Issue #104  4/18/2006
Christie's February Photo Sale Nets Nearly $2 Million and 87% Sold

While most of the attention was on Sotheby's Met/Gilman Sale, Christie's normal February auction pulled in some very solid results, selling $1,959,840 and 86.9% of the lots offered. It was, however, a rather boring affair if you were present, because so many bids were made by commission or by phone. The work in the sale was also highly erratic in terms of condition.

I will only focus on those lots around or over $20,000, including buyer's premiums. Most lots that broke over that mark made it into Christie's Top Ten list.

Two phone bidders battled it out on lot 15, Edward Curtis' "Tapa". An American collector got the lot for over 2-1/2 times the low estimate at $28,800. That mark put the lot into a tie for tenth place in the sale.

Two different commission bidders, both American collectors, picked up lots 27 and 28, Ansel Adams' "Aspens" and "Mt. Williamson" for $31,200 and $30,000. Lot 27 was tied for sixth with two other lots and lot 26 got ninth place in the Top Ten.

Another commission bidder snagged lot 55, Brett Weston's "Fifteen Photographs" portfolio for just above the low estimate at $19,200.

I battled a European bidder on the phone for lot 83, Peter Beard's "Portraits, London/Paris/Nairobi, Collected at Hog Ranch". The phone got it for what turned out to be a very reasonable $48,000 (still mid-range). I had not realized the upward pressure on everything Frances Bacon that was the result of the previous week's London auction. The lot was the third most expensive of the auction.

Collector Robert Infarinato picked up the Robert Doisneau portfolio "Selected Images" for the mid-range bid of $31,200. The key image La Braiser, or the Kiss, was damaged during the viewing at Christie's. It was still an excellent buy, as Doisneau images continue to climb. Infarinato was fortunately aware of the problem and probably got a better deal on the group because of it. The lot made it into a three-way tie for sixth place in this auction. By the way, I felt that other Doisneau images (lots 94, 96) that Christie's said were 1950s vintage appeared to be later prints from about the late 1960s. They sold that way too.

Lot 103, Alfred Eisenstaedt's "Lumberyard in Seattle, WA", was scooped up by Berlin dealer Ute Hartjen of Camera Works for nearly triple the estimate at $22,800, but this was apparently a unique vintage print, according to some knowledgeable sources, although it was not noted as such by Christie's.

London dealer Michael Hoppen picked up lot 143, Jacques-Henri Lartigue's "ACF Grand Prix", for $19,200, which was double the low estimate.

Irving Penn did pretty well. Dealer Ute Hartjen picked up lot 155, Penn's "Anais Nin" for over double the low estimate at $18,000. San Francisco dealer Jeffrey Fraenkel then picked up the next lot, Penn's "Truman Capote" for triple the low estimate at $21,600.

Hartjen then came back on lot 169, Richard Avedon's "Renee, the New Look of Dior", but she had to nearly double the high estimate to get it for $18,000. She then battled a persistent European collector bidding on the phone for the cover lot, Penn's "Vogue Beauty Head with Eyes Closed (Front View)". Estimated at only $10,000-15,000, the lot soared to $66,000, finally being sold to the European collector on the phone. It tied for the top lot of the sale.

Lot 200, a group of 80 large-format Curtis photogravures sold to a commission bidder for under the low estimate at only $20,400, which was really an excellent price.

Irving Penn continued to do well. Ute Hartjen took lot 250, "Deep Sea Diver" at its high estimate for $18,000. Then she took Penn's "3 Cretan Women" (lot 251) and "Bouchers" (lot 252) for $28,800 and $33,600, both nearly double the high estimate. The price on lot 252 was good enough for fifth place overall and lot 253's price placed it in a three-way tie for last place on the Top Ten list. A phone bidder mopped up the last Penn lot (254, "Cleaning Women") for well over the high estimate at $21,600.

Helmut Newton's sexist images sold to two different phones for nearly double their high estimates. An American collector picked up Newton's "Woman Being Filmed" (lot 263) for $28,800, which put the lot in a three-way for 10th place. Then the next lot, "Study on Voyeurism II", sold for $31,200, which put it in a three-way for sixth place overall.

Still another phone picked up lot 267, a Frederick Sommer's image, for about double the low estimate at $18,000.

Always the dependable Ansel Adams, his images not only helped open the sale, but they also helped close it on a high note. Lot 272, Adams' "Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, CA" bought a winning bid over the high estimate from a man in the back of the room. The $45,600 bid put the lot into fourth place. A commission bidder, who was an American collector, snagged Adam's "Moonrise, Hernandez, NM" (lot 274) for $66,000--just over the high estimate and good enough for a piece of first place in the Top Ten.