Issue #173  8/16/2010
Baio Collection Breaks Over $1.4 Million and Sets New Atget Record At $686,500

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

(With some assistance by Alex Novak, although not responsible for the bad puns)

On the morning of April 15, Christie's offered Selections from the Baio Collection of Photography. Joseph Baio's collection focuses on images of children and their myriad and complex relationships with other children, parents, siblings, adults, and strangers, and it spans the history of the medium. A lawyer by trade, Baio has been a key supporter of the InMotion benefit photography auctions. InMotion offers support to low-income women who need free legal services in matrimonial, family and immigration law. And apart from being one of the genuinely good guys in the photography community he has been a key supporter of many young, contemporary photographers--and, dare we mention, father of Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio.

Yossi Milo and Howard Greenberg battled over two prints by Loretta Lux, The Rose Garden, 2001, dye bleach print, and Paulin, 2002, dye-bleach print (both $10,000–$15,000). Milo took the first at $27,500 and Greenberg the second at $30,000.

A young Asian woman named Jade (I somehow haven't learned her last name) who has been helping build a collection for her family, got a bit of a bargain on Lee Friedlander's iconic Galax, Virginia, 1963, printed 1980s ($20,000–$30,000) at $21,250.

Howard Greenberg bought Philip-Lorca DiCorcia's Brian in the Kitchen, 1988 ($12,000–$18,000) for $23,750. Paul Hertzmann adopted Henri Cartier-Bresson's Family, Mexico, 1934 ($20,000–$30,000) for $30,000. Then Greenberg came back to cool off with Weegee's Summer, the Lower East Side, c. 1937 ($5,000–$7,000), at a scorching $20,000.

Next came the key image in the sale--and one of the top lots of the spring sales: Eugene Atget's Joueur d'Orgue, the organ grinder, c.1898–1899, a gelatin silver chloride (printing-out) print ($100,000–$150,000) that originally came from the collection of Tristan Tzara. It is one of four extant prints known, two mediocre prints in French collections and a fine print in the Gilman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Naturally there was intense interest and extremely active bidding. First to drop out was an internet bidder, then Howard Greenberg consulting on a cell phone. Jade and a phone bidder went back and forth with determination, then hesitation as the high estimate was doubled, then tripled. Finally, 1842--perhaps the same bidder who bought several Penn's the night before--claimed the prize at an astounding $686,500, a world auction record for Atget, the highest price, by far, of the sale, and of Christie's three sales, and the second highest price of the spring auctions.

A few lots later a European collector bidding on the phone bought the second highest lot of the sale, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's The Water's Edge (Hungarian Sea), c. 1929 ($15,000–$25,000 for $52,500, but it was almost an afterthought.

Howard Greenberg bested Yossi Milo again for Philip-Lorca DiCorcia's Tokyo, 1998 ($10,000–$15,000) at $27,500, then closed out the significant lots by winning DiCorcia's Head #23, 2000 ($15,000–$25,000), tying for second place at $52,500.

The sale totaled $1,425,500 with a 29% buy-in rate. Though there were a few lower-priced bargains, this was a solid result and proved once again that money will come out for good works.

(Copyright ©2010 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, 140 East Richardson Ave, Langhorne, PA 19047. Or to order The Photograph Collector Newsletter online, go to: http://www.photoreview.org/wordpressindex/shop/.