Issue #177  12/11/2010
Phillips De Pury's Best Sale in Several Years Nearly Nets $4 Million and Sells 78%

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

Phillips de Pury & Company's auction on October 8 totaled $3,987,800 selling 78% by value, with many of the sale's top lots surpassing their pre-sale estimates. The sale total is Phillips's highest in nearly three years, and half-a-million dollars above their April totals, further highlighting the market's increasing momentum, although again, the buy-in rate was 38%, reflecting the selectivity of bidders. Perhaps some in the room were distracted by the stunning view across the Hudson from the large picture windows lining Phillips's long, narrow, third-floor salesroom.

The day started with 15 sales associates manning the phones and 32 people in the room. That number eventually grew to over 50, but waxed and waned throughout the two sessions, hitting a low of 22 until the crowd dwindled even further at the end of the sale.

The highest selling lot in the sale was Irving Penn's Pablo Picasso at La Californie, Cannes ($80,000–$120,000), which sold for $182,500 to Peter MacGill. Another work by Penn, Chef, New York, sold for $134,500 to the phone, almost tripling the high estimate and marking a new world record for the photographer's Small Trades series. It took fourth place.

Iconic works by master photographers were likewise successful, as exemplified by Robert Frank's Trolley--New Orleans, which sold for $158,500 (third place) to Peter MacGill again; Richard Avedon's Brigitte Bardot, which sold for $170,500 (second place) to a phone bidder who bested Kevin Moore; and Robert Mapplethorpe's Calla Lily, which sold for $74,500 (ninth place) to an order bidder.

Contemporary photography also generated some strong results, as represented by John Baldessari's Life's Balance (With Brushes), which sold for $97,300 (fifth place) to Kevin Moore; Thomas Struth's Paradise 23, São Francisco de Xavier, Brasil, which sold for $86,500 (seventh place); Christian Boltanski's Fête du Pourim, and Hiroshi Sugimoto's, Ionian Sea, Santa Cesarea ($35,000–$45,000) which both brought $68,500 (tied for tenth place).

Ansel Adams's Portfolio Three: Yosemite Valley eked out $47,500, just under low estimate. And Dorothea Lange's The General Strike, Policeman, San Francisco, 1934 just reached its low estimate at $43,750. They went to a phone bidder and order, respectively. Edward Steichen's Foxgloves, France, 1926, also went to a phone just under low estimate at $47,500. This same print had sold at Christie's in October 1999 for $29,900, a compound rate of under 4% with fees.

An internet bidder snared André Kertész's Distortion #6, Paris, 1933, at $42,500. And a phone bidder went beyond the high estimate to $45,000 for Irving Penn's striking Gaultier Eye Earrings, New York, 1998 (in a small edition of six). Andres Serrano's Madonna of the Rock, from his Immersion series, 1987, just hit its high estimate at $37,500. And lastly, Barry Frydlender's Smoking, Sinai, 2004, also hit its high estimate at $52,500.

Frydlender was among those photographers offered for the first time at Phillips de Pury who performed well. Also Shinichi Maruyama's Kusho # 1, sold for $18,750, and He Yunchang's Earthly Possession, sold for $13,750; all mark new world auction records for the photographers.

Vanessa Kramer, Director of New York Photographs department, averred, "We are extremely pleased with the results. The competitive bidding on the higher value classic and contemporary works reflects the gradually increasing confidence in the market by sellers and buyers alike."

(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/.