Issue #58  5/14/2003
Artnet's Top Ten Photographers and Why Lists Like This Get You in Trouble

During the recent NYC auctions, I had at least a half a dozen dealers who asked me laughingly if I had seen Artnet's top ten photographers list. Artnet had attempted to put together an interesting list of photographers in order of their highest auction record (excluding, rightfully so in my judgment, albums and groups of images). Artnet was using the list to promote its auction database service.

Unfortunately for Artnet and its promotion, the list has a couple of inaccuracies. For instance, it skipped the Roger Fenton Billiard Room that sold at Sotheby's London for approximately $444,800--well over at least the amount that got the last four photographers in the running.

Many of the dealers thought that several other photographers should have been on the list, including Southworth & Hawes, but not so. Their highest auction price was only $387,500, which did not crack this list. Of course, that was with Sotheby's older, lower premium. In any case, Fenton actually knocks out Steichen, who was in 10th place.

Artnet also had some notes that were also inaccurate. Le Gray had at least one more image (Bearne's sale, £293,750, approximately $464,125) that would have made it on the top ten list by sheer price, pushing Gursky's last image by price back a notch.

But making mistakes in this field is all too easy. Witness my own below.