Issue #181  5/31/2011
Christie's Multi-Owner Auction Tops $5.3 Million; Adding The Two Single-Owner Sales Boosts Christie's Total to Over $8.1 Million

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

Christie's Various Owners Sale the next day continued without missing a beat. There was even a slightly larger audience, eventually reaching 53 people.

The market for Robert Mapplethorpe's flower pictures is still blooming. His Flower arrangement, 1988 ($10,000-$15,000) brought $32,500; Tulip, 1984, signed by Michael Ward Stout, Executor ($10,000-$15,000) still reached $40,000; Calla Lily, 1984 ($30,000-$50,000) did the best at $62,500; and Orchid, 1985 ($10,000-$15,000) sold for $35,000. All of these went to the phones with phone bidder 1788 doing the most damage.

Gregory Crewdson's Dream House, a suite of 12 chromogenic prints, sold over estimate at $116,500, just making the top ten list. Erwin Blumenfeld's Hat and Jewelry, probably by Schiaparelli, 1938 ($20,000-$30,000) topped out at $56,250. It was one of many pictures by fashion photographers that dominated this sale. These, too, went to phone bidders, although dealer Bruce Silverstein underbid. While it had some minor condition issues, it was a dramatic and interesting image.

Josef Koudelka's marvelous Romania, 1968 (the squatting man talking to a horse) ($18,000–$22,000) galloped to $43,750. Robert Frank's Parade--Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955 ($70,000-$90,000) marched off for $170,500, sixth place. Both of these went to phone bidder 1757, the latter over the bid of Frank's dealer, Peter MacGill. The bidder was reported to be a European collector by Christie's.

W. Eugene Smith's portfolio, A Portfolio of Ten Photographs, ($30,000-$50,000) far surpassed its estimate at $98,500. Then another Frank, Peru, 1948, 39 gelatin silver prints mounted back to back with a spiral binding, ($100,000-$150,000) claimed third place in the sale at $242,500, again going to 1757.

Eight prints by Irving Penn sold for over our general cut-off of $50,000, and four made the top ten list. The first of those to come up was Black and White Vogue Cover (B) (Jean Patchett), New York, 1950, one of the edition of 16, which claimed seventh place at $170,500. William Eggleston's Memphis (Tricycle), rode into second place at $266,500, within its estimates. Phone bidder 1778 topped New York gallerist Howard Read for this gem.

An important piece of photographic history, Étienne-Jules Marey's Chronophotographie du saut en longeur, 1882-1883 (the long jumper captured in successive positions on a single plate) was estimated at only ($5,000-$7,000), but it leapt to $43,750 with dealers Alex Novak and Charles Isaacs, along with three phone bidders pushing up the price. Phone bidder 1778 got this one, too, as well as another Marey of a bird in flight, the latter over the underbid by private dealer Alex Novak.

Art consultant Kevin Moore snagged Paul Outerbridge's Seated Nude with Red Shoes, 1936 ($20,000-$30,000) at $50,000. Then two more Irving Penn's came up and both went to the phones. Italian Still Life, New York, Sept., 1981 ($30,000-$50,000) at $60,000; and Faucet Dripping Diamonds, New York, 1963 ($30,000-$50,000) at $68,500.

While Richard Avedon made our cutoff only three times to Penn's eight, he claimed the top-selling lot of the day--and of the auction season--as his famous portrait Marilyn Monroe, New York City, May 6, 1957, 9/10, ($200,000-$300,000) well exceeded its high estimate at $482,500. Another movie icon, Marlene Dietrich, by Penn sold for $86,500, the mid-point of its estimate.

Peter Beard's Last Word from Paradise, Loliondo, from The End of the Game, seemed underestimated at $10,000-$15,000. An internet bidder captured it at $80,500. A portfolio of 12 prints, African Negro Art: Photographs by Walker Evans, ($30,000-$50,000) at $62,500 was the only major lot to go to an order bidder.

Penn's Bee on Lips, New York, September 22, 1995 ($50,000-$70,000) buzzed to fifth place at $182,500. His After Dinner Games, New York, 1947 ($40,000-$60,000) claimed eighth place at $158,500. It went to 1778. And Penn's Frozen Foods (New York), 1977 ($40,000-$60,000) melted a phone bidder's heart--or wallet--at $86,500. That same bidder, 1764, paid the same price for Robert Mapplethorpe's Lydia, 1985. That print, too, was signed by Michael Ward Stout, Executor.

O. Winston Link's Selected Images, 1955-1958, consisted of 79 contact prints. It steamed to its low estimate of $50,000. One last Penn made the top ten: Mermaid Dress (Rochas), Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, Vogue, 1950 ($80,000-$120,000). It took ninth place at $134,500.

While it didn't do as well as the Atget in the Joseph Baio sale, Eugène Atget's La Villette, rue Asselin, 1921 ($40,000-$60,000) was fought over by numerous bidders. Alex Novak made a play but was topped by a phone bidder. Then Michael Mattis took the lead but was outdistanced by another phone bidder. Finally Gabriel Catone, consulting on his cell phone, took the prize at $242,500, the fourth highest selling lot of the day.

Toward the end of the sale two Richard Avedons sold for $50,000, the mid-points of their estimates: Sunny Harnett and Alla Evening dresses by Balmain, Casino Le Touquet, bought by New York gallerist Robert Mann; and a small Dovima with Elephants, Evening Dress by Dior, Cirque d' Hiver, Paris, which went to a phone bidder.

Christie's various-owner sale totaled a very strong $5,367,500 (just barely topped by Sotheby's), with a 19% buy-in rate. Their $31,574 per lot sold price was behind Sotheby's $39,945. But including the single-owner sales of the day before, Christie's topped out at $8,148,063, the clear total dollar leader.

Philippe Garner, Christie's international head of photographs remarked: "We are very pleased to conclude our spectacular Spring Photographs Sales, leading the season with yet another robust auction. The results of the various-owner photographs sale showed enthusiastic bidding for works by William Eggleston, Robert Frank, and Richard Avedon…All three sales including "The Feminine Ideal: An Important Collection of Photographs", "Crossing America: Photographs from the Consolidated Freightways Collection, Part I" and "Photographs" surpassed their high estimates, reconfirming the ever-increasing presence of photographs in the global market place."

(Copyright ©2011 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/.