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Current News             Issue Archive             Article Archive E-Photo Newsletter   Issue 96   11/1/2005

Sotheby's Schieszler Sale: Small But Potent Results

Sotheby's kicked off the season with a very small (34 lots), but very strong sale of Joseph and Laverne Schieszler's collection of vintage icons. Embarrassingly, Sotheby's misspelled the couple's name on the heading of their sweet essay. But I don't think the couple cared that much, considering the strong results of the sale, which hit a little less than a million dollars below the high estimate with its $4,743,200 total and a sell-through rate of slightly over 97% (only one lot failed to sell). As previously, I will generally only cover lots that go over $40,000 for sake of some brevity.

The first lot, Barbara Morgan's "Letter to the World" (Kick) signaled that things would go well here, as phone bidders and commission bidders pushed the image to $48,000, over its high estimate. A phone bidder picked up the lot.

Lot 2, Dorothea Lange's "White Angel, Breadline, San Francisco", also broke over top estimates, bid up by New York dealer Howard Greenberg, who had sold it to the Schieszlers, and the phone. The phone got the image at $90,000, which a day later looked awfully cheap. This print had been printed by Ansel Adams from Lange's negative in about 1934.

The next lot, Lange's "Migrant Mother", was said to have been printed circa 1948-1950, but frankly looked 1960s to me. It was a particularly large print (20 x 16 inches) and so quite rare. It sold in the upper range of the estimate at $102,000 to the phone.

Lot 4, Laura Gilpin's "Flower Detail", bugged me. The catalogue listing said that the photographer had annotated "a platinum print" in pencil on the mount. Only it didn't quite look like her handwriting and the print sure looked like a matt silver print to me. Nonetheless, it was a lovely print and image and sold to the room at a reasonable $20,400--just above the low estimate.

Oddly enough, I had almost bought lot 5, Edward Weston's "Shells" from Joe Folberg at Vision Gallery before San Francisco dealer Paul Hertzmann cannily picked it up. Considering the price it sold for here, I should have. It is a lovely print and went well over the high estimate to sell to a phone bidder for $352,000 over New York dealer Peter MacGill's underbid--one of the few times that MacGill was deterred. The price only managed to tie for third highest of this auction.

Tina Modotti's "Bandolier, Corn, Sickle" (lot 6) had a punster in the room remark, "It has civil unrest written all over it." A phone bidder went to the midpoint of estimate and paid $144,000 for it. I wonder what Modotti's comment about this capitalistic move on one of her own images of revolution might have been.

Lot 7, Edward Weston's platinum print of "The Breast" raised more than a few eyebrows when it soared to an unprecedented level, as the room and phone battled over this image. I saw dealers Bonni Benrubi, Jeffrey Fraenkel and Peter MacGill all heavily involved in the fray. In the end, it was MacGill that came out on top, paying a world auction record for a 20th-century image, a whopping $822,400, and the top lot of this sale. Let's put that in perspective. Only last year, collector Michael Mattis had bought another Weston platinum of a breast at Sotheby's by overbidding MacGill at just less than $300,000. In my opinion the Mattis image was a slightly superior image and print, although the one that went to MacGill in this sale was still quite strong and was identified as Tina Mondotti. Of course, opinion is just that. More on this price differential and others in these auctions in a separate story on their impact on the photography market.

Chicagoan consultant Shashi Caudill bought the next lot, Two Callas by Imogen Cunningham, at the low estimate of $144,000.

Edward Weston's "Epilogue" (lot 9) was a duel between the phones and collector Jack Hastings, who took home the trophy at the high estimate of $216,000, which made the lot the sixth highest of this evening's auction.

Lot 10, Imogen Cunningham's "Magnolia Blossom", in a rather average print, was bid up--not surprisingly--by the phone to the reserve of $144,000. Presence is a difficult thing to define, but this lovely image really didn't have much of any. While I can't say what this bidder did, a lot of bidders never preview, which is a big mistake. Don't ever depend on the auction house for this. Hire a trusted dealer or appraiser to review the item and give you advice. You should always get third-party advice. Never just get a condition report from an auction house, which, by the way, always says in its legal language (in catalogue and elsewhere) that it does not back these condition reports. Believe me, I have learned the hard way on this. Let me note that Sotheby's is actually one of the better houses on condition reports, but even they miss a lot.

