MID-SEASON CONTEMPORARY ART AUCTIONS CONTINUE THE PRICE SPIRAL ON PHOTOGRAPHS; AIPAD SHOW COMING UP QUICKLY; RUNS FROM APRIL 12-15 AT THE NY 7TH REGIMENT ARMORY; CHRISTIE'S FEB. 15TH MULTI-OWNER SALE TOPS $1.23 MILLION WITH JUST OVER 72% SOLD; SPECIAL EXHIBITS GO UP ON I PHOTO CENTRAL; UPDATES/CORRECTIONS ON LAST NEWSLETTER; NEW BOOK ON THE DAGUERREOTYPE
MID-SEASON CONTEMPORARY ART AUCTIONS
CONTINUE THE PRICE SPIRAL ON PHOTOGRAPHS
By Brian Appel
Acquiring the monumental and iconic Andreas Gursky "99 Cent (Store)" color diptych for $3.35 million might be out-of-range for all but the uber-rich trophy hunter who typically shops at the prestigious fall and spring evening auctions, but there is a trickle-down effect that is impacting the ever expanding mid-season post-war and contemporary sales.
The club aspect--being part of an exclusive group that all share ownership of a small edition of a particularly sought-after iconic work, like the above-mentioned Gursky (each photograph is over 11 foot wide)--can give the owner bragging rights for a long time. Six people/institutions are sitting on this chromogenic diptych that has been referred to as a "… dazzling array of an all too surreal reality". No doubt it's a titillating high to know that the Met, MoMA, hedge-fund manager Stephen A. Cohen, David Geffen, Jay-Z and you are all looking at the same poetic commentary on the world.
Photography fever, especially the "tableau" kind that suggests we are now in a world where simulated feelings and experiences have replaced the real thing, is the current catnip for an invasion of newly-minted wealthy collectors. Soaring prices and the influx of cash is providing a welcome boost for collectors who got in early. Once considered risky and on the fringe, these seductive photographs that describe the 'hyper-reality' of modern media or consumer culture are now THE hotbeds of critical and market attention.
The blurring of reality and unreality from artists who use the medium of photography is not only fashionable, but it's been a very good investment--so far. Lately owning a contemporary piece of art from an important camera artist is like having an endowment of sorts. The work, in many cases, begins appreciating the moment it leaves the dealer's gallery or auction house and is placed on the collector's wall.
But just being rich doesn't rate that high any more. The acquisition of a Cindy Sherman, a Richard Prince, a Hiroshi Sugimoto, a Louise Lawler, a Thomas Struth or a Gerhardt Richter--all top performers in terms of both the intellectual buzz and the investment results so far--can bring about a shift in how you're perceived by that key elite group that you desperately want to hang out with. We're talking about today's art cognoscenti: collectors, dealers, curators, auction house specialists and art advisors.
But let's get down to the specifics. Here are the top 25 photographs sold at auction at the mid-season contemporary art sales at the big three in New York:
1. Thomas Struth, "Basilica De Montreal, Palermo", 1998, color coupler print, 73-3/8 by 91-1/8 in., ed. '1/6', est. $150,000-$200,000, price realized: $300,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot 52), Feb. 26, 2007.
2. Hiroshi Sugimoto, "Guggenheim Museum, New York", 1997, gelatin silver print, 58-¾ by 47 in., from an edition of five, est. $90,000-$120,000, price realized: $262,400, Phillips de Pury & Co., Under the Influence, NY010107, (Lot #249), Feb. 27, 2007.
3. Cindy Sherman, Untitled #264 (Sex Pictures), 1992, color coupler print, 50 by 75 in., ed. '1/6', est. $50,000-$70,000, price realized: $252,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #36), Feb. 26, 2007.
4. Richard Prince, Untitled (Cowboy), 1999, Ektacolor print, 24 by 20 in., ed. '2/2' + 1 AP, est. $100,000-$150,000, price realized: $240,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #31), Feb. 26, 2007.
5. Cindy Sherman, Untitled #418 (Clown), 2004, color coupler print, 72 by 44-¼ in., ed. '5/6', est. $50,000-$70,000, price realized: $216,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #34), Feb. 26, 2007.
6. Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #19, 1978, gelatin silver print, 30 by 40 in., ed. '2/3', est. $80,000-$120,000, price realized: $210,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #35), Feb. 26, 2007.
7. Thomas Demand, Collection, 2002, chromogenic color print face-mounted on Plexiglas, 59 by 78-¾ in., ed. '6/6', est. $120,000-$180,000, price realized: $204,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #55), Feb. 26, 2007.
8. Thomas Ruff, "17H 58M/-25 Degrees", 1990, chromogenic color print in Diasec mount, wood frame, 102-3/8 by 74 in., ed. '2/2'+1 AP, est. $70,000-$90,000, price realized: $150,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #72), Feb. 26, 2007.
9. Thomas Struth, "California Valley 1" (California), 1999, color coupler print, 68-½ by 83 in., ed. '1/10', est.: $60,000-$80,000, price realized: $132,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #53), Feb. 26, 2007.
10. Louise Lawler, "Pink", 1994-1995, C-print (Museum Box), 60 by 47 in., from an edition of five, est. $30,000-$40,000, price realized: $126,000, Phillips de Pury & Co., Under the Influence, NY010107, (Lot #254), Feb. 27, 2007.
11. Thomas Demand, "Bullion", 2003, Chromogenic color print in Diasec mount, 17-¼ by 22-¼ in., this work is an AP from an edition of six, est. $20,000-$30,000, price realized: $120,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #56), Feb. 26, 2007.
12. Rodney Graham, "Cedar, Lighthouse Park, Vancouver #8", 1991, monochrome color print, 105 by 72 in., this work is unique, est. $50,000-$70,000, price realized: $114,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #73), Feb. 26, 2007.
13. Berndt & Hilla Becher, "Winding Towers", 1967-1977, six gelatin silver prints, each: 15-¾ by 12 in., est. $50,000-$70,000, price realized: $108,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #21), Feb. 26, 2007.
13. Tie. Gilbert & George, "Tom", 2001, hand-dyed gelatin silver prints in six parts in the artist's frame, 66-½ by 55-¾ in., est. $90,000-$120,000, price realized: $108,000, Phillips de Pury & Co., Under the Influence, NY010107, (Lot #119), Feb. 27, 2007.
14. Mike Kelley, "Plaster Statue of John Glenn, John Glenn H.S., Westland, Mi. Chainsaw Sculpture of Bigfoot, Redwood Area of Northern CA", 2001, diptych--color coupler print, each: 73-¼ by 49-¼-in., this work is number one from an edition of five, est. $80,000-$120,000, price realized: $102,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #50), Feb. 26, 2007.
15. Bernd & Hilla Becher, "Blast Furnaces", 1986, eight gelatin silver prints mounted on board, each: 15-7/8 by 12-¼ in., est. $80,000-$120,000, price realized: $84,000, Christie's, First Open/Post-War and Contemporary Art, #1806, (Lot #169), Feb. 28, 2007.
16. Matthew Barney, "Cremaster 2: Korihor", 1999, gelatin silver print in acrylic frame, 43-1/8 by 33-7/8 in., number 3 from an edition of six plus 1 AP, est. $70,000-$90,000, price realized: $72,000, Sotheby's, Contemporary Art, N08294, (Lot #230), Feb. 26, 2007.
16. Tie. Louise Lawler, "This Way I Can't Fight", 2002, Cibachrome print mounted on aluminum, 40 by 50 in., ed. '4/5', est. $30,000-$40,000, price realized: $72,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #61), Feb. 26, 2007.
16. Tie. Hiroshi Sugimoto, "Mirtoan Sea, Sounion", 1990, gelatin silver print mounted on paper, 20 by 24 in., ed. '18/25', est. $20,000-$30,000, price realized: $72,000, Christie's, First Open/Post-War and Contemporary Art, #1806, (Lot #164), Feb. 28, 2007.
17. Thomas Ruff, "Nude ft 26, 2002", 2002, C-print in artist's wooden frame, 55 by 43-¼ in., numbered of five, est. $50,000-$70,000, price realized: $66,000, Phillips de Pury & Co., Under the Influence, NY010107, (Lot #75), Feb. 27, 2007.
