Issue #162  7/10/2009
Bloomsbury Auctions Still Looking For Its Groove

Bloomsbury has been a more recent addition to the photography auctions here in London. It has not yet exhibited the success of some of its larger auction brethren, probably due to a smaller, less developed mailing list and lack of pricier items for auction. Perhaps this will come with time, but I still find the house's offerings interesting and often a great value. Zoe Bingham is the expert here.

The auction did not have many block-buster lots, so I can quickly hit those lots that broke over 5,000 pounds sterling with the more reasonable 20% buyers' fees here. The results weren't exactly exciting, totaling about 147,000 pounds, or about $228,000 with the buyers' premium. The sold rate was only about 43%, but that was still better than Sotheby's on this outing. A few lots sold after the sale.

The auction did get off to a good start. Lot 1, a fine group of Stieglitz Camera Work photogravures went easily over its high estimate and was the top lot of the sale at 10,800 pounds. Lot two, some more Stieglitz Camera Work photogravures, also sold well and went at the top of its estimate range for 5,160 pounds. Both lots were still great steals on Stieglitz's best images. An even better value was lot 4, another good group of Camera Work photogravures and color halftones (including Strand's Wall Street and Steichen's three-color half-tone Flatiron-Evening), which apparently went over my commission bid at 7,200 pounds.

Lot 7, a silver print of La Poupée by Hans Bellmer, sold for its low estimate at 7,200 pounds.

Lot 151, two vintage photographs (plus a book) of Fidel Castro in Cuba by Alberto Korda, which were estimated at a silly 400-600 pounds, sold for 5,760 pounds sterling.

Five digital color prints in an edition of 30 of Erwin Blumenfeld's work sold at the low estimate of 6,000 pounds. I don't think very much of these posthumous editions, which have, to me, no real integral value except for decoration.

Lot 248, Paul Nadar's scarce series of photos of what has been called the first photography interview, which took place between Nadar senior and Michel Chevreul on his 100th birthday, sold for 7,200 pounds.

The last lot in the sale, an album with some work by Baker and Burke, sold for 4,080 pounds--way over its estimate of 800-1200 pounds. If the condition had been just a bit better, it would have sold for a great deal more than even this.

But I had already fled to Paris via Eurostar and the Chunnel by the time Bloomsbury was in the throes of its auction. More next week when I send out the next E-Photo Newsletter.