Issue #165  11/2/2009
Christie's Kicks Off 4 Auctions With More From Berman Collection; Sells 88% of Lots and Totals $1.5 Million+

By Alex Novak

While the remainder of the Berman collection didn't have the drama of a million dollar-plus lot, it still did surprisingly well for what could only be considered largely average color landscapes (although some images were a stretch to call "landscapes"). Christie's managed a solid 88% sold by lot and the totals were over $1.5 million with the steep buyers' premiums. All prices below include these premiums. I will only hit those lots that broke over $20,000 with the premium.

Alec Soth's No. 48, Cadillac Motel, 2005, from his series Niagara, (lot 4) did very well, eclipsing its high estimate by a substantial amount. A phone bidder got the lot, which was featured on the front cover, at $21,250.

Lot 9, Erwin Olaf's The Hallway, sold to an order bidder after multiple order bids and phones bid the lot up to double its midpoint estimate. It sold for a whopping $25,000.

Eggleston, who was the focus of one of the Berman sales previously, did well here too. Lot 30 sold to a man in the room (bidder 177), who was fairly active during the sales here at Christie's. The lot, a dye transfer of Eggleston's Varner Grocery, sold for $21,250.

Don't ask me why but lot 34, a disjointed Stephen Shore (one of the most over-rated of the American colorists in my opinion) of U.S. Rt. 10, Post Falls, ID, sold to a phone bidder for well over its high estimate at $20,000. It was a chromogenic photograph printed later and so, mercifully, unlike most of his earlier badly color-shifted and faded photographs from this period of the 1970s, you could actually see what was going on (although you might be bored to tears with the actuality of it).

Lot 37, Richard Misrach's large "The Santa Fe", another chromogenic print from 1995, also was bid up well over its high estimate by a man in the room, who left immediately after snagging it for $47,500. Christie's indicated that the buyer was "private", whatever that means. Christie's used to indicate whether a bidder was a collector or trade and where they were located. It was certainly a strong image, although Fraenkel Gallery has shown several more interesting than this one recently, in my opinion, and probably a bit more permanent as well.

Chris Jordan's Container Yard #1, Seattle in color pigment ink jet print (lot 40) sold for double its high estimate to a phone bidder at $20,000. L.A. dealer Paul Kopeikin (whose name was misspelled in Christie's catalogue) must have been overjoyed at the price, which was a new world auction record for Jordan's work.

Another Richard Misrach, lot 107, Untitled #13-02, from On the Beach, sold to a persistent phone bidder over a woman in the room. The price, $68,500, established a new world auction record for the artist. Again, Christie's notes that the buyer was "private".

On Eggleston's Untitled, Berlin (lot 121), a bidding war broke out between New York dealer Deborah Bell and Ute Hartjen of Berlin's Camera Works. Bell won out with a bid nearly four times the high estimate at $27,500. While it is a strong and typical Eggleston color exercise of a dark green radiator and in quite a small edition size (1/5), I thought it was a bit expensive given that it is an early chromogenic print (at least according to the catalogue), very small in physical size (11 x 7-1/4) and German rather than American. By the way, Bell used numerous paddles during this auction and was apparently bidding for multiple clients here.

Bidder 177 was back on the next lot, another Eggleston, Untitled, Memphis, taking it for $20,000. It was a dye transfer, but it wasn't my favorite (a brick apartment).

Lot 134, Robert Polidori's 2732 Orleans Ave, New Orleans, LA, set an auction record for this group of work, although missed on setting an overall auction record at a total of $47,500. It sold to a phone bidder, which Christie's again termed "private". The image was used on the cover of Polidori's book, "After the Flood".

Lot 143, the back cover image of the Christie's catalogue, was a Stephen Shore that I actually liked called Sunset Drive-In, West 9th Avenue, Amarillo, TX 1974, but in a digital pigment print made in 1996 before such inks were encapsulated. That means that the print could be subject to some fading and color shifts if it is subject to ozone (this aspect of ink jet prints was corrected shortly after this). A woman and man battled it out in the room with the woman taking it for $25,000.

Stephen Shore's "Group of Photographs from 'Uncommon Places', 20 chromogenic prints made about 1994 (lot 146), sold to a single order bidder for the reserve, which was 25% below the low estimate at $37,500.

Likewise Bruce Davidson's Subway portfolio, a group of 47 dye transfer prints (lot 151), sold to another single order bid at 20% below the low estimate at $146,500. Christie's claimed that this was a world auction record for the artist, but I do not recognize group or portfolio claims like this, which should be reserved for single photographs. Again Christie's indicated that the buyer was "private".

Robert Polidori was having a decent day here. His NY Public Library, Reading Room sold to the room for $20,000.

An interesting Eggleston dye transfer print of red gas pumps titled "Near Greenwood, MS" sold to a man in the room for double the high estimate at $37,500.

Finally, Joel Sternfeld's ever popular and highly seasonal image of McLean, VA, December 4, 1978 in a 15 x 19 inch dye transfer sold just over its high estimate for $32,500 to an Internet bidder.