There were not as many heavy hitters in Swann Galleries' October 21 offering, and those few had mixed results. Imogen Cunningham's Agave 2 ($10,000-$15,000) passed, but the next one, Frantisek Drtikol's Étude, the cover lot, edged over its low estimate to $48,300 as Lee Marks held off Robert Koch to take the top lot of the sale. Lewis Hine's Empire State Building topped off at only $17,250 on an estimate of $20,000-$30,000, but was still the second highest lot of the sale. It sold to a phone bidder. And an Adams Moonrise passed at $28,000 on an estimate of $30,000-$40,000, meaning the reserve must have been right at the low estimate.
Ed Ruscha's Surrealism Soaped and Scrubbed ($10,000-$15,000) was cleaned up by a phone bidder for $12,650, the same price Paul Strand's Woman, Patzcuaro, Mexico ($9,000-$12,000) brought from an order bidder. Those two tied for third on the list of top lots. Tina Modotti's Untitled (coconut tree climber) ($9,000-$12,000) went to an order bidder at $11,500.
Julia Margaret Cameron's Henry Taylor, A Portrait ($5,000-$7,000) sold at a premium to the phone for $10,350. Margaret Bourke White's Boys Studying Talmud ($7,000-$10,000) reached the same price over the phone, tying for sixth place.
One other noteworthy price was the $7,475 that Larry Fink's Pat Sabatine's 8th Birthday Party celebrated on an estimate of only $1,200-$1,800. Fink is one of those photographers due recognition by the market and prices for some of his most well known images, like this one, may be on the way up.
As we noted in the Christie's sale, Swann withdrew lot 6, a daguerreotype of a fisherman when it was made known that the image was a modern fake.
Swann's sale was different than the others, not only because of its wide-ranging material and price levels, but the audience was smaller and there were many more bidders on the phone and in the book than in the room. The buy-in rate of 37% lagged slightly behind the other houses, and the sale total of $707,135, below the low estimate, was average at best.
Daile Kaplan, Swann's Vice President and Director of Photographs, said, "As the photographs market continues to grow, Swann's clientele takes advantage of the fact we offer the full panorama of photographic expression, from historical documents to fine art contemporary objects. Our sales results reflect our strengths in different areas of the market."
(Copyright © 2003 and 2004 by The Photo Review and I Photo Central. My thanks to Steve Perloff and The Photograph Collector Newsletter for giving me permission to use some of 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 (overseas airmail is $169.95). You can phone 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)