Issue #147  8/4/2008
Christie's Various Owners Auction Totals $4,682,875, But With a High 33% Buy-in Rate

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

In Christie's various-owners sale, Peter Beard's striking Self Portrait for Centre Nationale de la Photographie, Paris, 1996, a collage of gelatin silver prints, chromogenic prints and morphine drip ($150,000–$200,000) went to the phone over the bid of Jack Hastings for $217,000. It had sold at Christie's in October 2005 for $192,000, more than the $180,000 hammer price now. It was sixth on the top ten list in this sale.

Elliot Porter's portfolio Trees, which was hardly considered by the market a decade ago, blossomed to $46,600. One sold in 2005 for $20,700.

Irving Penn had numerous works in the top ten in this sale. Moroccan Fanatasia, Marrakech claimed eighth place and sold for $91,000--five times its high estimate. Penn's Black and White Vogue Cover, 1950, a platinum-palladium print in an edition of 34, drew intense interest. Jeffrey Fraenkel, jumped the bidding to $200,000, then $250,000, but stopped at $300,000, the high estimate. Then three phone bidders took over until the lot was finally hammered down at $400,000--$481,000 including premium. It was--briefly--a world auction record for Penn, and ended as the second highest lot of the sale.

A fine vintage print of Henri Cartier-Bresson's Hyères, France, 1932 ($60,000–$90,000), with its vertiginous view of a blurred bike rider, is a classic example of the work of the master of the decisive moment. Michael Shapiro and collector Michael Mattis kept exchanging the yellow shirt, but Mattis sprinted first to the finish at $265,000, fifth place in the sale and a world auction record.

A Selkirk print of Diane Arbus's Child with a toy hand grenade ($80,000–$120,000), passed at $70,000. It had a stain in the margin, almost touching the image, almost as if someone had spilled coffee on it, which had been stabilized though not removed through conservation.

Richard Avedon's Nastassja Kinski and the Serpent ($30,000–$50,000) tied for eighth place at $91,000. Collector Christopher Luce more than doubled the high estimate for Brassaï's Couple d'amoureux dans un petit café at $58,600.

Robert Mapplethorpe's silver print of a Calla Lily captured the tenth spot as it went to a European collector on the phone for $85,000, within the estimates. Then Tim Jeffries of Hamiltons Gallery in London plucked the fourth highest lot of the sale, Mapplethorpe's platinum print of a different Calla Lily ($100,000–$150,000) for $265,000.

A platinum-palladium print of Irving Penn's iconic Cuzco Children ($250,000–$350,000) was the object of a custody battle between phone bidders. The Christie's representatives on the phones seemed to be speaking French. At $529,000 it proved to be not only the top lot of the day, but shattered the record for Penn set in the morning.

Michael Mattis stopped just short of an order bidder for Edward Weston's Fiftieth Anniversary Portfolio at $73,000, just over high estimate. Clemens Vedder bested both Tim Jeffries and Jack Hastings for Irving Penn's Poppy: Glowing Embers, New York, 1968, dye-transfer print ($70,000–$90,000) at $145,000 (seventh place). Christie's listed the buyer as "European Private," so perhaps it went to Vedder's own collection rather than to Camera Work gallery, or perhaps to a collector on whose behalf he was bidding.

The penultimate lot in the sale was William Eggleston's Southern Suite ($80,000–$120,000). The portfolio set a record for an Eggleston lot at $289,000, three times what it sold for at auction in 2005.

The sale totaled $4,682,875 with a 33% buy-in rate.

(Copyright ©2008 by The Photo Review.)

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/.