18. Thomas Ruff, "Nudes HL 13 (NUD061)", 2000, chromogenic color print in Diasec mount, with artist's wood frame, 63 by 48 in., ed. '2/5' + 2 APs, est. $50,000-$70,000, price realized: $60,000, Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #5), Feb. 26, 2007.
19. Louise Lawler, "Michael", 2001, Cibachrome print mounted on aluminum, 60 by 46 in., ed. '1/5', est. $30,000-$40,000, price realized: $57,600, Christie's Christie's, Beyond…Selections from the Pierre Huber Collection, #1933, (Lot #1), Feb. 26, 2007.
20. Richard Prince, Untitled (Publicity), 2000, three publicity photographs, 33-1/4 by 41-¾ in., unique, est. $50,000-$70,000, price realized: $54,000, Christie's, First Open/Post-War and Contemporary Art, #1806, (Lot #139), Feb. 28, 2007.
20. Tie. Hiroshi Sugimoto, "Sea of Galilee, Golan", 1992, gelatin silver print mounted on paper, 20 by 24 in., ed. '3/25', est. $20,000-$30,000, price realized: $54,000, Christie's, First Open/Post-War and Contemporary Art, #1806, (Lot #166), Feb. 28, 2007.
21. Hiroshi Sugimoto, "Akron Civic Theatre, Akron, Ohio", 1980, gelatin silver print, 20 by 23-¾ in., ed. '5/25', est. $20,000-$30,000, price realized: $51,000, Sotheby's, N.Y., Contemporary Art, N08294, (Lot #352), Feb. 26, 2007.
22. Hiroshi Sugimoto, "Ordovician Period", 1992, gelatin silver print mounted on paper, 20 by 24 in., ed. '7/25', est. $12,000-$18,000, price realized: $48,000, Christie's, First Open/Post-War and Contemporary Art, #1806, (Lot #167), Feb. 28, 2007.
22. Tie. Hiroshi Sugimoto, "Sea of Japan, Hokkaido 1", 1986, gelatin silver print, 20 by 24 in., Ed. of 25, est. $30,000-$40,000, price realized: $48,000, Phillips de Pury & Co., Under the Influence, NY010107, (Lot #247), Feb. 27, 2007.
23. Wang Qingsong, "Past, Present, Future (Triptych)", 2001, chromogenic prints, mounted, image #1 and image #3: 27 by 44-¼ in., image #2: 26-¾ by 33-¼ in., ed. '11/30', est. $30,000-$40,000, price realized: $45,000, Sotheby's, Contemporary Art, N08294, (Lot #349), Feb. 26, 2007.
24. Matthew Barney, "Cremaster 3: Chrysler Imperial", 2001, C-print in acrylic frame, 24 by 28 in., ed. '10/50' + 10 AP, est. $20,000-$30,000, price realized: $42,000, Sotheby's, Contemporary Art, N08294, (Lot #233), Feb. 26, 2007.
24. Tie. Richard Prince, "Bitches and Bastards", 1985, three Ektacolor prints in artist's frame, 9-7/8 by 13-¾ in. each, 42-½ by 62-½ in. overall, unique, est. $40,000-$60,000, price realized: $42,000, Phillips de Pury & Co., Under the Influence, NY010107, (Lot #25), Feb. 27, 2007.
25. Hiroshi Sugimoto, "Canton Palace Theater, Canton, Ohio", 1980, gelatin silver print, 20 by 23-7/8 in., ed. '5/25', est. $20,000-$30,000, price realized: $39,000, Sotheby's, Contemporary Art, N08294, (Lot #351), Feb. 26, 2007.
Louise Lawler was perhaps the biggest surprise of these auctions, based on her outstanding performance at mid-season. Her eight lots that sold brought $319,560 on a low/high pre-sale estimate of $114,500-$156,000.
Cindy Sherman and Thomas Struth also surpassed high expectations especially in the controversial Pierre Huber single-owner sale at Christie's. Many dealers and artists reportedly complained that Huber got 'insider' prices on artworks that were supposedly going to be 'gifted' to an art museum but were 'flipped' for outsized profits at Rockefeller Center.
