LE GRAY AUCTION ACTION IN PARIS; CALOTYPE ALBUM FETCHES OVER 220,000 POUNDS STERLING IN UK AUCTION; JAMMES SALE II AND III SET FOR PARIS IN MARCH; SOTHEBY'S MAY PRESSURE TAUBMAN FAMILY TO SELL ITS SHARES IN AN EFFORT TO DISTANCE THE COMPANY FROM THE EX-CHAIRMAN
LE GRAY AUCTION ACTION IN PARIS
What started out as just one of those Drouot (the building in Paris where most auctions are held) myths wound up as just another auction. Back in October, Millon & Associes put out a folder with nine photographs (although some observers said it was ten) out on top of some tables along with lots of other lower grade antiques. The contents of the folder were estimated at that time to be worth 10,000 francs. What made this particular folder so interesting was that it contained all Gustave Le Gray photographs, including the rare and highly sought after Beech Tree or Le Hêtre.
Needless to say, after all the buzzing of several excited French photography dealers, the auction house felt that something was amiss with this little folder. Finally a book dealer, trying to wangle a job as expert for the house, spilled the beans (for my French friends that means to talk about a secret); and the auction house quickly scooped up the folder and rescheduled the group for their own little auction on December 3. This allowed lots of photography dealers and collectors to view during Paris Photo week. The French franc is approximately 7.26 to the dollar.
Lot 1, The Entrance to the Port of Brest failed to sell at 90,000 francs. It was a weak print and the image was not very exciting; however, the image is not a common one.
Lot 2, Groupe de Naivres (Sète) sold for approximately 277,000 francs with the premium of 10.764%. It was a nice print and well worth this money.
Lot 3, a small print of a group of trees, remained unsold.
Lot 4, Arbre Creux Dans la Forêt de Fontainebleau, sold for just under a half million francs, including the premium. As is typical of this scarce image the outer edges are actually stronger than the center portion of the picture, but still it was an acceptable print, especially for this negative.
Lot 5 was the Beech Tree. There are three other copies that I am aware of, including the one in the Getty's collection, the one sold at the Jammes sale to Sheik Al Thani, and one in another major private collection. This was a very good print, but it had one development spot that was not too noticeable. The print sold to the phone for a mere 1,329,168 francs. While this was a very high price for a photograph in France, it was still a far cry from the Sotheby's Jammes sale in 1999, when a print of this image sold to Sheik Al Thani for 419,500 pounds sterling.
Lot 6, another small tree print, remained unsold.
Lot 7, another small tree print of the forest of Fontainebleau, sold to Paris dealer Leon Herschtritt for over 332,000 francs, including the premium.
Lot 8, a photograph of artwork, sold to the Paris dealer Di Maria brothers for a mere 2215 francs.
Lot 9, a group by a pond near Camp de Châlons-sur-Marne, sold to the phone for just over 476,000 francs. I have never seen this image before. The print quality was just average--not bad, but not exciting.
But the auction house could have done better on many of these if they had properly followed through with all their client calls. I, for one, was not called on my pre-arranged phone--just one of the many problems when dealing with overseas auctions.
CALOTYPE ALBUM FETCHES OVER
220,000 POUNDS STERLING IN UK AUCTION
Over across the channel, book auctioneer Dominic Winter was setting some records of his own on a unique volume (No. 1) of the Edinburgh Calotype Club Album. The Edinburgh Central Library holds Volume 2.
Estimated at 20,000-30,000 pounds sterling, the album soared to 220,000 pounds, excluding the premium. London book dealer Quaritch was the last one standing in this bitter fight.
The album contained 206 calotype prints, including many portraits and views of buildings in Edinburgh, some in St. Andrews, various Scottish houses, boats and boatmen, and a number of views in Malta and Italy. The condition on the prints was extremely variable, however, and most of the images were pale, although there are some exceptional prints in the album.
JAMMES SALE II AND III SET FOR PARIS IN MARCH
As soon as I open my mouth, something changes. Just last newsletter (yes, just a week ago), I told you that there were no major photography sales yet planned for Paris by Sotheby's or Christie's. I forgot one very important one: the next go-round of the Marie-Thérèse and André Jammes collection, which has now been scheduled for Paris, March 21 and 22, 2002. Sotheby's has been quietly telling clients about the upcoming sale since last May, but now they are going public with the details, and you can hear it here first. My thanks to Sotheby's London's staff for their kind help.
Many of you realize from past newsletters how historic the first Jammes sale was. This one is actually two separate sales and should prove to be almost as interesting as the first.
The auction is set for Sotheby's, Galerie Charpentier, 76 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris, 75008. The sale takes place over two days and is divided into two very distinct groups of material.
The first day is titled La Photographie II, which is composed primarily of 19th French masterworks.
The second day will be devoted to the Charles Nègre archive, described by Sotheby's as La Photographie III. Apparently, the Musee de Orsay and the Jammeses could not come to an agreement on the purchase of this material, and hence the sale.
The viewing opens at Galerie Charpentier on Friday 15th March, although highlights of both La Photographie II et III will be exhibited at New York Sotheby's York Avenue location from February 14-18 during AIPAD.
And, by the way, Christie's already has had a small auction of Modern Illustrated Books, Photographs and Manuscripts in Paris just this past week. Well, none of us are perfect. Thanks, Michael (Mattis) and Monika (Half), for your emails reminding me of the upcoming Jammes sale.
SOTHEBY'S MAY PRESSURE TAUBMAN FAMILY TO SELL ITS SHARES IN AN EFFORT TO DISTANCE THE COMPANY FROM THE EX-CHAIRMAN
In December Sotheby's board directed its executive committee to meet as quickly as possible with representatives of the Taubman family to discuss selling the company. Alfred Taubman, the former Sotheby's chairman who--with his family--is still its controlling shareholder, was just found guilty of conspiring with the former chairman of Christie's to fix sellers' fees. As I noted in an earlier newsletter (No. 37), he faces up to three years in prison and fines. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 2.
According to a New York Times report, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission this past week came after a Sotheby's telephone board meeting. The NY Times claimed that it was the first formal declaration by the 257-year-old auction house that it was for sale, a move that Sotheby's officials said was meant to distance the company publicly from Taubman.
Sotheby's had no direct comment about the filing or about a possible buyer, but officials said they simply thought it was important to develop a plan.
Taubman had earlier filed nearly a year ago with the SEC. He then announced that he had hired Credit Suisse First Boston to evaluate his investment in the auction house. But Taubman's trial put that action on hold, according to sources close to the ex-chairman.
Ronald Baron, the chairman and chief executive of Baron Capital, which is Sotheby's largest outside shareholder, said in his company's annual report on September 30 that he would probably sell his shares in Sotheby's. Baron speculated that a possible buyer could be Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, the auction house that was acquired by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Meanwhile Diana Brooks, the former chief executive of Sotheby's who helped convict her long-time boss of price-fixing, apparently underwent surgery before the holidays to deal with two recently discovered uterine tumors, according to the New York Times.
According to reports, she will remain in the New York-Presbyterian Hospital for several days after the operation and will spend the next 10 to 12 weeks recuperating. The New York Times says the tumors were found in an examination on December 6, the day after the end of the Taubman trial. Brooks herself could face up to three years in prison and a large fine when she is sentenced next spring.