Issue #210  12/21/2014
Christie's Triple XXX Auction Fails to Move Some Big Lots, But Sells over $2 Million with 28.2% Buy-In Rate

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

The afternoon ended with "Triple XXX: Photographs from the Collection of Don Sanders." The title was apt if redundant, as triple XXX would equal nine Xs. Certainly, while there were some good images in this collection, the whole diminished the parts as it seemed as a group exploitive and misogynistic. The sale, which benefitted Friends for Life, a No Kill animal adoption and rescue organization in Houston, still did remarkably well.

Helmut Newton's 2 Playmates, Hollywood, 1986 ($25,000–$35,000) found a partner in phone bidder 1707 at $50,000, over the bid of Kevin Moore. Phone bidder 1706 claimed Sante D'Orazio's Stephanie Seymour for Playboy, 1992 ($30,000-$50,000) at $62,500. And phone bidder 1708, a U.S. bidder who was very active in this sale, grabbed Richard Avedon's Stephanie Seymour, Model, Robe by Comme des Garcons, NYC, May 9, 1992 ($60,000–$80,000) at $75,000. 1707 was back for Helmut Newton's Evi as Cop, Half-Naked and Dressed, Beverly Hills, March, 1998 ($100,000–$150,000) at $93,750, but well below estimate.

1708 tied for ninth place on the day by providing a home for Helmut Newton's Big Nudes, 1993 ($50,000–$70,000), at $137,000. Then Helmut Newton's Paris (Big Nudes shoot), 1980 ($150,000–$250,000) was sold to an internet bidder in Sweden for $125,000.

Helmut Newton's Private Property, Suites I, II and III sold for a whopping $293,000.
Helmut Newton's Private Property, Suites I, II and III sold for a whopping $293,000.

Both Timothy Greenfield-Sanders's XXX, 2004 ($50,000–$70,000) and David Levinthal's XXX: Volumes I, II, and III, 1999–2001 ($250,000–$350,000) failed to seduce a buyer, kind of putting a crimp in the XXX theme. But old reliable Helmut Newton made things right as his Private Property, Suites I, II and III, 1984 ($250,000–$350,000) claimed second place at $389,000, going to yet a different phone bidder, and his Bergstrom over Paris, 1976 ($200,000–$300,000) took third place as it went to order at $293,000.

You can't have a sale of erotic—or at least fetishistic—art without Nobutoshi Araki. His suite For Robert Frank, 1993 ($60,000–$80,000), sold to a phone bidder for $100,000. But none of the remaining higher-priced lots found homes: Ralph Gibson's The Somnambulist, 1970; Deja-vu, 1972; and Days at Sea, 1974 ($200,000-$300,000); Araki's Love by Leica, 2006 ($50,000–$70,000); Sylvie Blum's Big Cat Shoot, 2008 ($60,000–$80,000); and the Playboy/Various Photographers "Playmates of the Year: 1960–2010" ($40,000–$60,000) all bought in.

Still, the sale made $2,085,500 with a 28.2% buy-in rate. Fifteen lots sold over high estimate, 21 under, and 20 within the estimates; 35 to the phones, seven to order, seven online, and seven in the room.

In all, Christie's three sales totaled a respectable $6,104,375. The top ten lots consisted of five by Penn, three by Newton, and one each by Eggleston and Weston.

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/.