Issue #81  11/30/2004
Swann Does Very Well With Over $1.2 Million and 76% Sold in October Auction

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

Swann Galleries' sale the following Tuesday proved to be their best in several years with a low buy-in rate of 24% and total sales of $1,238,665. Again, attendance in the room was relatively small, about 50 people, but the phones were active and there were numerous order bids.

A hand-tinted sixth-plate tintype of an African-American woman with an American flag in her sash, estimated at only $800-$1,200, was an initial surprise as it sold to a phone bidder for $11,500. A sixth-plate ruby ambrotype of George Armstrong Custer as a graduating cadet at West Point was surrounded for $23,000, good for eighth place, but below the low estimate, by a dealer Keya Morgan bidding on the phone. This was probably the "buy" of the auction, considering its importance and rarity.

A Mathew Brady album containing 157 cartes-de-visite of Union Generals, 1861-65, brought a patriotic $34,500, at the mid-point of its estimate, also from the phone and tied for the fifth highest price of the sale. Philadelphia dealer Richard T. Rosenthal emerged victorious--and with a bargain--when he captured a Brady album of 44 Civil War views ($20,000-$30,000) for $17,250.

Camera Work Number 10, with 10 Stieglitz images ($12,000–$18,000), failed to find a buyer. But Steichen's Henri Matisse with "La Serpentina" sold at the high estimate, $34,500, tied for fifth. Edward Curtis's Waiting in the Forest--Cheyenne ($20,000-$30,000) is still wandering in the wilderness, which has been overrun by an archive of 650 prints and 217 negatives of U.S. billboards that sold for $9,775 on an estimate of $2,000-$3,000.

Atget did well. 61 Rue au Maire ($6,000-$9,000) brought $17,250 from a phone bidder and Avenue des Gobelins, with its rows of dresses and coats ($15,000-$25,000), enticed the Edwynn Houk Gallery to go on a $39,100 shopping spree (tied for third).

The portfolio Berenice Abbott's New York, tied for the highest price of the day at $43,700, going to an order bidder. Another portfolio, Walker Evans: 14 Photographs, went just under low estimate, but still was tied for top spot at $43,700.

Thirty-four prints of Pittsburgh and rural Pennsylvania in the 1930s by Luke Swank went to the phone for $13,800, more than two-and-a-half times the high estimate.

Richard Avedon's Dovima with Elephants, Evening Dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, Paris, was taken by a phone bidder for $18,400 over Michael Feldschuh, a young collector who bid at Christie's and was very active in this sale, buying 15 lots for $55,660 and underbidding several others.

Bill Brandt's Bent Elbow, underestimated at $2,500-$3,500, flexed to $16,100. An early abstract from 1953 by Aaron Siskind ($15,000-$25,000) sold to order for $13,800, the same price as his Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation 474 ($8,000-$10,000).

Ansel Adams's Moon and Half Dome, rose to $39,100, just over estimate and tied for third place. But seven "graphic" images from the second edition of Larry Clark's Teenage Lust ($18,000-$22,000) were not titillating enough.

Helmut Newton's color image, Eiffel Tower, Paris ($4,000-$6,000)--a much more erotic image than usually portrayed by his Teutonic Valkeries--was recognized as such by a phone bidder who spent $21,850 (number nine).

Closing out the sale in eighth place was Sandy Skoglund's Revenge of the Goldfish ($12,000-$18,000), which swam upstream to $23,000.

One other item of note was that bidders could follow the auction and bid online through Live Bid. According to Caroline Birnbaum, Director of Swann's Public Relations Department, Swann has used the service five times since last September and that it has drawn them new clients and that many online bidders had been successful. Indeed, in this sale 14 lots were bought by internet buyers, the vast majority under $2,500, but still enough to make a difference of, probably, several thousand dollars.

(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/.