THE NYC SPRING AUCTIONS SET RECORD TOTALS;
PHILLIPS' SALES LIKE A ROLLERCOASTER; CHRISTIE'S DOES WELL WITH THE LARGEST SINGLE OWNER SALE OF THE SEASON; SOTHEBYS BREAKS NEW YORK CITY RECORD WITH $8,738,600 FOR ITS THREE PHOTO SALES; SPRING CLEARANCE SALE HAS ONLY THREE MORE DAYS LEFT, ENDS ON MONDAY; PHOTO SAN FRANCISCO COMING UP SOON; NEW PHOTO BOOKS; SOME WINE REVIEWS FOR GOOD LUCK AND GOOD TASTE
THE NYC SPRING AUCTIONS SET RECORD TOTALS;
PHILLIPS' SALES LIKE A ROLLERCOASTER
(Note: because of my direct involvement in the first sale and in the interest of journalistic balance, I have asked Stephen Perloff, editor of the Photograph Collector Newsletter, for the use of his report of the spring auction sales in New York City. Except as specifically noted as quotes, these are not my comments or observations.)
By Stephen Perloff
Despite stumbling out of the gate, the spring photography auctions sprinted across the finish line faster than Smarty Jones at the Kentucky Derby. Phillips, de Pury & Company totaled $4,216,720 for its three sales, Christie's reached $3,778,302 on its single various-owners sale, and Sotheby's amassed an astonishing $8,738,600 on its three sales, for record total season sales of $16,733,622.
Alex Novak and Phillips had high hopes for the auction of work from Novak's private collection and from his company Vintage Works, despite a few risky decisions that in retrospect seem to have all backfired. Essentially everything that could go wrong with this sale did go wrong, and the result poses sobering questions not only for Novak, but also for any dealer who may want to get out of, or lower his or her involvement in, the business.
The first major question was whether it was wise to offer a large number of 19th-century European photographs in the United States, where historically they have not performed very well, as opposed to in London. Secondly, how would the market respond to a dealer's collection coming to auction? The answer to both questions was not good.
There were difficulties to this collection. While there were many, many great images and a few truly stellar examples, many dealers commented that for them some photographers were not represented by key images and certainly many prints, some real gems in their own right, had an appeal to only a relatively small and esoteric audience. Sadly, all too often, the market goes with safer, better known material.
In some ways the collection was too diverse. And Novak had offered some of these pictures for sale at fairs or online in the recent past and so they weren't all fresh to the market. Likewise several items bought at auction over the past few years were being recycled back into the auction market too soon. The question arises: if no one bought these pictures before, what would motivate them to buy them now? The only answer is price, and despite what Novak considered reasonable estimates and reserves, the market did not agree. One answer would have been to offer many of the items at no reserve, which would have at least got some momentum going.
Also, despite the presence of Philippe Garner, Phillips has come to make a niche for itself more with contemporary work than with 19th century images. All those people who attend Phillips' other auctions were nowhere to be found at this sale. Perhaps this work wasn't sexy enough for them--or perhaps they haven't learned enough yet about this segment of the market. Plus, there seemed to be some difficulty getting the catalogue out and the number sent may have been cut back. And then people may have been holding their wallets in reserve for some of the best material in years that was being offered in the other sales later in the week.
The audience for an evening sale at Phillips was relatively small, with a higher percentage of dealers in attendance than usual. Auctioneer Philippe Garner took the sale himself, but it got off to a rocky start as the first five items passed. Peter Henry Emerson's Gathering Water Lilies sold to a phone bidder for $26,400, a world auction record for the photographer. That led to a bit of a run where the sold rate hovered around 50%. Southworth and Hawes's Young Sisters were orphaned, but the Le Gray-Mestral cathedral view went to collector Richard Menschel for $36,000, under the low estimate.
The magnificent Charles Clifford arch went to a phone bidder for $62,400, another world record. French dealer Serge Plantureux, one of the most active bidders here (and showing why some of this material may have done better in Europe), preserved Thomas Annan's Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow for $66,000, substantial, but under the low estimate. That was followed by Lewis Hine's iconic Girl Working in a Carolina Cotton Mill, which brought well over minimum wage as a phone bidder trumped Lee Marks at $90,000, well over the high estimate and a new record for Hine.
