Issue #146  7/24/2008
Sotheby's Regular Spring Sale Hits Just Under $7 Million, With Strong 90% Sold Rate, Helping Auction House to Set New Season Record For Photos

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

The various-owners sale opened with a run of mostly Ansel Adams prints. James Alinder shoveled up Adams's Oak Tree Snow Storm for $79,000, well over high estimate. An oversized Moonrise went to phone bidder L0132 for $157,000, just over high estimate and tying for eighth place in the sale. Clearing Winter Storm ($30,000–$50,000) went to another phone for $85,000. New York dealer Robert Mann scaled Monolith, the Face of Half Dome at $53,800, again over the high estimate. Another phone bidder bested Alinder for Bridal Veil Fall at $67,000, more than double the high estimate. Maroon Bells rang at $79,000. A vintage print of Thundercloud, Lake Tahoe, resounded at $61,000 (again, double the high estimate), and a vintage print of Clearing Winter Storm ($40,000–$60,000) swept through at $97,000. And the last notable Adams lot, Half Dome and Moon ($30,000–$50,000) went for $91,000 to the same phone bidder who bought Moonrise.

A phone bidder topped New Orleans gallerist Joshua Mann Paillet for a large-format gravure of Alfred Stieglitz's Steerage that was signed and inscribed ($70,000–$100,000), paying $91,000. Karl Struss's Metropolitan Tower—Twilight from 1909 ($30,000–$50,000) brought $313,000 from L0132 over Robert Klein, the third highest price of the sale and setting a new record for the artist at auction. Howard Greenberg solved Edward Steichen's Harmonica Riddle, a rich and rare multiple-process print, for $115,000, just under the low estimate. Then L0132 was back again for Clarence White's Telegraph Poles, wiring $103,000.

Pierre Apraxine, consulting on his cell phone, captured a half-plate daguerreotype, Albert Southworth & Josiah Hawes's Portrait of Samuel Appleton, circa 1850, for $409,000, the second highest price of the sale, more than four times its top estimate of $90,000, and setting a new record for the artists as well as for an American daguerreotype at auction. But the new record was set only because of Sotheby's new higher premiums. Edwynn Houk came up short as a phone bidder paid $79,000 for a signed vintage print of Walker Evans's Alabama Tenant Farmer (Bud Fields), yet again more than double the high estimate.

Beginning the afternoon session, Michael Shapiro went shopping for a client for Edward Weston's Leeks, 1927 ($80,000–$120,000), paying $229,000, number five on the top ten. Weston's Dunes, Oceano, 1936 ($150,000–$250,000), brought $169,000, seventh place. L0132 flew off with Pierre Dubreuil's Titan du Ceil (Aviator) ($50,000–$70,000) for $97,000. In sixth place was Man Ray's Champs Délicieux ($200,000–$300,000) at $217,000. Man Ray's Untitled Rayograph, 1926 ($150,000–$250,000) tied for eighth place at $157,000.

L0132 held off the bidding of Howard Greenberg to take Paul Outerbridge, Jr.'s Kandinsky, 1937 ($150,000–$250,000), a color carbro still life, at $241,000, fourth place. Another Outerbridge, Political Thinking, tripled its high estimate at $109,000. In tenth place was Robert Mapplethorpe's Calla Lily, 1984, which went to a European dealer bidding by phone, for $145,000.

The cover lot, Robert Frank's Paris, went just under high estimate at $58,600, but many other Frank's sold over their high estimates, including Marilyn Dead at $61,000. The picture shows a family at the beach with a young boy reading the Daily News with that headline. Oddly, I know just where I was that day: Portland, Pennsylvania. We had just finished a three-day canoe trip on the Delaware River and when we landed the racks of newspapers outside the local drug store were filled with newspapers with that headline and similar ones, as well as stories on thalidomide babies.

The top lot of the sale came near the end, Diane Arbus's A Family on the Lawn One Sunday in Westchester, N.Y., 1968 ($200,000–$300,000), which Jeffrey Fraenkel took for $553,000, a new record for the artist at auction. Lastly, L0132 more than doubled the high estimate for Shirin Neshat's Untitled (from the Women of Allah series), paying $63,400.

Sotheby's various-owners sale totaled $6,870,325 with a buy-in rate under 10% and set seven auction records, also, in addition to those cited above, for William Dassonville, Minor White, Walter Peterhans and Henry Wessel, Jr.

Denise Bethel, Senior Vice President and Director of Sotheby's Photographs department in New York said, "This was an outstanding series of sales. The fine art photographs market has never been more vibrant. The response to great material, as evidenced by our overwhelming number of individual artists' records, is as strong as ever. We offered 300 lots--and only 26 did not sell. Our total is a record for a Sotheby's season of photographs sales."

(Copyright ©2008 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, 140 East Richardson Ave, Langhorne, PA 19047. Or to order The Photograph Collector Newsletter online, go to: http://www.photoreview.org/wordpressindex/shop/.