Alfred Stieglitz's "The Steerage" small format photogravure in its original American Place frame (lot 12) had sold to the Schieszlers for $46,750 in the Sotheby's MOMA sale of April 2001. This time out the phones would push the bids to more than double that amount: $96,000. I had been tempted by the item at the MOMA sale, but then I thought it had gone too high the first time around. This was only one of two Steerages in this sale; the other was to go considerably higher.

A woman from Guggenheim Asher Associates, with a phone in her ear, bid up lucky lot 13, Alfred Stieglitz's "Georgia O'Keefe" past the high estimate to $352,000.

It was extremely exciting to see Denise Bethel bid up two commission bidders to the midpoint in the range on the "Positive and Negative Images of a Coastal Landscape" by George Seeley. NOT! The final price announced from the podium was $31,200. This is another reason to stay home from the auctions: boredom.

Alfred Stieglitz's "The Hand of Man" photogravure (lot 15) went for the reserve at $96,000. I believe it was London dealer Michael Hoppen who bought this one.

Another Alfred Stieglitz's photogravure, "The Terminal, New York", sold just below low estimate to New York photo dealer Howard Greenberg for $168,000. That pushed the lot into a three-way tie for eighth in the top ten here.

Collector Michael Mattis picked up the next lot and the next Stieglitz, a later printed silver print of "The Steerage" described by Dorothy Norman to have been made between 1924-1932. It is thought that there are only two such prints in private hands. Mattis had to go "only" up to the low estimate including premium of $180,000 to capture this modern classic. That mark put the lot at the seventh highest of the auction.

An art consultant on a mobile phone talked his client into paying the low estimate ($240,000) for Paul Strand's modernist study, "Shadows, Twin Lakes, Connecticut, 1916". It was not a particularly great print with some light developer stains, but it is a very important image. If the print had been better, the price would have easily doubled, in my opinion. It still took fourth place in the ten highest priced prints of this sale.

Lot 21, "Elephantaisie", sold to the room (paddle 901) for $132,000, which was below the low estimate. Lot 22, was bought-in at $85,000 (Bought-in means that a lot at auction failed to sell at its reserve price or higher; the price quoted is the last one bid by the auctioneer, which is usually the reserve price but not always). The estimate had been $120,000-$180,000. This lot was the only unsold one in the Schieszler sale.

Another Dubreuil, the sexist "The Woman Driver", was purchased--again below the low estimate--at $108,000 by dealer Robert Burge.

Perhaps the only real shock of the evening was lot 24, Andre Kertesz's "Chez Mondrian". Before the auction there was some anticipation that this would be the highest priced lot of these auctions. True, there were reportedly three other vintage prints spread out among three different dealers, Edwynn Houk, Howard Greenberg and the Kertesz estate (represented by Stephen Daiter, Bruce Silverstein and Stephen Bulger). But all three prints had price tags of seven figures and not all were as good as this one, which presented very well. Frankly, I expected a hammer price of at least $650,000, plus premium, which would have put the object at about three-quarters of a million dollars. But the photograph went to an anonymous phone bidder for $464,000. Yes, it was a new world auction record for the artist and the price made it the second highest of the night, but other Kertesz prints have sold higher privately. Several dealers grumbled that they were caught off guard by the low result and would have bid themselves had they known and been able to be prepared. The image was perhaps the top bargain of the auction season, given its importance. Where were the crazy bidders on a truly important lot? Did a cunning dealer like Houk buy this print while selling the other? Speculation still rains rampant.

On the next lot Howard Greenberg battled off a phone bidder for Maurice Tabard's wonderful "Composition" (Nude Montage with Gloves). The price was towards the higher part of the estimate range at $52,800. The Schieszlers probably just got back their original purchase amount of $44,650 (Sotheby's, April 2001) after the auction got its cut. Appropriately, the new price eclipsed the old one as the new world auction record for the artist.

The Schieszlers probably didn't do so well on Man Ray's "Rayograph with Goggles, Egg and Candle", which they bought from Christie's four years ago for $160,000. It sold to a phone bidder below the low estimate for $168,000. The price tied the lot for eighth place with two other lots.

New York dealer Julie Saul picked up lot 27, Karl Blossfeldt's "Cotula Turbinata", for the low estimate of $60,000. It is a reasonable price for a Blossfeldt, but these images just don't do anything for me.

