Issue #187  1/4/2012
Sotheby's NYC's Fall Sale Total Hits Just $4-3/4 Million With Only 71.5% of Lots Sold

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

Sotheby's began with a run of 17 Ansel Adams prints. Aspens, Northern, New Mexico ($25,000-$35,000) brought $56,250 from a phone bidder. Another phone bidder paid $80,500 for The Tetons and the Snake River ($40,000-$60,000). Yet a different phone took Yosemite Valley, Winter Storm (Clearing Winter Storm) ($30,000-$50,000) at $56,250.

James Alinder, consulting on his cell phone , held off a determined phone bidder to claim a mural-sized print of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico ($300,000-$500,000), signed twice by Adams, one of perhaps 12 murals of this image extant. Alinder paid $362,500, making this the second highest lot of the day. But the phone bidder outlasted Alinder on the next lot, a mural-sized print of Leaves, Mt. Ranier National Park ($70,000-$100,000), bidding $194,500, fourth place.

Edward Weston's Dummies, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Hollywood sold below its low estimate for $50,000. Michael Mattis added this to his Weston collection. A phone bidder went just over estimate for the Walker Evans portfolio Selected Photographs at $50,000.

A bidder in the room made a stand worthy of Gettysburg, as he raised his flag over Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War ($70,000-$100,000) for $158,500, a record for a Sketch Book at auction and seventh place on the day. Alexander Gardner's Portrait of Abraham Lincoln ($30,000-$50,000) also broke into the top ten at ninth place. It went for $98,500 to a U.S. collector on the phone.

Carleton Watkins was still in demand. Yosemite Falls ($40,000–$60,000) sold to the phones for $80,500, and Jeffrey Fraenkel took The Yosemite Falls from Glacier Point ($30,000-$50,000) at $56,250 over the bid of Michael Mattis.

Bruce Silverstein, talking to a client on his cell phone, had to go to $92,500, two-and-a-half times the high estimate, to outlast Hans Kraus for Alvin Langdon Coburn's The Cloud. That was good for the final place in the top ten.

A complete set of Camera Work with Steichen signatures and a Stieglitz inscription had been sold at Sotheby's in 1981, when it went for $23,000. Estimated here at $200,000-$250,000, it went for $398,500, an auction record for a set of Camera Work and the top lot of the sale. That comes to a pretty good compounded rate of return of about 9.83%, not counting whatever seller's premium was negotiated. The order bidder was Christian Keesee, a banker and energy industry executive, who is the chairman of Kirkpatrick Bank, the Kirkpatrick Oil Company and Timelines Transportation Company. He is known in photography circles as the founder of the Brett Weston Archive in Oklahoma City, as well as the Green Box Arts Festival in Green Mountain Falls, CO. He is the founder and president-elect of City Arts Center in Oklahoma City, and he is a member of the director's circle for the Frick Collection in New York. Keesee serves as chairman of the Kirkpatrick Foundation's board of trustees and as president of the Kirkpatrick Family Fund. He is a trustee of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, a public charity established by John Kirkpatrick and eight other civic leaders in 1969.

A silver print of Edward Steichen's Flatiron Building--Evening, New York ($70,000-$100,000), probably printed in the 1950s, passed at $50,000.

An early print of Cartier-Bresson's Seville, Andalucia (the children playing in rubble as seen through a hole in a wall), from the collection of Eva Besnyö ($50,000-$70,000) went to phone bidder L0058 at $86,500, although this same print had sold at auction at Sotheby's Amsterdam in 2005 for $101,000.

L0058 also won Pierre Dubreuil's The First Round ($150,000-$250,000) on points at $314,500. This was a record for the artist at auction and third place in the sale. Then L0058 also took the next Dubreuil, Spectacles ($70,000-$100,000), for $86,500.

A different phone bidder then made a play for Minor White's photographs from Sequence 15 ($50,000-$70,000) at $62,500. But L0058 was back for Aaron Siskind's 75th Anniversary Portfolio, paying $43,750, more than 50% over high estimate.

Collector Christopher Luce snagged Irving Penn's platinum-palladium print Collapse ($25,000-$35,000) at $62,500. L0058 paid the same price for Richard Avedon's Marella Agnelli, New York Studio ($40,000-$60,000).

Penn's Girl Behind Bottle at $110,500 sold within estimate to a European dealer. The price was good for eighth place. Horst P. Horst's classic Mainbocher Corset supported a $50,000 bid from the phones. And another phone grabbed Avedon's provocative Stephanie Seymour, Model, New York City ($40,000-$60,000) at $80,500, finishing off a decent run for the fashion pictures.

Jeffrey Fraenkel was the winner of Diane Arbus's Viva at Home at $194,500, good for fourth place. A sequence of nine Blast Furnaces by Bernd and Hilla Becher ($70,000-$100,000) passed at $65,000, indicating one of the rare high reserves. Finally, Peter Beard's Maureen Gallagher and a Late-Night Feeder, 2:00AM claimed sixth place with a $158,500 phone bid from private U.S. collectors.

(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/.