Oddly, as poorly as this sale did, there were numerous auction records, a true sign of schizophrenia. As Novak told me, "Despite the poor showing for the overall auction, we still managed to set world auction records for the following photographers: Louis De Clercq, Louis Igout, André Disderi, the Duc de Massa, Thomas Annan, Peter Henry Emerson, Arthur Siegel, Eugen Wiskovsky, Henry Hunt Snelling, Lewis Hine, Sidney Richard Percy, Baron Von Stillfried, Rene-Jacques, Milton Miller, Charles Clifford, Gabriel Loppe, James Hamilton Brown, Lloyd Ullberg, and Franz Roh. We also managed to get the second highest world auction price for Heinrich Kühn and Adolf Fassbender. If we had had an average auction, I feel we would have set about 40 new world auction records and the prices on the ones that sold would have been considerably higher in most instances."
Richard Menschel came back to march off with Snelling's picture of George Washington's statue on Union Square for $30,000, a bit below the low estimate. Also, selling just under the low estimate was a Louis De Clerq paper negative of the Temple of the Sun, which went to the phones for $26,400.
The star of the sale, William Henry Fox Talbot's Veronica in Bloom, wilted. But Edward Weston's early nude brought $60,000 from the phone. Several interesting Le Gray's passed, as did Edward Steichen's magnificent Isadora Duncan at the Parthenon, which Novak had featured at the AIPAD photography show a couple of years ago. A glass-plate negative of Marey's Man Jumping over a Hurdle hopped to $20,400. But the mood was glum.
The next day proved even more desultory as what passed was much more notable than what sold. Other than a phone bidder taking a Heinrich Kühn domestic scene for $20,400, just over high estimate, there was nothing of note to report. The sale ended with 18 passes in a row.
In all, the buy-in rate was a staggering 66.5%. By regular auction standards, the sale was a failure. Too many people who might have been bidding sat on their hands. On the other hand, how many dealers sell 76 pictures in a day for $846,360, as Novak did here? It wasn't the outcome hoped for and the sale deserved better, but we'll have to be satisfied with the modest silver lining.
After spending the afternoon previewing at Christie's (where the image of Helmut Newton's vertical Panoramic Nude pointing a gun at you, situated right at the end of the narrow corridor leading into the preview room, was as arresting as the photograph itself) and at Sotheby's, I returned to Phillips for the various-owners evening sale. It was like entering a parallel universe. The room was overflowing with not only the usual suspects but also with the "who are these people" crowd that Phillips attracts.
While 16 lots sold under their low estimates in the evening, 17 sold over, and most things were selling as multiple bidders weighed in. Perhaps frenzy is a slight overstatement--except on a few lots--but there was electricity in the air.
The first major battle of the sale was over Vik Muniz's Bloody Marilyn ($25,000-$35,000), a perfect Warholian gesture and a major piece by this clever artist. After an intense contest, it sold to the phone for an amazing $69,600, a world auction record for the artist.
A classic Drtikol pigment print nude ($40,000-$60,000) was taken by a phone bidder at $52,800. Irving Penn's fashion study, Girl Drinking ($25,000-$35,000) proved an expensive date at $50,400. And Helmut Newton's Nude Descending a Staircase ($15,000-$20,000) walked off with a private collector known for his collection of Newtons for $28,800. Peter Lindbergh's Mathilde on Eiffel Tower ($20,000-$30,000) soared to $38,400. Thomas Ruff's Nude GF10 ($30,000-$40,000) seduced $42,000 from a phone bidder. It was a good showing for the ladies of the night.
Edward Weston's Rag Doll and Sombrerito ($30,000-$50,000) sold to Galeria Ramis Barquet for $45,600, but his Shell ($200,000-$300,000) washed up on shore without a buyer. Ramis Barquet was back to take Bravo's bloody Striking Worker Assassinated ($30,000-$50,000) for $72,000. And a phone bidder provided sustenance to Dorothea Lange's White Angel Breadline ($30,000-$50,000), a 1940s print, at $64,800. Surely this was much better than the working class ever fared in the 1930s.
William Eggleston continued his upward trend as his red-haired girl, Biloxi, Mississippi ($10,000$15,000) heated up the room at $31,200. Red seemed to be the color of the day as Eggleston's Greenwood, Mississippi (the red ceiling with the light bulb) ($100,000$150,000) was finally hammered down to Julie Saul, conversing with a client on a cell phone, for $217,400, a world auction record for the artist. The Eggleston portfolio, Graceland ($90,000$120,000) went to a phone bidder at $114,000.
