Issue #131  7/23/2007
Phillips' Single And Various Owner Sales Do Very Well, Bringing In Additional $6.8 Million

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

The Phillips sales continued the next day with work from the collection of Alain Dominique Perrin tucked in the middle of the various owner material, even though it had its own catalogue.

Robert Frank's "US 285, NM", 1955/c. 1975 ($20,000–$30,000), one of the great American road photographs, had numerous bidders trying to hitch a ride. Ultimately Ute Hartjen left Howard Greenberg standing by the side of the road, though the fare was $84,000. An order bidder went just over high estimate for Avedon's "Dovima with Elephants", paying $102,000. A phone bidder swept up two William Eggleston's, "Near Minter City and Glendora, MS" for $66,000 and "Whitehaven, MS" for $57,600.

Jeffrey Fraenkel plucked Irving Penn's "Woman with Roses" for $324,000, "only" one-third over the high estimate, and the second highest price of the day sale. It shattered the previous record for the image by over $100,000. Then Penn's "Summer Sleep" went for a premium of $84,000.

A bit later a group of contemporary Chinese photographs from the collection of Lawrence and Kathy Schiller came up. Qiu Zhijie's "Tattoo II" brought the low estimate of $72,000 from the phones, and Zhang Huan's "To Raise the Water Level in a Fish Pond" was scooped up just over high estimate at $62,400, but several others failed to sell.

A phone bidder saw something in Man Ray's "Self-Portrait", 1957, a sheet of metal in the artist's original frame (and not a photograph), from the collection of Soizic Audouard, as it went for $50,400.

The ramshackle clapboard shed of Paul Strand's "Stockburger's Farm, East Jamica, VT" brought $84,000 from the phones, proving that real estate prices really have no ceiling in New York. Another phone bidder took Strand's abandoned house, "Ghost Town, Red River, NM" at only $48,000. Location, location, location!

Robert Frank's "New York City, 7 Bleeker Street, September, 1993" reached $55,200, a 50% premium over the high estimate. Dallas dealer Burt Finger then paid the midpoint of the estimate, $42,000, for the Lee Friedlander-Jim Dine portfolio "Photographs & Etchings". And Ute Hartjen made off with the portfolio "Garry Winogrand, 1960–1974" for only $45,600, below the low estimate.

A phone bidder doubled the high estimate at $72,000 for Irving Penn's sexy and surreal "Chanel Feather Headdress", from an edition of seven. Another phone bidder chugged off with a great, unique set of 58 of O. Winston Link's Special Edition Photographs for $180,000, the low estimate, and a record price for a single lot by Link. Then Jeffrey Fraenkel fell just short of quadrupling the high estimate for Robert Adams's luminous "Berthoud, CO", paying $45,600, also a world record.

Richard Morehouse won Lewis Baltz's portfolio of 15 silver prints, "Nevada", at $45,600 and a phone bidder paid $54,000 for Baltz's portfolio "Candlestick Point", with 72 silver prints and 12 color coupler print. And finally, at 12:45 pm, a phone bidder closed out the long morning session by doubling the high estimate at $48,000 for Francesca Woodman's untitled image from her House Series.

Back we came at 2 pm, but it was clear there was no way we could sit through the entire afternoon and still get across town and uptown to Sotheby's evening sale in time. The afternoon session began with the Perrin Collection. Perrin's Baldessari had been sold the night before, but there were still a number of good pictures here. Peter MacGill outbid Ute Hartjen at $60,000 for Robert Frank's "Longchamp", 1948 ($20,000–$30,000), a young woman with a bouquet of wildflowers sleeping on a lawn. A phone bidder went to $90,000 for Penn's "Picasso (B), Cannes".

An Adams "Moonrise" sold for $45,600, his "The Teton Range and the Snake River" ($20,000–$30,000) meandered up to $60,000, and his "Winter Sunrise" sparkled at $49,200.

Howard Greenberg fell short as a Man Ray Rayograph fetched $312,000, the third highest price of the sale. Peter MacGill captured Weston's "Nude in Patio" at $60,000. Bruce Silverstein took Weston's "Dunes, Oceano", at $84,000, but lost out on "Black Dunes, Oceano" at the same price.

