 with Sotheby's new high premium.
Two of the rare Miriam Lerner nudes by Edward Weston (lots 187 and 188) sold for well over their tempting estimates. The first lot sold to Weston collector Michael Mattis for $79,000 over the bidding of Parker Stephenson. Parker did pick up the next lot at $51,400.
A commission bidder outlasted Edwynn Houk on Edward Weston's Nude (Charis, Santa Monica) (lot 194) by bidding more than double the high estimate at $91,000.
The late John Cleary, Houston photo dealer who recently passed away (see related story), took lot 208, the André Kertész portfolio of 10 small prints at $46,600.
Alfred Eisenstaedt's Children at Puppet Theatre still packs them in, as a phone bid well over the high estimate at $44,200--still a little bit under some previous marks though.
Herbert Ritts' Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood (lot 241) sold to a phone, which overbid another phone for what felt like a ridiculous price of $109,000, over an already reaching estimate of $20,000-30,000. Why are all the silly prices made over the phone? Hmmm. This bidder also won an Irving Penn Cigarette #82 (lot 248) for $38,400.
Robert Mapplethorpe's Lisa Lyon with Snake sold just a bit (NOT!) over its estimate of $6,000-8,000 at $56,200! Two phones were also the bidders on this one.
Richard Misrach's color-shifted Diving Board, Salton Sea (lot 280) sold to the phone for $46,600. And Ed Ruscha's Five Views from the Panhandle sold well over its high estimate at $40,000 to a man in the room.
BE-HOLD AUCTION'S PART I HELD THIS THURSDAY,
FEB. 21ST; PART II SELLS MAR. 13TH ON EBAY LIVE
Larry Gottheim's 51st Be-hold catalog/internet auction is in two parts. Part 1, on Thursday February 21st, offers a rich selection of daguerreotypes and other early cased images, as well as images on glass. Part 2 will follow on March 13th with a major offering of photographs on paper.
The daguerreotypes in Part 1 include a wonderful framed 1/6th-plate view of a bookstore, full of interesting details, with people posed and prints in the windows. This building still stands in York, PA. Other outdoor daguerreotypes are an impressive side view of the locomotive "Vermont" stopped in a small town, a half-plate of a house with an addition that appears to be an inn, and another of a small town store. Especially noteworthy is a quarter-plate portrait of a British man o' war in harbor, with many sailors on deck and up on the masts, a gauzy blue-tinted Union Jack waving from the stern. Outdoor views in the slightly later ambrotype format include a look down at two well dressed equestriennes on their mounts, a pair of half-plates of a Kinderhook, NY homestead, and one of a farm wagon with livestock.
Revealing occupational portraits include an expert wallpaper artist, posed with the tools of his trade and a roll of his decorated paper. An enigmatic figure sports a hat with "WATCHMAN" on the band. There is a view of fruit peddlers in the poor part of town, a scarce subject in the daguerreian era that mostly catered to wealthy clients. A colorful "relievo" ambrotype shows a South or Central American Indian nanny with her two charges. An elaborately costumed man holding a mask, first thought to be an actor, is a Knight Templar. A half-plate tintype is a portrait of a salty shipwright with his gear.
The mainstay of daguerreian art is portraiture. Those offered include a moody portrait of a poetic woman who is pregnant, a handsome charming "bad boy," and others ranging from children (a very charming girl on her rocking horse, and another girl with her large dog) up to the aged. There is a rich and tender portrait by Whipple of a child with the mother just showing inside the edge of the mat. There are somber revealing and moving images of mothers with their deceased children. There is a significant group of portraits by the great studios of Langenheim and Root of the Tatham family, important Philadelphia religious, commercial and civic leaders. There's an early American quarter-plate portrait, 1843c, and one by Beard from the same period. There is a fine hand-colored French erotic stereo daguerreotype, and in contrast, a portrait of a French country priest.
Images on glass include a series of glass stereo views by Platt Babbitt dealing with his stereo operation at Niagara Falls, as well as an important glass view by him of Colonel Duryea's Regiment at Fort Schuyler. A rare important vintage positive on glass is a Civil War scene, showing the 16th Pennsylvania officers at a camp, with a black boy crouched at the side of a tree.
Material in Part I may be seen and bids can be placed directly at http://www.be-hold.com
, or via the eBay Live program.
For the past few years Be-hold has been increasing its presentation of larger-format images on paper. Part II offers a rich array of material with depth in many major areas.
19th century material includes an important print of Lincoln speaking at his 2nd inauguration. There is a lovely framed mammoth albumen print of a Hopi Pueblo by Hillers, and three rare mammoth plates by Watkins of the steam ferry Solano at Port Costa. Two unique 1857 salt prints by Mayer and Pierson show Bruxelles noblemen dressed for a costume ball.