As prices for contemporary art photography soar, the acquisitions continue to expand. Important works that are instantly recognizable--virtually 'branded' black and white or color photographic prints--are still undervalued in terms of their relative cost as compared to painting or sculpture. Owning a Sherman or a Struth might be an unconscious way of slowing down the accelerating pace of the world. Acquiring works of a time-based medium with high verisimilitude is one way to combat constant change in a world spinning out of control.
(Brian Appel is a contributing writer for artcritical.com, focusing on photography and contemporary art. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from the University of Manitoba's School of Art and a Masters of Arts (Photography and Film Studies) from the University of Iowa. He has been intrigued by the concept of photographer as witness since walking into the first posthumous New York Museum of Modern Art exhibition of Diane Arbus in 1972. He has written several articles for the E-Photo Newsletter and the I Photo Central website on contemporary art photography.)
AIPAD SHOW COMING UP QUICKLY; RUNS FROM
APRIL 12-15 AT THE NY 7TH REGIMENT ARMORY
The Association of International Photography Art Dealers' (AIPAD) Photography Show '07 will be held Thursday, April 12 through Sunday, April 15, 2007. The show is now in its 27th year--the oldest and largest photography exposition in the United States. The Photography Show '07 is considered to be the world's premiere exposition of fine art photography, including both contemporary and vintage works. This will be the second year the Photography Show is held at the New York 7th Regiment Armory, a significant historic venue in the art world.
The Photography Show '07 features more than 90 fine art photography exhibitors from around the world and attracts thousands of visitors each year.
I Photo Central dealers Charles Schwartz, Ltd. and Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, Ltd. will both be exhibiting at the AIPAD fair. Please let either of us know if there are specific images that you would like to see at this show. Call Charles Schwartz at 1-212-534-4496 and myself, Alex Novak, at 1-215-822-5662. You can review our images on http://www.iphotocentral.com
or on our individual websites.
Charles Schwartz Ltd., which will be in booth 317, will be featuring images of African-American slaves and African-American slaves after emancipation. The booth will also be showing a dozen cased images of the George F. and Mary H. Lee family. The photographs in this collection include portraits of the Lees and their retarded son, G. Burtis. Another great rarity on display will be an 1862 view by Victor Prevost of Willowdell Arch with the team that created Central Park standing on the pathway over the span.
From the 20th-century, Schwartz will exhibit a series of the Bunraku Puppet Theater by Taikichi Irie, whose photo retail shop in Osaka was destroyed by U.S. bombing raids in 1945. All the other known vintage prints from this series are believed destroyed. A series by W. Eugene Smith on Nurse Midwife Maude Callen will also be exhibited in the booth.
From China and the 21st century, Schwartz will be showing important contemporary artist Shi Guorui's unique 4 x 12 foot camera obscura photograph. Recent images by Guorui have sold at auction for over $45,000.
My own company, Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, Ltd., will be exhibiting in booth 425 at the far back left of the hall. We will feature the stunningly beautiful prints of the dance and theater work of Max Waldman and the gemlike vintage contact prints of Steiglitz's lover and protégé Dorothy Norman. We will also show an important circa 1877 panorama (13-3/8 x 44-3/8 inches) of a train heading east on Rockville Bridge, PA by Frederick Gutekunst. Other work to be available includes the rare and surreal work of Belgium artist Marcel Marien. In addition, we will also be showing 20th-century masterworks from Irving Penn, Edward Steichen, Man Ray, Andre Kertesz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Horst, Francois Kollar, Brassai, Édouard Boubat, Robert Doisneau, Edward and Brett Weston, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Harry Callahan and many others.
My company also has in inventory major contemporary work by Arthur Tress (vintage prints, large-scale classic images and new color work), Marcus Doyle (large color, including several new images), Lisa Holden (large-scale color work, including unique painted pieces), Krzysztof Pruszkowski (black & white prints), Stanko Abadzic (black & white prints), Joel D. Levinson (vintage black & white prints and color work), Charlie Schreiner (contemporary daguerreotypes and prints) and Ted Jones (modern gum prints).
