Issue #173  8/16/2010
Christie's Multi-Owner Sale Breaks Over $4 Million Mark With Nearly 87% Sold

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

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

Christie's afternoon session had some strong material, certainly much more interesting than last April's auction, and the prices reflected that. But the vast majority of the bidding was by phone, with some order and internet bids. Only about 20 lots were won in the room. So with that said, I'll give you the top ten in order along with several other interesting lots.

The top lot, not surprisingly, was another Irving Penn, Woman in Moroccan Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), Marrakech, 1951, platinum-palladium print, flush-mounted on aluminum, printed 1983 ($300,000–$500,000). Jade tried for this one, too, but surrendered to phone bidder #1861, at $446,500.

Charles Sheeler's magnificent Bucks County Barn, 1918 ($100,000–$150,000), a rare vintage print and the source of his notable 1932 painting, had been in the Arensberg family until now. The chickens finally came home to roost with Peter MacGill on this print at $386,500.

Robert Mapplethorpe's Calla Lily, 1984, a silver print with a low estimate of $50,000–$70,000, was the subject of a war between two botanists on the phone (well, probably not, but it's a funny image to imagine) with 1861 again emerging the victor at $326,500. 1861 also made off with a different Mapplethorpe, Calla Lily, 1988, a platinum print ($150,000–$250,000), at $266,500.

In fifth place was Imogen Cunningham's Magnolia Blossom, 1925, a gelatin silver print ($250,000–$350,000) at $242,500. Another flower, do you think…? Why, yes, it was bought by our botanist, or perhaps a honeybee, 1861.

Peter Beard's Orphaned Cheetah Cubs, from The End of the Game, 1968, gelatin silver print with ink, blood handwork and collage, printed 1998 ($40,000–$60,000), actually went to a European collector on the phone at $152,500. Helmut Newton's Self Portrait with Wife and Models, Paris, Vogue Hommes, 1981, ($50,000–$70,000) followed at $128,500, going to a European dealer on the phone.

Because we missed him--or her--1861 was back on a spending spree, claiming Jaromir Funke's abstraction, Kompozice, c. 1924 ($50,000–$70,000) for $116,500, and Irving Penn's Picasso (B), Cannes, 1957, a platinum-palladium print, flush-mounted on aluminum, printed 1985 ($70,000–$90,000) for $104,500.

Toronto dealer Jane Corkin picked up Robert Frank's Andrea, Mary and Pablo, Texas, 1955, (triptych) gelatin silver print, printed 1970s ($50,000–$70,000), tenth on the top ten, for $92,500. This print had sold for $72,000 at Phillips de Pury in April 2007.

A few other top lots going to the phones include Richard Avedon's Dovima with Elephants at $80,500; Helmut Newton's Fifteen Photographs under low estimate at $56,500; and Ansel Adams's Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada at $43,750. And while buying six of the top ten lots, 1861 also took home William Christenberry's English Rose (40 chromogenic prints) for $37,500; Ansel Adams's Mount Williamson at $43,750; Lewis Hine's Mechanic at steam pump in electric power house, 1921, for $74,500; Mapplethorpe's Orchid, under estimate, at $22,500; and the portfolio of 10 dye-transfer prints by Harold Edgerton for $40,000, more than double the high estimate. That sent 1861's spending spree to $1,454,750!

Christie's multiple-owner photographs sale totaled $4,055,125 with a meager 13% buy-in rate. That brought their three-day total to $9,331,875 (although they reported, "In their entirety, the sales totaled an impressive $9,298,875." I'm not sure where their discrepancy comes in.)

(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/.