Early 20th-century material includes vintage photographs by Paul Burty Haviland, Karl Struss (platinum print on tissue nudes) and Arnold Genthe. There are good prints of less common subjects--although not the most expensive ones--by Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. A rare offering of WWI reconnaissance photographs connected with Steichen is followed by a large print of one of them credited to Steichen. One of the most significant lots is a wonderful vintage portrait by Mike Disfarmer of a WWII sweetheart saluting, wearing her man's military decorations.
There is a good selection of vintage and some later F.S.A. prints, including images by Dorothea Lange, Jack Delano and Arthur Rothstein. Fashion photography is represented by vintage prints by Dr. Agha, Gordon Coster and Horst.
There are five signed photographs by Andre Kertesz and one by Roman Vishniac. Early and later printed Soviet-era photographs include images by Rodchenko, Khaldey and Baltermants. There are three prints by the rarely offered Mexican photographer Antonio Reynoso. Other prints in the sale include photographs by Barbara Morgan, Imogen Cunningham, Ralph Meatyard, Edmund Teske and George Tice. There are also scarce early photographs by Richard Misrach from his first exhibition series.
A section of the auction is devoted to color work, from an experimental Ektachrome transparency by Edward Weston to a choice selection that includes four color prints by Harry Callahan, two probably unique large format color prints by Halsman, and other color prints by Joel Meyerowitz, John Pfahl, Franco Fontana, Deborah Turberville and Mitch Epstein. The auction concludes with a copy of Helmut Newton's monumental book "SUMO."
There will be a preview of the Part II section of the auction in Manhattan on March 6-8th, with the auction via eBay Live on March 13th. The material may also be viewed on the premises in Yonkers, NY by appointment. Further information about the auction and about ordering the catalog can be found on the web site http://www.be-hold.com
. Bids may be placed directly, or via the eBay Live program. Contact Larry Gottheim at email@example.com
, or by phone at 1-914.423.5806.
VINTAGE WORKS' DISCOUNT ON NINE
PHOTOGRAPHERS RUNS UNTIL MAR. 15TH
Vintage Works, Ltd. has put most of the work of nine top photographers on a special one-month sale. After this time, the prices will revert to the regular price. This is a special opportunity to buy some top work by some top masters.
The photographers include such top names as Barbara Morgan, Clarence John Laughlin, Laure Albin-Guillot, Fritz Henle, Pierre and Jean-Marie Auradon, Geza Vandor, Susan McCartney, Walfred Moisio and Kim Camba. The images are stunning and most are vintage or early prints. The sale reflects a 30% discount. No other discounts will be given under any conditions and once the sale is done on March 15th sale prices will revert to the regular prices and will not be available. The buyer will also be responsible for shipping and any taxes/customs fees that might apply.
To view the sale go to: http://www.vintageworks.net/sale/sale.php
HOUSTON AIPAD DEALER JOHN CLEARY
SUCCUMBS TO PANCREATIC CANCER
Houston photography dealer John Cleary was a bear of a man, but of the "Teddy" type, and it was a shock to the photo community to have him pass away so quickly. He had thought the problem was diabetes, but it turned out to be pancreatic cancer, which was diagnosed on New Year's Day. John lasted out the month and passed away on the morning of February 1st. Many of us had seen him during Art Basel Miami week in early December. While he had lost weight and looked tired, none of us, including John, realized how serious it was.
I met John in the 1980s when he was still a private dealer doing many of the same table-top shows that we all did then. Then 12 years ago John opened his gallery at 2635 Colquitt in Houston. His associate, who really ran the place anyway, Catherine Couturier, will continue the gallery, so please go visit and buy some of John's selections.
Here's how his old hotel roommate and fellow photo dealer Barry Singer described him during his eulogy: "I never met anyone quite like John Cleary. What did I know? I was just a country bumpkin from Petaluma. John was from the WORLD…meaning Texas. He loved being from Texas, especially when it made others uncomfortable. He was always the perfect host. If you were in his town, you were HIS guest and away you went to his favorite honky tonk Bar, Blanco's or the best BBQ in Texas, and along the way you would always run into past wives and girlfriends…still in hot pursuit."
Houston collector and close friend Burt Nelson said this about John in his eulogy: "John was a totally honorable man and a wheeler dealer at the same time. If I didn't buy the print he had found for me, he would almost always have a second buyer lined up for it. But in an attempt to get prints into the RIGHT home, John would offer that collector a better price. If you ever protested about the price, which several of us did simply to get John riled up, even though we knew the price to be fair, John would utter one of his trademark lines, 'Where you gonna get another one?' John's death leaves a hole in my world, and in the world of photography. In answer to the question 'Where you gonna get another one', I know I can find another photo dealer, but I know I can't find another John Cleary."
One of his girlfriends told me that one of the reasons John started his gallery was to hide his gambling winnings. He was a gin rummy player extraordinaire. And his eulogizers, including his sister, all noted John's love for women and their reciprocation. Nelson said, "John did love his women, and vice versa. My estimation is that John kept every girlfriend he ever had. As he was bed-ridden in his last few weeks, women visitors cut a furrow in the carpet heading to his apartment. The guard at the building actually asked 'Didn't Mister Cleary know any men?'"