Special events at the AIPAD show include a preview benefit for Henry Buhl's foundation, the Association of Community Employment Programs (A.C.E.) for the homeless and its initiatives, the SoHo & TriBeCa Partnerships; a special invitational preview party the evening before the fair opens to the public; lectures, guided tours and other events connected with the event. The Benefit Preview will be held on Wednesday, April 11 from 7-10 p.m. Tickets are $75 each for the benefit. Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres will be served.
The show is open to the public Thursday, April 12, 2-7 p.m.; Friday, April 13, and Saturday, April 14, 12-8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 15, 12-6 p.m. Tickets are available at the door and are $20 per person for a one-day pass, $30 for three days or $40 for four days. The Photography Show '07 will be held at the 7th Regiment Armory, located at Park Avenue and 67th Street, New York, N.Y. For additional information, go to AIPAD's website at http://www.aipad.com
or call 1-202-986-0105.
CHRISTIE'S FEB. 15TH MULTI-OWNER SALE
TOPS $1.23 MILLION WITH JUST OVER 72% SOLD
The second photography sale at Christie's seemed to really be just an afterthought, especially after the Thomas Solley sale the day before. It couldn't even be called a bargain-hunters sale, although there were a few rare opportunities. It did total $1,231,800 and sell about 72.2% of the lots (Christie's "rounded up" to 73% in their press materials).
The "highlights", for what they were, follows. The prices all include the 20% auction house tariff over the actual hammer bids. I will only report on the few lots that got over $18,000. That means the Top Ten list here.
Most of the bidding came from the phones and commission bids. At one point the active phone bidders actually outnumbered the attendees at the sale itself (19-17).
A printed later (whatever that means now) Garry Winogrand photograph of "Central Park Zoo, New York City" (lot 3) soared over its normally reasonable estimate of $3,000-5,000. In the battle between a commission bid and the phone, the phone "won" at $19,200.
Another phone bidder took lot 68, a late-printed Henri Cartier-Bresson of "Queen Charlotte's Ball, London", for nearly twice the high estimate at $18,000.
The top lot of this auction would not have been predicted prior to the sale. Irving Penn's "Hat, New York", which had been estimated at $10,000-15,000 for this silver print in an edition of 11 and printed in 1985, soared on frantic phone bidding. It was finally hammered to a European dealer on the phone for an astounding $60,000.
Another late-printed Horst took off. Lot 82, a Mainbocher Corset in a larger 16-1/8 x 12-7/8 in. size, went well over its estimate ($9,000-12,000) to finally sell for $24,000--which had been well over gallery prices.
A Cole Weston print of one of his father's nudes (lot 95) sold well above the estimate ($4,000-6,000) for $18,000 to the phone.
Ruth Orkin's "American Girl in Florence, Italy" (lot 119), again in another late print, still managed to more than double the high estimate at $18,000. I had just sold a superior one the week before for less than half of this price.
Ansel Adams did very well here with most prints getting into the estimate ranges. The top two--both bought by an American dealer--were his "Moonrise, Hernandez, NM" (lot 145, which sold for a reasonable $42,000) and "Basin Peak and the Buttermilk Country Road" (lot 152, which soared over it high estimate at $26,400).
Eikoh Hosoe's platinum portfolio of Ordeal by Roses went well over its high estimate (as it should) at $20,400. Hosoe is one of those great masters and influences, who is still greatly undervalued and overlooked.
The back cover lot (in more ways than one), John Swannell's sexy shot of two women scantily clothed from the rear touching each other (lot 182, "Fine Lines"), more than doubled its high estimate at $19,200.
SPECIAL EXHIBITS GO UP ON I PHOTO CENTRAL
The photography dealers on I Photo Central have been extremely busy over the last month or so, putting up new Special Photography Exhibits.
There are so many new ones that I will simply list them by title and URL address. Most also have extensive essays about the exhibit or artist that you can click through to read.
