Issue #195  12/4/2012
Phillips Leads Off Fall Season With $4.7 Million Take and 76% Sell-Through

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector and Photo Review

Phillips de Pury & Company led off the fall auction season on October 2 with material that was not quite as potent as their last time out. Robert Mapplethorpe's Anemone, a dye transfer print, blossomed past its estimate to $80,500, a bit short of the top ten. But Paul Outerbridge's Standing Nude with Chair, a small, but wonderful image, fell short as it passed at $130,000. It had last sold at Christie's in April 1996 for $7,820. Next Avedon's Dovima with Elephants brought $56,250, but slightly under low estimate.

Avedon's Audrey Hepburn and Art Buchwald, et al., charmed its way to $68,500, but Irving Penn's Girl in Bed passed at $38,000. One dealer commented that he thought it was just an ugly and too contrasty print of the image.

Peter Beard's Happy Easter/ Alia Bay CrocHatchery, Lake Rudolf for Eyelids of Morning, 1965, claimed second place in the sale at $194,500. Then Avedon's NastassjaKinski and the Serpent, Los Angeles, CA, June 14, 1981, slithered to $86,500, tied for eighth place. (As usual, if I don't mention the estimate, it means the lot sold within the estimates, and if I don't mention a buyer, it means the lots sold on the phone, to an order bidder, or on the internet, which the vast majority of lots do these days.)

Beard's Cheetah cubs orphaned at Meiga nr.Nyeri for The End of the Game, 1968 and Hunting Cheetah on the Taru Desert, Kenya, June, 1960, two silver prints, about 20"x24", in a double-sided frame, took fifth place at $110,500, slightly over estimate. And his Elephant Triptych, Hog Ranch,Nairobi, Kenya, 1980s ($40,000–$60,000), followed right behind at $103,300, sixth place and the third of three Beards in the top ten.

A number of world auction records were achieved across the sale, including Steven Meisel's Walking in Paris, Linda Evangelista & Kristen McMenamy, Vogue, October, 1992, which sold for $86,500, over estimate and tied for eighth place. This image, Phillips' cover lot, was originally featured in Vogue's 1992 groundbreaking article, Time for Change, and was offered here for the first time at auction in a unique and life-sized print.

Gavin Bond's provocative Juste Parce QueJe Suis Belle: Numéro Trois, 2010, set an artist's record at auction at $52,500, more than double its high estimate. Candida Höfer's Ca' Rezzonico, Venezia, I, 2003, glimmered to $62,500. And Penn's New York still Life, 1947, was gobbled up at $50,000.

After lunch a phone bidder, number 1081, scaled Ansel Adam's Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras at the low estimate, $50,000. The same bidder paid the low estimate of $122,500 for the complete set of Camera Work, the third highest price of the day.

Edward Steichen's lovely portrait of his second wife, Dana Steichen, c. 1923, made its low estimate at $50,000. Then, proving that $50,000 can mean very different things, collector Michael Mattis set a world auction record for Ilse Bing when he bought her important Self Portrait withLeica, Paris, 1931/1941 ($10,000–$15,000) at that price. (Yes, a lot actually did sell in the room!)

Dorothea Lange's Argument in a Trailer Court forced its way past the high estimate at $52,500. But Edward Weston's Pepper No. 30 ($200,000–$300,000) was left on the table at $170,000. This was a very nice, but later print from the late 1940s. Some people thought it may have actually been printed by Brett rather than Edward, though that is not clear. What is clear is that the estimate may have been double for a late-printed Pepper, especially a modestly damaged one.

A world auction record was also set for Roy DeCarava's portfolio of his most famous images, Twelve Photogravures ($30,000–$50,000), which sold for $80,500, also to 1081.

Just to prove that people were sick of politics, when Phillips offered an interesting group of 13 images from a private collection that they titled "Politically Correct," six failed to sell.

Thomas Demand's Wand/ Mural, 1999, reached world domination—or at least the top price of the sale--when it brought $242,500, just over high estimate. This print had brought $141,500 at Christie's in May 2002 (and another print brought $192,000 at Phillips in May 2006). So while the price went up $100,000 in ten years that is still only about 5% compound interest.

Taking fourth place was Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Still # 81, 1980, also just over high estimate at $116,500. David Hockney's sexy Nude (Theresa Russell), 17th June, 1984, seduced a bid of $86,500 and also tied for eighth place.

Massimo Vitali's diptych, Rosignano, 2004 ($60,000–$80,000) passed at $48,000. Thomas Struth's Paradise 1 (Pilgrim Sands) Daintree/Australia, 1998, claimed seventh place at $98,500, just over estimate. And lastly, an artist record was set for Sebastião Salgado's Churchgate Station,Western Railroad Line, Bombay, India, 1995 ($30,000–$40,000), at $60,000.

In all, the auction totaled $4,704,450, selling 81% by value and 76% by lot. It's not a bad result, but it's almost 23% less than Phillips's spring total, which also had a lower buy-in rate of 19%. Overall, the sale was pretty neutral, with 48 lots selling above the high estimates and 48 below, while 99 lots sold within the estimates. And to emphasize how much the auction experience has changed, only 16 lots sold in the room.

(Copyright ©2012 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, 340 East Maple Ave., Suite 200, Langhorne, PA 19047. Or to order The Photograph Collector Newsletter online, go to: http://www.photoreview.org.