Issue #139  1/3/2008
Artcurial Sets New World Record For 19th-Century Lot At Auction, as Le Gray Chalon Album Goes For Over $1 Million

By Alex Novak

At Artcurial's November 17th auction, three records were broken on one lot. The lot was a very rare and complete Chalon album by Gustave Le Gray that was simply the finest that has come on the market, eclipsing several previous albums in terms of its high quality, especially on the key images in the album.

New York dealer Hans P. Kraus, Jr. outbid the room and the phone to take the lot for 696,730 euros, including the premium. At the official bank exchange rate of that day, the total was $1,021,300, which broke the previous world auction record for a 19th-century photograph, the French and Continental European record for a photograph at auction, and the world auction record for a Gustave Le Gray. It put Le Gray back on top of the auction records for a 19th-century photography lot, which Le Gray's Grande Vague, or Great Wave, had set at the first Andre Jammes' sale until it was unseated by a Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey daguerreotype, which then held the previous auction record for a 19th-century photography lot at $922,488 until this sale, although it is still the highest priced individual 19th-century photograph at auction.

The last reasonably good (but not in the same class as this one) Chalon album to come up at auction was eight years ago during the first Jammes sale, and it sold for just over $650,000 at that time.

Kraus found himself bidding with plenty of company, including Hallmark's Keith Davis and dealers Lee Marks and Serge Plantureux--all in the room--and myself and, reportedly, collector Thomas Walther on the phone.

Novak has over 45 years experience in the photography-collecting arena. He is a long-time member and formally board member of the Daguerreian Society, and, when it was still functioning, he was a member of the American Photographic Historical Society (APHS). He organized the 2016 19th-century Photography Show and Conference for the Daguerreian Society. He is also a long-time member of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers. Novak has been a member of the board of the nonprofit Photo Review, which publishes both the Photo Review and the Photograph Collector, and is currently on the Photo Review's advisory board. He was a founding member of the Getty Museum Photography Council. He is author of French 19th-Century Master Photographers: Life into Art.

Novak has had photography articles and columns published in several newspapers, the American Photographic Historical Society newsletter, the Photograph Collector and the Daguerreian Society newsletter. He writes and publishes the E-Photo Newsletter, the largest circulation newsletter in the field. Novak is also president and owner of Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, a private photography dealer, which sells by appointment and at exhibit shows, such as AIPAD New York and Miami, Art Chicago, Classic Photography LA, Photo LA, Paris Photo, The 19th-century Photography Show, etc.