A group of 14 Richard Prince color prints, Cowboys and Girlfriends ($25,000-$35,000) rode into the sunset at $50,400. Larry Clark's Teenage Lust portfolio, with an extra five prints ($20,000-$30,000) soared to $60,000, a record price for Clark.
A rare vintage print of Diane Arbus's A Young Man in Curlers ($100,000-$150,000) was bid up by Jeffrey Fraenkel but ultimately went to the phone for $198,400, the second highest price for a single print by Arbus--at that moment. An interesting Man Ray print in which he combined an image from a negative and a photogram ($60,000-$80,000) went to Thea Westreich on a cell phone for $81,600.
Thomas Ruff's large psychedelic inkjet print, Sub 01, ($40,000$60,000) sold to the phone for $66,000. Groovy! Thomas Struth's Paradise 20 (there's more than one?) ($40,000$60,000) just missed its low estimate at $44,400 ($37,000 hammer), but still enough to buy a lot of apples.
A group of three Lake George images by Stieglitz, including one equivalent ($40,000-$60,000) was taken for $54,000. And the heady evening ended with another world auction record price, as Gregory Crewdson's untitled picture (nude reflected in mirror) ($15,000-$20,000) was won by a phone bidder for $48,000.
The next day saw active bidding, but at much lower price levels. Edwynn Houk bought André Kertész's Bibliothèque, Paris ($30,000$40,000) under estimate at $31,200. And another Thomas Ruff "porno" image, MN23 ($25,000-$35,000) was bought by a phone bidder (is that the equivalent of the plain brown wrapper?) for $28,800. Also notable, Deborah Bell wrested a rare Guy Bourdin photograph, Gilles ($8,000-$12,000), away from Edwynn Houk for $21,600.
A range of other dealers and collectors made purchases--Willie Schaefer, Michael Mattis, Steven Kasher, Burt Finger, Penelope Dixon, Jo Tartt, John Cleary, Alice Ross George, Katrina Doerner, Rick Wester, and Stephen Reinhold, among them--as active bidding continued throughout the day.
With a buy-in rate below 25% and total sales of $2,800,300, Phillips's various-owners sale was a strong success.
In the afternoon, bidders returned for Phillips's sale of material from the Magnum archive. While the buy-in rate was just over 50%, the sale did pretty much as expected. There were many lesser-known images by lesser known photographers and prints not in the best of condition that would have trouble finding a home no matter what. The $570,060 total for the sale was thus quite reasonable.
A phone bidder outlasted Howard Greenberg to take a group of 28 images from World War II by Robert Capa ($20,000-$30,000) for $26,400. An archive of 100 prints by David "Chim" Seymour of Europe's Children after the War ($40,000-$60,000) passed at the auction but was sold immediately afterward for $36,000. The maquette for Leonard Freed's important book Black in White America ($40,000-$60,000) brought $38,400 from the phone.
Surprisingly, the cover lot, Marc Riboud's iconic image of a young woman with a flower confronting a row of soldiers holding bayonets, Anti-Vietnam War Demonstration ($6,000$8,000), passed. But Howard Greenberg came back to take Bruce Davidson's amazing maquette for East 100th Street, with 124 prints ($100,000$150,000) for $136,800, as Katrina Doerner underbid.
The last lot, an archive of 302 prints from the Magnum magnum opus, In Our Time, 1932--1988 ($300,000-$400,000), not surprisingly bought in. It was just too much of an investment for some dealer who might take many years to sell enough to recoup that investment. It's an archive that really should go to an institution.
CHRISTIE'S DOES WELL WITH THE LARGEST
SINGLE OWNER SALE OF THE SEASON
By Stephen Perloff
After a weekend break, Christie's offered the largest single-owner sale of the season on Tuesday, April 27, with 369 lots. The sale opened strongly with the first ten lots selling, then eight more in a row selling after a pass. Among them, an Ansel Adams Moonrise ($25,000-$35,000) brought $47,800 from the phone, Clearing Winter Storm ($20,000-$30,000) blew through at $41,825, and 11 prints from Portfolio II also went near high estimate at $35,850.