Ute Hartjen won the top lot of the day, Penn's "Harlequin Dress", at $384,000, a record for the image and the second highest price at auction for his work. Prints sold for $240,000 and for $352,000 last year. A hungry Kathryn McCarver Root paid $108,000, a 50% premium, for Penn's "Frozen Foods with String Beans".

Phone bidders also went over high estimate for two fine modernist pictures: Frantisek Drtikol's "Nude with Circles" at $114,000 and Tina Modotti's "Glasses" at $96,000. By the time the bidding got to lot 294, still far from the end, Peter Beard's "Lake Rudolf", auctioneer Simon de Pury took the bidding up to $88,000, but with the long day wearing on him, he got uncharacteristically confused and asked for a next bid of $60,000. When the associate on the phone shouted out the proper next bid of $90,000, Simon gleefully replied, "I like your bidding technique." One can hardly blame him for losing his place—all auctioneers have done it at one time or another—but it was a sign of everyone's frazzled attention spans. And those of us in the audience had been at it for almost three days with another big evening sale and a day sale to come. The lot finally hammered to the phone for $95,000 or $114,000 with premium.

Sugimoto's "Sea of Japan, Oki", floated to $54,000. And Howard Greenberg swooped in to take Cindy Sherman's "Untitled Film Still #20" at $132,000, more than double the high estimate. A phone bidder took three separate Louise Lawlers, including "Positional Together, Tous les Deux Ensemble" at $48,000. An internet bidder snacked on Irving Penn's "Still Life with Watermelon" at a cost of $49,000. That was the last of the important lots from the Perrin Collection and when the last of the Perrin lots, number 327, hammered, the clock read 4:11 pm.

As we returned to the regular catalogue, Rick Wester took over as auctioneer. By the time he reached lot 350, Joel Sternfeld's "Renegade Elephant", Wester sighed, "I know how he feels." But then I had to leave to get to Sotheby's in time for the evening sale. Still several lots after that were noteworthy. Sally Mann's "Virginia at 6" ($10,000–$15,000) brought an extraordinary $52,800. James Casebere's "Blue Hallway" ($20,000–$30,000) sold for $60,000, another world record. Thomas Ruff's "Nudes wf 09" solicited $54,000 and his "Substrat 17 III" ($60,000–$80,000) $90,000. Lastly, Hiroshi Sugimoto's theater, "Avalon, Catalina Island" ($20,000–$30,000) played to a packed house, also at $90,000.

The single owner collections in the Photographs sale performed remarkably well. The collection of Alain Dominique Perrin consisting of 93 lots was 87% sold by lot and 96% by value, while setting a number of records. The Property of a Swiss Foundation composed of 53 lots was 100% sold both by lot and value, exceeding the high end of the estimates by almost $300,000 and set several records for important photographs.

World records also were established at this sale for photographs by Mark Cohen, Luis Gonzalez Palma, Izima Kaoru, Ruud Van Empel, Wim Wenders, Dodo Jin Ming and Edward Burtynsky. The combined sales of the "27 Exceptional Photographs" sale on April 24 and the Photographs sale on April 25 achieved a total value of $10,413,165. As Rick Wester, Phillips Worldwide Head of Photographs at the time, pointed out, "The sale total of over $10 million in effect matches what the department sold all of last year."

Editor's note: Despite this amazing turnaround at beleaguered Phillips, Rick Wester and New York Head of Photography Lisa Newlin found themselves dismissed this month by De Pury (see above story).

(Copyright ©2007 by The Photograph Collector.)

My thanks to Steve Perloff and The Photograph Collector Newsletter for giving me permission to use this information. The Photograph Collector, which is a wonderful newsletter that I can heartily recommend, is published monthly and is available by subscription for $149.95. You can phone 1-215-891-0214 and charge your subscription or send a check or money order to: The Photograph Collector, 340 East Maple Ave., Suite 200, Langhorne, PA 19047. Or to order The Photograph Collector Newsletter online, go to: http://www.photoreview.org.