The tryptic of Harry Callahan's draped "Eleanor" just edged out the old world record ($137,750) set by the same group of images four years ago at Sotheby's. Germany's Camera Works bought the group for a new world auction record for the artist of $168,000. It was also good enough for a three-way tie for eighth place in this sale.

Callahan's work also did well on the next lot, "Wells Street, Chicago", which saw some active bidding in the room by Bruce Silverstein, Peter MacGill and Lee Marks. Marks walked away with it though for double the midpoint of the estimate range at $72,000.

Mapplethorpe's black and white "Calla Lily" (lot 32) sold to the room for $66,000--well over the high estimate. It was the last lot of the auction to make my minimum cutoff.

Sotheby's Regular Sale Nets $5,570,000; Sells 83%

Sotheby's New York's fall multi-owner sale did well, bringing in $5,570,000 and selling just over 83% by lot. That brought the house's total for its two sales to over $10.3 million. The multi-owner auction also managed to tie the world's auction record for a 20th-century photograph, set just the day before for the Weston "Breast".

Again, due to space considerations, I will largely limit my comments to lots that sold for over $40,000 with buyer's premium. The prices below all include that premium.

A slightly oversized and attractive print of Ansel Adams' "Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine" (lot 6) sold to a commission bidder for just shy of the midpoint of the estimate range at $40,800. Then the next print, another Adams' but of "Half Dome, Merced River, Winter, Yosemite Valley" sold to a phone bidder for the high estimate at $60,000. Two lots later, still another Adams' print, the plentiful "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico", sold to a commission bidder for over the high estimate at $43,200. It was a decent 16 x 20 print, but the mount had been cut down by the idiotic work of an inexperienced framer.

The next lot was a powerful and rare rendition of Geronimo by Edward Curtis. Curtis expert Chris Cardozo had to battle a woman in the room for this one. Estimated at $20,000-30,000, the price quickly soared to $78,000, but Cardozo did take home the prize.

I may be alone on this, but I happen to think that Edward Weston's (in this case, co-signed by Margarethe Mather) early pictorialist platinum and matte silver prints are some of the most overlooked, undervalued and underrated beauties on the market. And so, unfortunately, lot 22, a lovely print of the nude Marion Morgan Dancers by a pool, was bought in at $34,000 instead of selling for substantially more.

It was a while until a lot climbed up to my arbitrary $40,000 level, but lot 39, Walker Evans' Tin Relic, sold to the phone for well over the high estimate at $40,800. Lot 42, Evans' "Alabama Tenant Farmer" (Bud Fields: yes, that was the man's actual name) sold to the phones, which battled it out to just over the high estimate at $43,200. This portrait of a plum ugly, unshaven man with a red bandana draped over his shoulders prompted one wag in the audience to say that Bud Fields had "started the fashion revolution."

The next lot was some more FSA-era images--this time by Dorothea Lange. The group of 32 photographs, including Migrant Mother and other key images, were titled by Lange herself, leading some, including Sotheby's, to speculate that she might have actually printed these vintage images. The images had been printed under FSA auspices for exhibition in schools, libraries, etc. Estimated at an extremely low come-on range of only $50,000-70,000, the images were heavily reviewed during the auction previews. While Migrant Mother was somewhat damaged (although conservation might help some), there was no question that the group was important. Initially collector Michael Mattis, who later told me that there was 'only' "$480,000 retail tops in the lot," carried the early bidding burden. But soon he was relieved of that as a battle between a determined phone and a nearly equally determined San Francisco dealer Paul Hertzmann took over the bidding. When the smoke had cleared, the phone bidder had won at a price of $296,000. That put the lot into third place in the top ten list of this auction.

Lot 52, the Edward Weston 50th Anniversary Portfolio, sold to the room over a commission bid for $79,200. Perhaps the most overlooked Weston of the sales might have been lot 53, which bought-in at $16,000. The image was made probably in early 1930 for an article on his work by Merle Armitage. As Sotheby's notes in its catalogue, "This process of making the prints (on glossy paper) for this article marked a significant turning point in Weston's approach to printing." It might even be said to be the catalyst for the entire F64 movement. It was a shame that an institution didn't buy the piece to add to the scholarship on Weston.