As you might tell from the descriptions, John was someone bigger than life. He was loved by many, including me. The service was attended by over 250 people, including a contingent of college fraternity brothers, ex-girlfriends, photo collectors and photo dealers. AIPAD dealers who came to services included Steve Bulger from Toronto, Andy Smith from Santa Fe, Terry Etherton from Tucson, Barry Singer from Petaluma, Henry Feldstein (who was a pall bearer), William Schaeffer from Chester, CT, Burt Finger from Dallas and myself. I want to thank collector Burt Nelson, who took us all out later to dinner at one of John's favorite bar-b-que places. A huge lightening storm lit up the horizon during dinner, as if John was letting us know he wasn't going quietly. Rest in peace, my friend.
PHOTO BOOK REVIEW: PHOTOFILE SERIES
By Matt Damsker
THAMES & HUDSON PHOTOFILE SERIES: ARAKI,
WALKER EVANS, ANDRE KERTESZ, DON MCCULLIN
2007, Thames & Hudson Ltd., New York and London. Each book in the series features between 60 and 90 photographs, most in black and white, and is priced at $15.95. Information: http://www.thamesandhudson.com
The Photofile series is Thames & Hudson's estimable English-language reissuing of the pocket-sized Photo Poche series originally produced by Paris's Centre National de Photographie, collecting the classic work of the world's greatest photographers in a simple, affordable yet high-quality format. These four volumes represent a powerfully diverse, globe-spanning sequence, beginning (alphabetically at least) with the arresting modern provocations of Japan's Nobuyoshi Araki, and continuing through the Depression-era images of Walker Evans, the seminal modernism of Andre Kertesz, and the powerful war and social documentation of Don McCullin.
Araki, of course, is nothing less than a photographic force of nature--a post-World War II eye that emerged in childhood from a Tokyo air-raid shelter and has devoted itself to an unblinking account of urban chaos, the unraveling of Japanese traditionalism, and ultimately, to a disturbingly erotic series of young Japanese women trussed in bondage. Araki sees the outward expression of a blighted world--in his images of children scampering through bombed-out streets, of lonely, broken souls being conveyed on escaltors like stoop-shouldered commodities, of overflowing trash and pop-cultural clutter.
Whether delivering the decisive moment in his street photography, or in the carefully composed and lit color artistry of his bondage photos, Araki's potent subjectivity is a palpable expression of what Alain Jouffroy calls, in his introductory essay, "a photographic novel, the kind of autobiographical tale that is known in Japanese as … 'the novel of the I.'" Indeed, each of these Photofile volumes captures the essence of their subjects with concise, first-rate essays and helpful biographic and bibliographic notes on each photographer that can nicely serve the needs of student or collector.
In the case of Britain's Don McCullin--whose battlefield photography during the Vietnam war evolved into a humanistic odyssey, capturing images of poverty and suffering refugees on the world's margins--excerpts from his autobiography are the introductory matter of this volume. "It has been said that I print my photographs too dark," he writes. "How can such experiences be conveyed with a feeling of lightness?"
There are certainly no tonal problems in McCullin's body of work--it is stark, shadowed, yet never self-consciously artistic. Images of dead soldiers in Vietnam, and their plundered belongings, make poignant statements about war's hell, just as the bitter hunger of Biafra, with a child suckling at the wrinkled, barren breast of his mother, speaks loudly and wordlessly, and McCullin composes these wrenching moments with such fluid instinct that we feel, mainly, that we are there; there's no rhetorical shirt-grabbing or hand-wringing. The subjects make their own case to us, not the photographer.
As for the Kertesz and Evans volumes, they contain photographs that are perhaps the most familiar in this quartet of Photofile books. Kertesz's spare 1928 image of a fork on a plate is a declaration of modernism nonpareil, while Evans' dry landscapes of the late 1920s and early '30s in a troubled America are the most enduring calling cards of the FSA (Farm Service Administration) photographers.
Still, these portfolios have the power to startle--especially in the context of the various artists collected in the series--whenever we may think we've seen it all before. Evans' later work is a wonder--his 1968 image of "Trash," for example, with pop-tops and matchsticks glimpsed from above, and the rough granite edge of the street's curb running vertically to the left of the frame. It evokes Barnett Newman on one hand, William Eggleston on the other, yet remains utterly true to Evans' vision. And it is reason enough for the claim that the Photofile series deserves to be on the shelf of every photography enthusiast.
Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published in the fall of 2005.
(Book publishers, authors and photography galleries/dealers may send review copies to us at: I Photo Central, 258 Inverness Circle, Chalfont, PA 18914. We do not guarantee that we will review all books or catalogues that we receive.)