Issue #182  8/5/2011
Westlicht Breaks Camera Records and Briefly Daguerreotype Records For Europe

By Alex Novak

After the Cindy Sherman set a new world auction record of $3,890,500 for a photograph for her self portrait at Christie's New York's contemporary auction this May, you might have felt that things would settle down for a while. That was not to be.

Even while I was busily packing for my trip to Europe, WestLicht's auction in Vienna managed to clobber a few more records.

First came the cameras. The highlight of the sale was also lot 1. The extremely rare Leica 0-series from 1923 had an estimated price of 350,000-450,000 euro. After a tough 20-minute bidding battle, which started at 200,000 euro, the camera finally sold for a staggering 1,320,000 euro or $1,900,000 with the premium. The bidder, a private collector from Asia, is the new owner of the most expensive camera ever sold at auction (and probably privately as well).

Another Leica, an MP2 in mint condition and with an opening price of 70,000 euro, was finally nailed down for a whopping and unexpected 528,000 euro, including premium.

From the Baringer collection two of the most light-sensitive lenses in camera history went for ten times their starting price. The Carl Zeiss Super-Q-Gigantar 0.33/40mm sold for 60,000 euro and the Carl Zeiss Planar 0.7/50mm went for 90,000 euro (including premium).

A KGB espionage camera was auctioned off for 36,000 euro including premium.

With 94% of the lots sold, the total turnover of WestLicht's 19th camera auction was over 4,429,000 euro or $6.3 million, which set a new world record for a camera auction.

The net profits from the Nikon Europe benefit for aid to Japan's Red Cross fulfilled all expectations and will be donated to Japan's earthquake aid for victims of this natural catastrophe.

But then the image side of this sale wasn't any slouch either. First up in the photography part of the auction were two French daguerreotypes. The 1842 Auguste Bisson daguerreotypes at what many of those in the photo trade thought were "reaching" estimates of 60,000-80,000 euro managed to sail right through the top end of those marks. The first lot 1001 brought 102,000 euro (about $147,000) with its buyer's premium and lot 1002 did even better at a whopping 120,000 euro (about $173,000). Those were both records for a daguerreotype sold in Eastern Europe, but even those were to soon be eclipsed in France.

A portrait of Egon Schiele by Anton Josef Trcka from 1914 was also auctioned off here for 60,000 euro (about $86,500) including premium to a European art dealer.