Lot 66, a large W. Eugene Smith "Walk to Paradise", bought-in at $36,000 (plus of course the 20% premium if it had been bought). It was clearly a later print and--more importantly--had considerable damage. Likewise, the Rudolf Koppitz "Bewegungsstudie" bought-in at $42,000. It had been cracked in half but was neatly restored. I was actually pleased by both of these buy-ins because it meant that potential buyers were being more careful. Both images looked quite nice in the catalogue, but looks can be deceiving. The latter print was from the collection of the Museum of Science and Industry of Chicago, which was using Sotheby's to deaccess most of its photography holdings. The museum was to do very well with much of these pieces, including tying the world auction record for a 20th-century photograph, just set the night before.

There was another big gap before prices jumped up again. Lot 104, Edward Steichen's George Washington Bridge (13-1/2" x 10-1/2"), sold to a phone bidder in the midrange of the estimates at $78,000. It was underbid by Germany's Camera Works.

Clarence White's "The Old Ohio Canal" (lot 107) was admired by a number of photo dealers for its modernist feel, so I felt that it might set a new record for the artist, but it missed by quite a bit. Estimated at a reasonable $30,000-50,000, the image was bid on by Chicago dealer Stephen Daiter, New York dealer Tom Gitterman and the phone, which eventually reeled it in for $52,800. If it were a bit larger, I feel certain that the print would have broken the artist's auction record of $105,600 for "Drops of Rain, 1903", which was set just this past spring at Sotheby's.

Aptly titled, Pierre Dubreuil's "The First Round" (lot 110) must have made its bidders feel a little punch drunk. New York dealer Howard Greenberg and others in the room duked it out with a strong phone bidder, who ultimately won the title at a stunning $216,000--well over the estimate range of $100,000-150,000. That was good enough for a new world's auction record for the artist and sixth place in the day's auction.

London dealer Michael Hoppen flew in to grab the next Dubreuil, "The Aviator" (lot 111) for well under the low estimate at $57,600.

Lot 112, Dubreuil's "Spectacles", was almost a complete duplication of what happened on lot 110. Again it was Howard Greenberg and again it was the same phone bidder, who once more outbid Greenberg at $105,600.

The second Dorothea Lange "White Angel Bread Line" of Sotheby's fall sales was estimated at what I felt at the time to be a realistic $200,000-300,000. After all, the most expensive "White Angel Bread Line" at auction before this one sold for only $141,500. But this one was bigger (13-1/4" x 10-1/4") and fully signed. Then the room exploded with bids from numerous locations. I saw Ken Wynn, Lee Marks, Thea Westreich and Peter MacGill all bidding on this piece at one time or another. The price quickly soared, and in the end it was once again Peter MacGill tying the world auction record for a 20th-century photograph that he helped set just the night before at $822,400. Obviously, he was bidding for an icon-hunting collector with deep pockets--very deep ones to pay this much for a print that probably would have been difficult to sell for over $300,000 the year before. The Museum of Science and Industry had picked up a chunk of change on this one, which also was the highest price on a lot in this auction.

The Sotheby's sale was just over the halfway mark, but there was still plenty of action to come.

Lot 124, Andre Kertesz's portfolio of the same name in small format, sold to a commission bidder (one of several) for well over the high estimate at $48,000.

The Frederick Sommer prints in this sale had a mixed time of it. Perhaps it was the aggressive estimates, or perhaps the largely difficult subject matter (pretty gross body parts in three of the lots, although two sold). The first lot, and most accessible of the group, was the ever-popular "Livia" (lot 135), which sold to Peter MacGill for $45,600 over a strong effort by a man in the back of the room. It was near the top of the estimate range. Lot 136, "Ondine" bought-in at $15,000. Lot 137, "Duck Entrails, Chicken Heads", sold to dealer Lee Marks for just over the low estimate at $43,200, as did lot 139, "Placenta". Lot 138, "Amputated Foot" was just a bit too funky for anyone, and it bought-in at $26,000.

Another Irving Penn's "Woman in Palace, Marrakech, Morocco", but in a silver print, rather than the platinum of the Christie's Elfering sale and four inches smaller (but also in another edition of 40), did not quite go as insanely as the one at Christie's. Let us be straightforward: this is NOT A RARE PRINT. Several editions of 40 prints exist. Yet, the Christie's one set a world's auction record for Penn at over $307,000. This one here still managed to nearly double the high estimate at $52,800 and was bought by a phone bidder.

