Robert Doisneau's iconic "Kiss at City Hall" sold recently at Artcurial's Paris auction for a record-breaking $240,000--over twelve times the low estimate. The price included buyer's premium and Valued Added Tax (VAT).
A Swiss private collector from Geneva purchased the photograph. The lot had been estimated at 15,000-20,000 euros. Ironically, the direct underbidder was also a collector from Switzerland. The other major underbidders were French (one private, one dealer).
The auction price achieved by the Doisneau image set a record for French post-war photographs, and is one of the most expensive French 20th-century photographs ever auctioned. It clearly shows the direction for the prices of French 20th-century images, which continue to be very hot.
Francoise Bornet, the woman being kissed in the photograph, was the consignor. She had received it directly from Doisneau at the time she posed. The Doisneau family also confirmed the details of photographer's gift, so the image was one of impeccable provenance. The print was in excellent condition and stamped by the photographer. It was accompanied by a letter of provenance from Bornet.
Bornet, who was an actress when the photograph was taken, and her lover Jacques Carteaud at the time were the subjects of the image, which was taken in 1950. Doisneau apparently saw them kissing and asked them to recreate the action for his camera in front of the Hotel de Ville. The casual quality of this very posed image captured the romanticism of after-the-War Paris. Doisneau took the picture for a series on lovers in Paris for Life magazine through the French picture agency Rapho. It later became very famous through various publications, including a poster in the 1980s.