"19th-Century Views of Italy: 1850s-1860s" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/119/1/1
"19th-Century Ethnographic Photography" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/114/1/1
"19th-Century Salt Print Masterworks: 1840s-1860s" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/120/1/1
"20th-Century Ethnographic Photography at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/115/1/0
"20th-Century Photography Portraits" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/123/1/0
"20th-Century Still Life Photography: The Decisive Space" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/113/1/0
"African-Americans, 19th-Century" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/59/3/0
"African-American Slaves after Emancipation in Thomsville, GA" (suite of seven boudoir cards sold as a group) at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/127/3/1
"American Politics, Politician, Protests & Political Rallies" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/118/1/1
"Arthur Tress: Dreams, Visions and Voyages" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/97/1/1
. (Note: Tress's work will be featured at Art Chicago on a special project wall and will also be displayed at this show and at AIPAD in ContemporaryWorks/Vintage Works' booths.)
"Contemporary Art Photography: A Selection" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/125/1/0
"Cyanotypes: Photography in a Blue Mode" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/109/1/1
"Dance Photography" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/117/1/0
"Early Scientific and Medical Images" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/112/1/1
"Eye of Nature: From the Mid-19th Century to Contemporary Landscape Photography" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/110/1/1
"Fashion Photography through the Ages" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/111/1/1
"Henry Clay Anderson Photographs" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/131/3/0
"Iconic 20th-Century Masterworks" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/126/1/0
"Important 19th-Century English Photography: 1840s-1870s" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/122/1/0
"Love and Romance in Photographs" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/116/1/0
"Marlon Brando on the Silver Screen by Mary Ellen Mark" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/132/13/0
"Mexico in Photographs" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/121/1/0
"Photography in Japan between the Wars" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/133/3/0
"Pilgrimage to Pope Pius X's Vatican" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/134/13/0
"Victor Prevost's 1862 Photos of the New Central Park" at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/102/3/0
We have also continued to change images and add to our essays for all our Special Exhibits, so they are worth another peek, especially if you have not looked lately. And, if you see one you like, let a friend know too!
You can see all of these fine new exhibits and others (now a total of 91 Special Exhibits in all!) at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase.php
. Don't forget to check out the archived exhibits at the bottom of the page as well.
UPDATES/CORRECTIONS ON LAST NEWSLETTER
I certainly did make a few misstatements in the last newsletter about the Christie's Solley auction, most of which I corrected in the online version.
On the battle over "God" (the photograph): I said that bidder Gabriel Catone was working for Thea Westrich. He did indeed work at one time for this mega art consultant, but he recently went out on his own and formed a partnership in New York City with another former Westrich employee, Andrew Ruth, which is called Ruth/Catone. My apologies for failing to keep up with the changes. Both Tom Gitterman and Stephen Perloff filled me in belatedly on this move. Catone, who lost the bidding battle with dealer Peter MacGill, was apparently bidding for collector John Pritzker.
Lorraine Anne Davis wrote me about my comment on Strand "waxing" his prints. As she emailed me, "Strand didn't wax his prints...he VARNISHED them! With rectified turpentine and stand oil. It works OK on silver gelatin, but it wasn't always so successful on platinum, so that is why you can sometimes see reticulated surfaces. (He may very well have waxed the platinum prints...I only remember the silver gelatins.) The original Mexican portfolio was also coated with furniture lacquer. He cut a mask and physically "blew" a mist of furniture lacquer across the surface. That's one reason why Strand prints are so toasty now. He did this because he liked the way wet prints looked. The lacquer mimicked the wet-print look by punching up the reflective density and the contrast."
Davis knows what she is talking about because she worked at the Strand archives from 1983-1987. I won't tell you the rest of her tale because it might be too embarrassing to all concerned (amusing as it was), but if she ever writes her memoirs, definitely pick up a copy.
When talking about the price/value relationship, I said, "Compare this lot to the late-printed Horst that came up earlier in this auction, for example, that sold for more than four times the price of the Weiss and was considerably less rare. I know which I would rather have won." Well, although I did win awards for math in high school, that was obviously a long time ago. The cost for the late printed Horst was actually SEVEN (not four) times the price of the Weiss, making my point all the stronger.