Likewise Penn's "Woman with Roses on Her Arm" (lot 149), which had sold to an American collector at Christie's Elfering sale for a stunning $204,000 (momentarily holding the world's auction record for Penn), here sold in a virtually identical print (same size, same type of print, same edition) for $81,600 to Penn dealer Peter MacGill. Several other astute players, including collector Michael Mattis, were also bidding on this one.

Lot 152, an interesting Irving Penn ("Nude 58"), had several dealers bidding for clients. At one point dealer Tom Gitterman had won the lot, but then the client on the other end of his mobile phone line must have gotten confused with the bidding levels, and so the lot went to dealer Deborah Bell for $45,600--nearly double the high estimate. London dealer Michael Hoppen was also heavily involved on this one.

Collector Ken Wynn picked up Penn's "Collapse" for nearly double the high estimate at $40,800. It was a great piece that even tempted me until the price got up there.

A Neil Selkirk-printed Diane Arbus "Twins" (lot 171), apparently not a portfolio print, sold to a group of men in the room for $110,400--just over the high estimate. I remember (and not too long ago) when that would have been a high price for one by Diane Arbus herself. The price made this the ninth highest price of the sale.

An Arbus-printed "Exasperated Boy with Toy Hand Grenade, N.Y." (lot 172) sold to Peter MacGill, who seemed to be on a buying tear for one or more clients. The price of $374,400 was well below the estimate (plus premium, of course) of $350,000-500,000. But it did put this lot into second place in the top ten of this auction.

Another Arbus vintage print of "Patriot with Proud Button and Flag" sold to a phone bidder at the low estimate of $120,000. Then another phone bidder picked up seven Selkirk-printed Arbus prints from the portfolio, "A Box of Ten Photographs"--again for the low estimate of $240,000. That was a fifth place finish for this lot.

MacGill came back to take another vintage Arbus, "A Jewish Giant at Home with His Parents" (lot 175), for just over the low estimate at $262,400, which was good enough for fourth place in the top ten.

A Selkirk print of "The Junior Interstate Ballroom Dance Champions" pushed bidders to exceed the high estimate. A buyer in the room got it for $45,600.

A Selkirk-printed "Exasperated Boy with Toy Hand Grenade, N.Y." (lot 180) got well into its estimate range at $108,000. It sold to a group of three men in the room.

The Nicholas Nixon portfolio of "The Brown Sisters" was the last lot to hit my minimum. It sold to the phone for $192,000 over active bidding in the room and on the phone, including dealer Howard Greenberg. That price was $12,000 over the same portfolio that had sold the previous week at Phillips. It was also strong enough to boost the lot into seventh place in the top ten of the day.

Only one more auction to go: Christie's multi-owner sale.

Cowan's Announces Fall
Blockbuster Auction

Cowan's Auctions, Inc. of Cincinnati, Ohio will hold their semi-annual auction of Historical Americana over a three day period between November 16-18. Most photograph collectors will be interested in the offerings on Days II and III.

Wes Cowan and his staff always manage to come up with exciting 19th-century material, and this sale is no exception. Highlights include three portfolios of American Indian photographs taken for the Englishman William Blackmore between 1872 and 1873. Two of these were taken in the Washington studio of Alexander Gardner, one was taken in New York by Jeremiah Gurney. Only one--"Red Cloud and His Braves" by Gardner, has appeared on the market in the last quarter of a century. When it appeared at the Frank Siebert sale of American Indian literature at Sotheby's in 1999, it fetched $129,000.

The albums are part of a veritable cornucopia of American Indian photographs that will be sold, many of which were consigned by Wes and Leon Kramer of The Kramer Gallery in Minneapolis, MN. Some of our readers might know the Kramer Gallery as a purveyor of fine American paintings. But fewer know that over a number of years the Kramer's amassed a collection of more than 500 photographs of American Indians, including portraits by Huffman, Jackson, Soule, Bell, and other 19th century notables, along with pictorialist images by Roland Reed, Frank Rinehart, George Fiske and others.

