Issue #132  8/1/2007
Maggi Weston Sale Nets Over $7.8 Million At Sotheby's, With Only a 20% Buy-in Rate

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

The room was packed and pretty much everybody who was anybody was there for the evening section of the sale from the Margaret W. Weston Collection at Sotheby's. Take a deep breathe because there were only a handful of lots that didn't reach our normal reporting level and only a half-dozen lots that passed.

Phone bidder L0066 snared the first to Ansel Adams prints, "Evening Clouds and Pool, East Side of the Sierra Nevada" ($15,000–$25,000) for $55,200 and "Rose--Driftwood" ($40,000–$60,000) for $110,400. And Peter MacGill planted $117,600 for an early print of Adams's "Aspens, NM" ($60,000–$90,000).

The cover lot, Edward Weston's "The White Iris (Tina Modotti)" ($400,000–$600,000) passed at $340,000. It was the first cover lot not to do well in a while, I think. But L0066 relieved the pain by bidding $312,000, almost three times the high estimate, for Frantisek Drtikol's "Snezna Vlna (Snow Wave)", a semi-abstract nude. It was a record price for a Drtikol and the seventh highest price of the sale. A phone bidder won Josef Sudek's evocative pigment print, "In the Studio" ($50,000–$80,000) for $114,000.

Edward Weston's stunning and important "The Ascent of Attic Angles" ($700,000–$1,000,000) was next. This is one of two known prints of the image extant, the other held by the Smithsonian. The estimate certainly anticipated a world record for Weston--and it made one, barely, when Dale Stulz, on his cell phone, won the lot at the low estimate. The hammer price was less than that for Weston's Breast, but with the new, higher premium, the final price of $824,000 made the record. It was, of course, the top lot of the sale.

Imogen Cunningham's stark, modernist "Ampitheatre No. 2" sold just under its high estimate for $348,000, a record for the artists and fourth place in the sale. Kaspar Fleischmann chilled out with Ansel Adams' "Winter — Yosemite (Locust Trees in Snow)" ($20,000–$30,000) at $69,000. And Peter MacGill bundled up for André Kertész's "Vert-Galant (The Vert-Galant Garden in Winter, Paris)" ($80,000–$120,000) at $150,000, then enjoyed some summer boating with Atget's "Etang de Corot, Ville d'Avray" ($60,000–$90,000) at $198,000.

However, Margrethe Mather's "Portrait of Edward Weston" ($250,000–$350,000) passed at $210,000. Man Ray's portrait of "Lee Miller" ($25,000–$35,000) fared better, as Ute Hartjen grabbed it at $69,600. Then a phone bidder claimed the third highest price of the sale for Man Ray's iconic "Noire et Blanche" ($200,000–$300,000) at $396,000.

Brett Weston's "Ford Trimotor" ($50,000–$80,000), bought at Sotheby's in April 1999 for $46,000, bought in. This time Peter MacGill came to the rescue, taking Edward Weston's "Dunes at Oceano" ($100,000–$150,000) for $312,000, good for sixth place. Then a phone bidder conquered Ansel Adams's "Yosemite Valley, Winter (Clearing Winter Storm)" ($30,000–$50,000), paying $102,000 for the privilege.

Carleton E. Watkins's "The Garrison, Columbia River", 1867 ($200,000–$300,000), one of 50 prints from the celebrated album of Oregon views purchased by Weston in a sale at Swann Galleries in 1979, commanded $492,000, selling to New York dealer Hans P. Kraus Jr. in the room, a record for the artist at auction and the second highest price of the evening. Paul Strand's "Boat Houses, Wolf River, Gaspé Quebec" ($200,000–$300,000) also made the top ten (number five), as Peter MacGill (who else?) moved in at $336,000.

A phone bidder edged out San Francisco dealer Paul Hertzmann for Edward Weston's "Dunes, Oceano" ($100,000–$150,000) attaining tenth place at $228,000. Ansel Adams' "Moonrise, Hernandez, NM" ($40,000–$60,000) sold for $88,800. Did you ever think there would be a sale where this was almost an afterthought?

The next two lots were the only consecutive passes of the evening: Margaret Bourke White's "Trumpet Organ Pipes, Wurlitzer" ($70,000–$100,000) and Baron Adolf de Meyer's "Mannequin, Elizabeth Arden Advertisement" ($50,000–$80,000).