The mood was helped immensely by the fine auctioneering of Andrea Fiuczynski, the first time she has taken a photography sale, I believe. Elegantly dressed in a white jacket with wide cuffs and a high collar, her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, she commanded attention with her perfect diction and formal but graceful gestures. Her white gavel complimented the ensemble.
A Gertrude Käsebier platinum print of a woman playing billiards, estimated at only $3,000$5,000, sold for $35,850 as Michael Mattis triumphed when Edwynn Houk scratched. Clearly Christie's missed something here but fortunately for the consignor, the bidders did not. Margaret Bourke-White's George Washington Bridge ($10,000$15,000) whistled a catchy tune as it brought $33,360. But a Stieglitz Equivalent ($50,000$70,000) passed.
Man Ray's solarized portrait of Madame Xupery ($20,000-$30,000) sold to the phone over Edwynn Houk for $33,460, but Houk came back to snare Man Ray's Sur Impression ($30,000-$50,000) for $71,700.
The next significant group of pictures were several fine Edward Weston prints from the collection of Allegheny College, donated by Weston collector and Pennsylvania oil magnate T. Edward Hanley. Weston collector extraordinaire Michael Mattis survived the desert better than Paul Hertzmann as he won Dunes, Oceano ($40,000-$60,000) for $59,750. Peter MacGill captured Nude on Sand, Oceano ($70,000-$90,000) for $83,650. A phone bidder had a heartier appetite than dealer Richard Morehouse as the phone gobbled up Pepper No. 30 ($70,000-$90,000) for $130,700, the fifth highest lot of the sale. Finally, Peter MacGill topped Michael Mattis for Charis, Santa Monica ($50,000-$70,000) at $101,575, number six for the sale.
The auction was rolling along through the first 132 lots when it hit a rough patch of 19 passes in 29 lots, including, oddly, on seven of eight pictures of Marilyn Monroe. But William Eggleston came to the rescue as his Troubled Waters portfolio ($50,000-$70,000) flowed to an order bidder for $71,700.
In the afternoon, auctioneer John Hays took over and gave what was, even for him, a strangely giddy performance. In addition to his usual ear-rattling mispronunciations (e.g. "Dawson-OH" for Doisneau), he was in particularly good humor, making various asides and laughing at his own bad jokes. For instance, New York happened to be abuzz with the arrival of the huge ocean liner, the Queen Mary. When a picture of the Queen Elizabeth in New York Harbor sold for $7,000 (hammer), he quipped, "Things haven't changed much here in New York. $7,000: that's a second class ticket." When a small print of Arbus's Young waitress at a nudist camp went for $12,000, he said, "Young waitress at camp. Heh, heh. That's the price of camp now." And with the Yankees then off to a slow start, when a picture of Mickey Mantle came up, he opined, "There he is: Mickey Mantle. They could use him now." And then he laughed some more.
Nonetheless, there were some good prices in the afternoon, too. Harry Callahan's Grasses ($10,000-$15,000) mowed 'em down at $38,240.
Alvin Langdon Coburn's exquisite Shadows and Reflections, Venice ($120,000-$180,000) brought intense bidding and finally was hammered down to Lee Marks, often bidding for Howard Stein, at a world auction record $365,900, the top price of the sale. Coburn's Portland Place ($60,000-$80,000) then passed at $55,000, meaning it had a very high reserve. But his The House of a Thousand Windows ($70,000-$90,000) climbed to $83,650. Edwynn Houk took the first of the Vortographs ($180,000-$220,000) for $209,100, the second highest price of the sale. The second Vortograph passed.
Man Ray's Icelandic Mask Collage ($18,000-$22,000) went to the phone for $35,850. Two Moholy-Nagy Fotogramms passed, one at $60,000 at a low estimate of $65,000, again evidencing a too-high reserve.
Six images from Frederick Sommer's difficult series, Chicken Parts, sold to order for the high estimate, $47,800. Then Edward Weston's Bananas ($30,000$40,000) brought out a real hunger in the crowd as private dealer Darren Quintenz outbid Bruce Silverstein and Maggie Weston at $89,625, the seventh highest price of the sale.
Joel Sternfeld's portfolio On This Site ($90,000-$120,000) captured fourth place on the day with a bid of $153,100. A Neil Selkirk print of Arbus's Boy with a Toy Hand Grenade ($25,000$35,000) exploded to $65,725 as dealer Susan Spiritus outlasted the field.