A large group of large format paper images taken by Salt Lake City photographer Charles R. Savage is also included, along with a number of large-format Dakota Territory images by Grabill. This sale is particularly strong in photographs of the American West, and many gems can be found by perusing the catalogue. There are no less than 14 images of the mercurial George Armstrong Custer, along with many of the men who died at the Little Bighorn. A rare carte-de-visite of Wild Bill Hickok, along with autographed images of his 1873 stage mates Ned Buntline and Texas Jack Omohundro, and a group of original collodion negatives of dead members of the James/Younger Gang's 1876 raid on the bank at Northfield, MN, for example, are only highlights.

An exceptionally rare image of Senator Sam Houston of Texas is also included, descended through the family of the Rachel Donelson Jackson, wife of Andrew Jackson. Likely taken sometime in 1858-59 while Houston was a Senator, the tintype splendidly captures the defiant nature of the Texan.

A sixth plate daguerreotype of Vice President of the United States and Confederate general and cabinet officer John C. Breckinridge will be sold on Day III along with hundreds of Civil War paper images and cased photographs. The Breckinridge image was recently discovered curbside in Lexington, KY, discarded along with other household items thrown out in an estate.

Cowan's rarely strays from the 19th century, but this sale does include a marvelous vernacular album containing nearly 500 silver gelatin images of cowboys and the workings of La Cananea, the northern Mexican ranch of Copper Baron Charles Greene. The images are, according to Cowan's some of the best examples of the cowboy genre they have handled in their 10 years of existence.

For more information about the auction and to view descriptions and photographs of each lot in the entire auction, you should visit Cowan's website at: http://www.cowanauctions.com or catalogs may be purchased for $30 by contacting the firm directly at Cowan's Auctions, Inc., 673 Wilmer Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45226; phone: 1-513-871-1670.

Artcurial Holds Paris
Auction On Nov. 22nd

The auction house Artcurial will hold a photography auction on Tuesday, November 22 at 2:15 pm at the company's elegant offices in the Hotel Dassault, 7-9 Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris, France. The lots will span the history of photography from Maxime Du Camp to Lee Friedlander. Viewing hours are Friday, November 18 to Monday, November 21.

Some of the featured lots include:

Brassaï, la Môme Bijou, 1932, a rare vintage gelatin silver print of this iconic Paris de Nuit image, 40000 to 50000 euros.

Paolo Gasparini: one of the best Latin American photographers and affordable compared to his European and American counterparts. Vintage prints from his Cuban years (1962-1965) and vintages portraits of Alexander Calder in Caracas (1955), 1500-2000 euros each.

Felix Teynard: three views of Egypte and Nubie (2000-3000 euros) and an extremely rare view of his house near Grenoble, circa 1850, salt paper print made before leaving for Egypt, and probably as a "proof" in Le Gray's technique, 2500-3500 euros.

Paul Nadar, Interview of Chevreul, 1886: a near complete, 26-card set of this famous photographic interview. It is reportedly the most complete set ever proposed at auction. The set has been in the same French family collection since the beginning of the 20th century, 50-60 000 euros.

Nature Morte au Lièvre (Still life with Hare), by Cuvelier, a wonderful salt print from 1860 in a pristine condition, 15 000-20 000 euros.

Also, great prints by Cartier-Bresson, Friedlander, Ronis, Doisneau, Arbus, Alvarez-Bravo, Bing, Henry, Du Camp, Atget and more.

For information, contact Grégory Leroy at gleroy@artcurial.com or at +33 (0) 1 42 99 20 15 (from the U.S. drop the "(0)" and add 011 to the front). His English is excellent. The catalogue can be found on line at http://www.artcurial.auction.fr .

Israel Museum's Photo Dept. Gets $12 Million Gift From Levine Foundation

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, announced late last month that longstanding patrons Harriette and Noel Levine have made a gift of $12 million through their foundation to the museum's department of photography. This gift is thought to be the largest single monetary gift for photography at a museum. It will support acquisitions, research, exhibitions, publications, and departmental operations.

In recognition of the couple's generosity, the Museum's photography department, which holds over 55,000 works reflecting the evolution of the medium from its earliest days, is being named "The Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography."

"We are deeply grateful to Harriette and Noel Levine for this unprecedented gift, which ensures the growing strength of our program in the history of photography," said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum. "As one of the first encyclopedic museums to establish an independent department for photography, the Israel Museum has become a leading international institution in this field today. The Levines' gift guarantees that the department will continue to grow, through important acquisitions, research, and programming, enabling us to realize our commitment to the medium."