Two fashion pictures were next. Collector Jack Hastings bought Man Ray's "Model in Schiaparelli Gown Regarding a Necklace" ($30,000–$50,000) for $64,800 and Peter MacGill added Avedon's "Suzy Parker, Evening Dress by Jean Desses, Paris" ($25,000–$35,000) to his wardrobe for $115,200.

But MacGill had to yield to Howard Greenberg for Robert Frank's "Paris 1949 New Year (Young Man with Tulip)" ($50,000–$80,000) at $132,000. Auctioneer Denise Bethel got caught in advancing by $5,000 increments for Frank's London (Hearse) ($70,000–$100,000). Finally she jumped from $200,000 to the winning hammer price of $225,000, $270,000 with premium, good for eighth place.

Kathryn McCarver Root walked William Henry Fox Talbot's "High Street, Oxford"($50,000–$80,000) for $90,000. And Hans Kraus outlasted Jack Hastings for Frederick Evans's glorious "Crepuscule au Printemps" ($60,000–$90,000) at $192,000.

Jaromír Funke's "Composition (Abstraction with Plates)" ($25,000–$35,000) is a striking modernist picture. Yet it surprised many people when at least five bidders went after it and drove the price to a record for the artist: $252,000, seven times the high estimate and ninth place in the sale.

Boston dealer Robert Klein lit up the bidding for $52,800 for Sudek's "Still Life (Paper over Lamp)" ($25,000–$35,000). Indiana dealer Lee Marks dined on Wanda Wulz's "Futurist Breakfast" ($30,000–$50,000) for $64,800. Amazingly, that was more appetizing than Irving Penn's "New York Still Life" ($60,000–$90,000), which passed at $44,000.

The evening sale closed with Turid Meeker buying Avedon's haunting "Noto Sicily, September 5, 1947" ($40,000–$60,000) for $74,400; then New York gallerist Yancey Richardson outbid Meeker for Robert Mapplethorpe's "Calla Lily"($40,000–$60,000) at $168,000; and lastly Monah Gettner of Hyperion Press actually paid within the estimates--$40,800--for Joel-Peter Witkin's "Printemps, NM".

If this seems like the bidding was frantic and unceasing, that's because it was. The 40 lots offered brought just under $6 million and averaged more than $175,000 per lot sold.

Many of us were back the next morning for the final hundred lots of the Weston sale. While there were several good prices, none came close to breaking into the top ten. Among a run of Edward Weston pictures "Cypress Rock, Stone Crop" ($20,000–$30,000) brought $50,400 and Kaspar Fleischmann sped off with "White Sands, NM" ($25,000–$35,000) for $78,000. Likewise, among a run of Ansel Adams prints two were of note: "New Mexico Highway (In the Chama Valley)" ($15,000–$25,000) drove to $48,000 and "Penitente Morada, Coyote, NM" ($15,000–$25,000) was had for $66,000. Also from the ƒ/64 group, Imogen Cunningham's "Two Shells" ($50,000–$80,000) garnered $72,000.

While many more lots went within the estimates or even below them this morning, Peter MacGill paid $78,000, more than two-and-a-half times high estimate, for Walker Evans's "Man and Movie Poster, New Orleans". And a phone bidder almost tripled the high estimate for Sudek's "Still Life with Glass and Bottle" at $102,000, the highest price of this part of the sale.

Mike Wahlen, Virginia Adam's lawyer after 1980, paid $55,200, below estimate, for Gustave Le Gray's "Port et Ville de Sète, Mèditerranée". And a phone bidder went to sea on Le Gray's "Sailing Ships, Sète" ($50,000–$80,000) for $69,600. But three other Le Gray's bought in, as did three Cuveliers and several other 19th-century pictures.

Contemporary work did better. Two untitled pictures from Adam Fuss's series "My Ghost", (Poem) and (Dress), (both $7,000–$10,000) sold for $24,000 and $22,800 respectively. And Vik Muniz's clever Peter Factor (Shutters) closed for $28,800 on the same estimate.

By the time the morning sale concluded, the Weston sale had realized a whopping $7,819,700 with a 20% buy-in rate. Maggi Weston said, "I am so thrilled with the results. The sale went beautifully, and I was amazed by some of the records that were set. I am so happy for all of us, both for Sotheby's and for our family." Now to speculate on what's still in the collection.

(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.