Several groups of Eugene Atgets hit the French auction market over the last couple of months, but the best group came up at Galerie Ceysson-Bénétière just before the AIPAD Photography Show opened. I was on the phone for the bids while we were setting up for the show. The auction house is located in Saint-Étienne near Lyon. Christophe Goeury was the auction expert for the sale.
The three lots of images of prostitutes were among Atget's best known and sought after images. The provenance was also interesting, because the group was found among canvases at the home of the famed art critic Gustave Coquiot. And, unlike other such images that appeared recently, at least one was in fine condition, and that one was perhaps the most famous in the series.
The first lot (lot 26), the single prostitute in the doorway (La Villette, fille publique faisant le quart, 19e, avril 1921), was clearly the finest print and image of the three. Although estimated at a mere 15,000-18,000 euros, I knew that other prints had sold well into six figures, but that was under unique conditions with several individuals who were no longer in the marketplace. Although I ultimately failed in my attempt, I had pushed the price up (with buyer's premium) to over 70,000 euros as the underbidder.
The other two prints also did well over their estimates. The Three Prostitutes on the doorstep went at €21,080, and then Coin, boulevard de la Chapelle and rue Fleury (€7,440).
Novak has over 45 years experience in the photography-collecting arena. He is a long-time member and formally board member of the Daguerreian Society, and, when it was still functioning, he was a member of the American Photographic Historical Society (APHS). He organized the 2016 19th-century Photography Show and Conference for the Daguerreian Society. He is also a long-time member of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers. Novak has been a member of the board of the nonprofit Photo Review, which publishes both the Photo Review and the Photograph Collector, and is currently on the Photo Review's advisory board. He was a founding member of the Getty Museum Photography Council. He is author of French 19th-Century Master Photographers: Life into Art.
Novak has had photography articles and columns published in several newspapers, the American Photographic Historical Society newsletter, the Photograph Collector and the Daguerreian Society newsletter. He writes and publishes the E-Photo Newsletter, the largest circulation newsletter in the field. Novak is also president and owner of Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, a private photography dealer, which sells by appointment and at exhibit shows, such as AIPAD New York and Miami, Art Chicago, Classic Photography LA, Photo LA, Paris Photo, The 19th-century Photography Show, etc.