Avid patrons of the arts, Harriette and Noel Levine have developed an outstanding photography collection themselves that ranges from vintage 19th-century photographs through contemporary works. The New York-based collectors are actively involved in the American Friends of the Israel Museum and have been supportive of the museum for many years. Among other contributions, in 1994, the Levines generously gave the Israel Museum a collection of eighty-five signed works by noted photographer Andre Kertesz.

"We are proud that our gift will help advance the Israel Museum's emergence as one of the premier venues in the field of photography," said Noel Levine. "Photography as a means of artistic expression is a subject of very special interest for Harriette and me, and it is gratifying to support an institution that is a leader in the collection and study of this art form."

In addition to the Israel Museum, Harriette and Noel and Harriette Levine have gifted photographic works to the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has named a gallery in their honor. They participate in many charitable endeavors and serve as board members and trustees to a number of cultural and arts institutions.

Holiday Sale Now On View At I Photo Central Website

Newsletter readers can now see a special End-of-the-Year Holiday sale on I Photo Central brought to you by all five of the website's photography dealers. These items are available at special sale prices (from 20 to over 60% off the regular list price) for only a limited time, from now until December 31st. Many of the items' regular list prices were reduced earlier, so the actual net reductions may be well over 40% to 80% in many instances. These are all final prices, so no other discounts apply. Shipping/insurance may also be added.

There are some great deals, so check them out soon at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/sale/sale.php .

If you want to do further sorts on the sale list, you can go to the Search Images page at http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/search.php and put EndofYearHolidaySale1 into the key word field. Then you can also use the other search fields, such as price range, country, date range, etc. When you have all your choices made, simply hit the Search button (not the Show All Images button). When you put in the key word, you must have the capital letters in properly and no space between the words or the number "1". Also make sure you do not have any extra space after the key word. This way if you are bargain hunting, you can put in a range from $1 to $500, or if you want to focus on the top end, just put in a range from $1000 (or $5000) to No Limit.

New Doyle Color Photo
Art Book Now Shipping

The new photography art book, Marcus Doyle: Night Vision/Intimacies of an Unblinking Eye, is now available for shipping. Twenty-six photographs by Doyle are reproduced in full color and are accompanied by an essay by noted photography critic Matt Damsker. The book is published by Vintage Works, Ltd.

The 32-page book will be offered in a special edition, which will be cloth hardbound (plus color dust jacket) and slip-cased and will come with an 8 x 10 inch signed photograph and be limited to only 100 copies (ISBN 0-9771415-1-9), for a starting list price of $500, plus $11shipping and insurance by priority mail (in the U.S.) (prices will go up $100/20 copies). A softbound edition, which is limited to 1,400 copies (ISBN 0-9771415-0-0), is list priced at $39.95, plus $2 shipping by bookrate (in the U.S.). Both versions of the book will be available October 15, 2005.

You may also purchase copies at Vintage Work's booth (G5) at Paris Photo. Marcus Doyle will be signing copies during the show on Friday and Saturday nights from 5-8 p.m.

To quote Matt Damsker's essay: "The photographs of Marcus Doyle transform the familiar spaces and landscapes of the modern world into twilight zones--nearly surreal, almost alien, yet always recognizable for what they are…Doyle's large-format approach, with saturated colors that result from exposures as long as three hours, turns his unstaged tableaux into visions of exalted expectancy amidst man's tendency to trivialize.

To view some of the images in the new book and for more information on the photographer, you can go to http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/57/1/1 .

To order copies of the book, contact: Vintage Works, Ltd., 258 Inverness Circle, Chalfont, PA 18914 USA. Phone: 1-215-822-5662; Fax: 1-215-822-8003; email: info@vintageworks.net .

New Czech Photography Books

By Matt Damsker

CZECH PHOTOGRAPHY OF THE 20TH CENTURY--A GUIDE.

By Vladimir Birgus and Jan Mlcoch. Published by u(p)m and KANT to accompany the exhibition of the same name held at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague and the City Gallery Prague. Newly released in English. 164 pages; ISBN No. 80-7101-032-4. Copies available from KANT by writing to Karel Kerlicky, Kladenska 29, 160 00 Praha 6; email: kerlicky@kant-books.com .