Lot 59, the late-printed Klein that was featured on the cover of the Christie's Solley collection catalogue, sold to an Internet bidder for the ridiculously high price of $48,000 (double the high estimate, which itself was a bit high). During the week of this auction, this same image was reportedly priced at one major New York gallery for a mere $4,000. But auctions are surely the best place to buy low cost prints, right? Please wake up bidders! These same overpaying bidders will complain about the "high prices" from the dealers at AIPAD and then the very next week will again pay twice as much or more at the auctions for the same prints (or usually worse quality ones). Break down: buy a print from a respected dealer, who will actually stand behind what they sell (unlike the auction houses), and save money.
Stuart Alexander, one of Christie's experts that I highly respect, told me that two of the Cartier-Bresson prints in the sale that were listed as 1960s were probably just that, and that the papers they were printed on were virtually identical. I had said one looked early 1950s and the other 1970s. If he is right, I will blame it on low blood sugar.
The Bill Brandt Elbow, which I originally thought was printed very early, but may have been made as much as ten or 11 years after it was taken, I now think was made very close to the image date due to a number of factors, including provenance information, lack of glow under black light, Rapho stamp, etc. It is the earliest print of this image that I have seen on the market in nearly two decades or more. It was a definite bargain compared to one that sold recently in Paris for $19,000 more than this print and reportedly glowed heavily under black light. (Dating photographs simply by whether or not they glow under black light can be rather tricky. There are unusual occasions where glowing might be considered as more likely indicative of an earlier print. See my article on "Determining the Vintage or Age of a Photograph" at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/collecting/article_view.php/12/10/1
NEW BOOK ON THE DAGUERREOTYPE
By Matt Damsker
KUNST UND MAGIE: DER DAGUERREOTYPE.
Images from the collection of W. + T. Bosshard. By Rene Perret, preface by Martin Gasser. $65, hardcover; 248 pages; 230 color plates. Published by BEA + Pil-Verlags, AG, Brugg 2006. ISBN No. 3-905277-52-8. Distributed in the U.S. by Carl Mautz Vintage Photography & Publishing, 329 Bridge Way, Nevada City, CA 95959; phone: 1-530-478-1610; fax: 1-530 478 0466; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This exceptional volume accompanied the recent exhibition "Light Traces: Daguerreotypes from Swiss Collections 1840-1860" at the Fotostiftung Schweiz in Winturthur. It is a strong work of scholarship on the part of Rene Perret, who calls on more than 200 rare daguerreotypes (from one of Europe's leading collections, that of W. + T. Bosshard) in documenting the history and technology of Daguerre's pioneering process.
More impressive than Perret's chronicle, though, is the quality of the book's reproductions--these high-gloss laminate plates seem about at close as a book can come to letting us hold these precious daguerreotypes in one's hand and tilting them to the light. Indeed, the sheen and detail of these 19th-century images is remarkable, and extends to the often ornate details of their framing, while the range of subject matter runs the gamut. There is a wealth of family portraiture, charming portraits of children, stereo images, military images, still lifes, landscape and architectural studies, travel photography of ancient ruins, and several examples of artistically posed female nudes by the likes of Auguste Belloc, Alexis Gouin, and others.
The historical value of these images is a given, while the history they document is often powerful. An anonymous photo of Cardinal Louis-Jacques-Maurice de Bonald is a rare depiction of an important European cleric whose life touched the 18th and 19th centuries, while Heinrich and Wilhelm Schneider's stereo portrait of the crown prince who would become Kaiser Friedrich III is a classic. And images of such landmarks as the Pantheon in Paris or the great domes of Berlin are classically composed studies of grand architecture.
Inasmuch as these European collections tilt heavily toward European subjects, there are several superb examples from America, not least of which is a large anonymous image of prospectors in California during the gold rush of 1849. The sheer epic scale of this daguerreotype presages the panoramic photography of the 20th century, as the gold diggers are dwarfed by the unearthed landscape of massive tree stumps and debris scattered throughout the enormous pit they have dug for profit. This is just the sort of image--multi-layered, pulsating with human endeavor, energy, hopes and dreams, an astonishing depth of field, and inexhaustible detail--that we don't expect from a daguerreotype (it's more the postmodern province of an Andreas Gursky or Sebastiao Salgado, in fact). And yet here it is--and, like so many of the treasures in this book, it's a revelation.
Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published this past November.
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