Issue #147  8/4/2008
Christie's Photo Book Sale Big Success:Brings in $2,602,450 With Only 8% Buy-Ins

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

Christie's kicked off the first of their five sales with Fine Photobooks from an Important Private Collection. We can reveal the name of the collector: Richard Fray, a real estate developer who amassed this impressive collection in just the last few years. Arguably the finest collection of its kind offered at auction to date, this sale realized $2,602,450 against an estimate of $1.5–$2.2 million. Almost without exception, every book in this collection was distinguished by superb condition and provenance. Most of the books offered were signed or inscribed by the photographers, linking some of the key figures of 20th-century photography. Highlights included Jindrich Styrsky, Emilie prichazi ka mne ve snu, (Emily Comes to Me in a Dream), 1933 ($60,000–$90,000), which sold for $193,000 and A complete set of artist's books, 1963–1978 by Ed Ruscha, ($60,000–$90,000), which sold for $121,000, both to the same dealer on the phone. Hans Bellmer's Les jeux de la poupée (The Games of the Doll), 1949 ($60,000–$90,000), sold for $115,000 to Parker Stevenson over Harper Levine, the latter a frequent buyer at this sale. Stevenson also took Bellmer's La Poupée, 1936, at the low estimate, $73,000, over surrealist dealer Adam Boxer.

Roger Parry's Banalité went to 1739--an active phone bidder at this sale--for $67,000. El Lissitzky's Industriia Sotsializma, 1935 ($20,000–$25,000) produced a bid of $79,000, with Harper Levine the underbidder. Levine came back to win Georges Hugnet's La Septième face du dé (The Die's Seventh Face), 1936, for $49,000.

Weegee's Naked City brought two-and-a-half times its high estimate at $37,000. Robert Frank's The Americans, a first American edition in fine condition, brought $32,200.

Harper Levine paid $85,000, almost double the high estimate for Emmet Gowin's rare Concerning America and Alfred Stieglitz, and Myself, 1965, with 14 silver prints. Provoke 1, 2, and 3, the most important publication of the Japanese avant-garde, almost doubled its high estimate at $43,000.

1739 grabbed William Eggleston's Morals of Vision ($28,000–$35,000) for $58,600 and Richard Prince's Adult Comedy Action Drama claimed the same price.

The sale totaled $2,602,450 with a meager 8% buy-in rate. Sven Becker, specialist in charge of the sale, said, "Our inaugural auction in New York in the hotly-collected field of photo books saw highly competitive bidding from determined American and international buyers in a busy room and on numerous phones. The enthusiastic support of photograph collectors and the strong results reflect a deepening appreciation of photo books as not only reference, but as significant works of art in their own right."

(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/.