Issue #80  11/4/2004
Christie's Regular Multi-Consignor Auction Hits 71.4% Sold and Just Under $4 Million in Sales

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

The next day at Christie's was even more spectacular. After foundering for a bit after Rick Wester left, Christie's had recovered with a good sale in the spring under Leila Buckjune and continued that with their first sales under Joshua Holdeman.

Ruth Orkin's iconic American Girl in Florence, Italy ($10,000-$15,000) drew the attention of a phone bidder at $21,510. Robert Frank's rainy Fifth Avenue, New York ($18,000-$22,000) was sheltered by an order bidder at $22,705. Another iconic image, Andreas Feininger's The Photojournalist, went at the mid-point of its estimate, $35,850.

San Francisco dealer Robert Koch found companionship for Jaromir Funke's Loneliness I, 1924 at $20,315, under the low estimate. Los Angeles dealer Jan Kesner outbid Clemens Vedder for Frantisek Drtikol's beautiful nude, Broken Arc ($30,000-$50,000), at $50,190. And New York dealer Deborah Bell put the pedal to the metal in zooming away with Germaine Krull's portfolio Métal ($12,000-$18,000) at $31,070. But Dr. Harold Edgerton's Bobby Jones's Golf Swing ($30,000-$50,000) hit the rough.

Brassaï's Nocturnal View from Notre Dame ($10,000-$15,000) rang in at $23,900. And Andreas Gursky's giant diptych, Schiesser, went to the phones at $89,625, just under the high estimate and the fifth highest price of the sale.

An Ansel Adams Moonrise stayed low on the horizon at $28,680. But a Clearing Winter Storm blasted past its high estimate to $45,410.

Jack Hastings went to the ball with Irving Penn's Harlequin Dress ($20,000-$30,000). Hastings has bought several Penn's at auction over the last few years but here he set a world auction record for Penn at $101,575, the third highest lot of the sale.

Santa Monica dealer Rose Shoshana, bidding on the phone, picked up her toys and went home as she took William Eggleston's untitled picture of brightly colored plastic animals just over high estimate at $22,705, outbidding gallerist Howard Read. Read came back to take an Eggleston Used Tires sign at $20,315, also over high estimate. Dealer Julie Saul plucked Eggleston's untitled (Peaches) ($50,000-$70,000) for $95,600, and fourth place. As good as that pie may have been, the ride on Eggleston's tricycle, Memphis, was even wilder. Estimated at $90,000-$120,000, it hit warp speed and finally came to rest in the hands of Shoshana, again on the phone, at a world auction record $253,900, indeed, the top lot of the sale.

A phone bidder stood up to take Penn's Seated Warrior, Reclinging Girl, Cameroon ($9,000-$12,000) at a remarkable $41,825. A Penn Cigarette sold for more than a Camel at $23,900.

Paul Strand's Buttress, Rancho de Taos Church, New Mexico, 1932/1960s sold just under the low estimate at $65,725. Manuel Alvarez Bravo's feather duster, La Plumero also sold under low estimate at $38,240.

Peter MacGill was outbid for Robert Frank's Beaufort, South Carolina, a woman sitting on a chair in a field ($20,000-$30,000), as the phone went to $47,800. Penn continued to sizzle as his portrait of Marlene Dietrich went over high estimate at $22,705, as a phone bidder held off Jack Hastings. Penn's Alfred Hitchcock did even better, at $45,410, while Edward Steichen's Joan Crawford ended the glamour at $33,460.

Clemens Vedder bought Alfred Stieglitz's lovely portrait of Marie Rapp at a bargain $22,705. Then the action really got hot on three consecutive lots.

Robert Koch outdueled Jack Hastings for Josef Sudek's marvelously surreal Profile of a Veiled Head ($18,000-$22,000), taking home the prize for a premium $57,360, a world auction record for Sudek. Next were two Mapplethorpe Calla Lilies. The first ($25,000-$35,000) went to a phone bidder for $71,700. Then the same phone bidder came back on the second ($45,000-$55,000), but not without a fight. At $242,700 the price was more stunning than the flower, a world auction record for Mapplethorpe and second place in the sale.

Richard Avedon's Nastassja Kinski and the Serpent ($9,000-$12,000) slithered to $21,510. And Laurie Simmons's Walking Camera strolled well past its high estimate to $28,680.

The morning session ended with two Hiroshi Sugimoto seascapes. Bay of Sagami, Atami floated just above its high estimate at $29,875, and Bass Strait, Lockard docked at $22,705. That was a lot of action just for the morning, with nine of the top ten prices--a testament to good material and the crisp auctioneering of Andrea Fiuczynski.

In the afternoon a number of big pieces passed. The first was Helmut Newton's Arielle, Monte Carlo ($100,000-$150,000). But Newton's seductively erotic Untitled (Legs) went over high estimate for $28,680 to a private collector.

Edward Weston's Fiftieth Anniversary Portfolio ($40,000-$60,000) was fought over with Austin's Oswald Gallery losing out to a phone bidder at $83,650, which made it the only lot of the afternoon to break the top ten list. Weston's Charis sold well below low estimate at $23,900, likewise his great toilet bowl, Excusado, Mexico, which brought only $28,680. Then his amazing pear-shaped Nude ($180,000-$220,000) passed at $140,000. An order bidder took Weston's Joshua Tree for $35,850, also under low estimate. Valle de San Juan Teotihuacán ($80,000-$120,000) also passed. It wasn't a good day for Weston.

Then another Sugimoto, Bass Strait, Table Cape, swelled to $25,095. Three Man Ray prints of Meret Oppenheim ($20,000-$30,000) were grabbed by Edwynn Houk for $38,240. Alfred Eisenstaedt's joyous Children at a Puppet Theatre, Paris ($20,000-$30,000) shouted out a bid of $45,410. The 1963 image was printed in 1989 in an edition of 250!

Diane Arbus's Loser at a Diaper Derby ($60,000-$80,000) lost again. Likewise her Puerto Rican Woman with a Beauty Mark ($100,000-$150,000). Garry Winogrand's Los Angeles (a woman sunbathing) ($9,000-$12,000) heated up to $33,460. But Paul Strand's The Family, Luzzara, Italy ($100,000-$150,000) stayed home, completing a disappointing afternoon for the biggest lots, most of which seemed simply overpriced.

Walker Evan's Penny Picture Display went just under low estimate at $21,510, while Margaret Bourke-White's East Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, brought the same price, but at double the high estimate.

A very beat up post card of Diane Arbus's Twins, with her hand-written note ($30,000-$50,000), sold for a somewhat surprising $43,020, proving that the fetish object still has a place in the photography market.

Although a number of higher-estimated lots bought-in, the overall buy-in rate for the sale was 28.6%, slightly below average for Christie's, and the total sales were very strong at $3,848,993.

Josh Holdeman commented, "Today's sale underscores the continued expansion, strength, and stability of the international photographs market, with particular attention drawn to three new world records for photographic works by William Eggleston, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Irving Penn. Combined with the Photographs from the Collection of Sir Elton John auction held yesterday evening, the total for Christie's photograph sales this week now stands at $4.75 million."

(Copyright ©2004 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/.