As exhibition curators and authors Birgus and Mlcoch remind us in their introduction, "Czech Photography of the 20th Century" was the "largest comprehensive presentation of the main trends, personalities, and works of Czech photography from 1901 to 2000." The result was a thorough overview that offered countless perspectives on everything from obscure photography to the familiar achievements of Josef Sudek, Josef Koudelka, Tono Stano, and others. This beautifully rendered guide, on heavy stock and with generous annotations, does justice to an ambitious exhibition on one hand, and offers a unique panorama on the other.

That's because Czech photography in general is a portrait in cultural restlessness, a chronicle of a European landscape torn between huge forces, struggling to express identity amidst oceanic change. From the German occupation of the '30s, through the liberation and Soviet domination that followed, to the late-century blossoming of true freedom, Czechosolovakia has seen it all. Its photographic legacy is an unstable mosaic of vivid experience and sensation. What begins with the pastoral dreaminess of impressionist and art nouveau photography quickly yields to the documentarianism and reportage of urban and World War I images, and then the experimentalism of modern and abstract photography, with the likes of Sudek locating the textures and random beauty of Prague, while Jaroslav Rossler and Jaromir Funke play with cubist notions, expressionist geometries, and fractured form.

Indeed, there's a certain organic logic to the perception that emerges: Czechoslovakia's jagged history is abstractly reflected in the photographic distortions of the human body that seem to predominate. Nudes tend not to be merely nudes, bodies merely bodies, or faces merely faces, but canvases of anxiety, angst, struggle and strain--from the war-torn youth captured by Koudelka to the tense muscularity of various male nudes. And female beauty is typically conceptualized as shadowy, secretive, with identity cropped out of the frame for its own protection. The psychological weight of all this is built up layer by layer in this book, climaxing with the unique elegance of Tono Stano's iconic 1992 fashion shot, "Sense," in which a stunning nude woman is rendered as a vertical serpent--head, torso, and one leg emerging from the black halves of a gown. It apotheosizes Czech photography in a single image--an image of freedom stepping out of the darkness.

VLADIMIR BIRGUS—PHOTOGRAPHS 1981-2004.

Published by KANT. ISBN No. 80-86217-78-7. Available through D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, 155 Sixth Ave., New York, NY 10023. Newly released in English. Phone: 1-212-627-1999; and Vice Versa Vetried, Dresdner Str. 118, D-10999 Berlin; phone +49-30-61609236; fax: +49-30-61609238; viceversa@comp.de . KANT email: kant@znet.cz ; Vladimir Birgis web site: www.birgus.cz ; email: vlbirgus@volny.cz .

Birgus's rigor and vision in co-curating that wonderful survey of Czech photography extends to his own work as well, and this 20-year chronicle of his artistry is filled with striking, consistently edgy photos. As Elzbieta Lubowicz notes in her introduction, Birgus uses large areas of dominant color--often primaries, and often red or yellow--to create an "unrealistic atmosphere [that reminds] us of abstract paintings more than of reality recordings." And yet his images are always in touch with the grit and texture of the modern, urban world. The human figures in his geometrically flattened landscapes of intersecting planes, shadows and sun-struck color are recognizably self-absorbed, often standing or walking in relation to one another, but without narrative or emotional connection.

The result is a singular photographic strategy that celebrates random visual fact, the coloristic beauty of everything from industrial materials to blue sky, and the human form as a means of activating and offsetting the inanimate forms that press in on us. Across the beaches, tiles, boardwalks, landing strips, streets, and rooftops of cities from Moscow to Paris, Seattle to New York, Birgus makes haunting, expressive photographs that reward the eye with glancing detail, fragmented narrative and rich natural light. His tendency to capture his own shadow as he takes the picture may echo Lee Friedlander without Friedlander's wit, but in the course of 20 years, Birgus manages to not repeat himself or fall prey to preciousness. His art brings the taut, toughened Czech sensibility into a wider world of big sky, sea, and postmodern architecture--and the result is usually something we have not seen before.


Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published in the fall of 2005.

He currently reviews books for U.S.A. Today.

(Book publishers, authors and photography galleries/dealers may send review copies to us at: I Photo Central, 258 Inverness Circle, Chalfont, PA 18914. We do not guarantee that we will review all books or catalogues that we receive. Books must be aimed at photography collecting, not how-to books for photographers.)