Jeffrey Fraenkel bought a sequence of six Water Towers by Bernd and Hilla Becher ($25,000-$30,000) for $47,800. But Ed Ruscha's Parking Lots ($50,000-$70,000) passed at $48,000, yet another high reserve.
Five of Helmut Newton's Domestic Nudes ($12,000-$18,000) seduced $38,240 from a phone bidder. And lastly, the aforementioned Newton Panoramic Nude with Gun ($40,000-$60,000) convinced an elegant gentleman in the room to part with his wallet, or at least with an astounding $181,100, the third highest price of the sale.
Leila Buckjune, Head of Christie's Photographs department, commented, "It was gratifying to set the world auction record for a Coburn photograph in today's sale with Shadows and Reflections, Venice, an iconic work for the period. The sale was well-attended with especially buoyant buying activity at the high-end and strong prices achieved at all levels throughout the sale." True enough.
But all this was only a prelude to what was to follow at Sotheby's that evening and the next day.
SOTHEBYS BREAKS NEW YORK CITY RECORD
WITH $8,738,600 FOR ITS THREE PHOTO SALES
By Stephen Perloff
In the evening, Sotheby's was offering a stellar collection of photographs from a private collection. While Sotheby's did not name the collector in the catalogue at the request of the family of the collector, it was common knowledge that the 43 lots on offer came from the collection of M. Anthony Fisher.
Fisher, 52, a senior partner at Fisher Brothers, a private family concern with extensive real estate and financial investments as well as the ownership and management of several important New York City buildings, and vice chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, which constructs comfort homes for families of hospitalized military personnel and veterans, and his wife, Anne, 41, a trustee of the International Center of Photography, were among six people who died tragically on April 4, 2003 in a plane crash. Tora Fisher, the couple's 13-year-old daughter, was the only survivor. The Fishers were en route to Cushing Academy for a day's visit. Fisher had been president of the board of Cushing Academy for 16 years. Their plane crashed into an industrial building in Leominster, MA, on approach to landing. The two pilots and two business associates of Fisher's were also killed in the crash.
Fisher also served as Chairman and CEO of the Intrepid Museum Foundation from 1999 until his death and was a member of the board of various other charitable institutions. Both Peter MacGill and Henry Feldstein counted Fisher among their most important clients.
Sotheby's large auction room was filled to overflowing. Bidders had their hands on their paddles like gunslingers at the OK Corral. It didn't take long for the action to begin.
First, Peter MacGill outgunned Edwynn Houk for Harry Callahan's Chicago (trees) at $96,000. (Almost all of these prices were over high estimate, so I'll skip the estimates here, except where particularly noteworthy.) Then Jeffrey Fraenkel outbid Richard Morehouse for Callahan's New York (Building Façade), at $45,600. But Morehouse came back to take Callahan's Barbara and Eleanor, Chicago over collector Michael Colacino for $43,200.
Robert Burge drove off in Robert Frank's Covered Car, leaving Bruce Silverstein in the dust at $78,000 (more than two-and-a-half times the high estimate). Peter MacGill attended Frank's Hollywood Premiere for $36,000 (at a similar premium). Robert Burge marched away with Frank's Chicago (the horn player at the Adlai Stevenson rally) for $131,200, besting Edwynn Houk at more than three times the high estimate--and not even good enough for the top ten!). Peter MacGill was back for Frank's motorcyclists, Indianapolis, for $33,600, the price of several Harleys.
Then came the cover lot, a vintage, signed print of Diane Arbus's most famous image, Identical Twins. An American collector on the phone doubled his pleasure by taking the top spot in this auction and setting a world auction record for Arbus at $478,400.
But this was only one-quarter of the way through the auction. Jeffrey Fraenkel relaxed with Arbus's A family on their lawn one Sunday in Westchester, N.Y., for $176,000 (tied for number seven) as Edwynn Houk was left looking for a beach chair. Howard Greenberg was hungrier than collector Jack Hastings as he bid four times the high estimate--$28,800--to take Weegee's Denver, Hot Tamales. As you can tell, this sale was a real battle of heavyweights, but I won't mix my metaphors with a sumo wrestling analogy.
Peter MacGill was the winner of Weston's most well known image of Dunes, Oceano, paying $176,000--a record for a Weston dune, to make that distinction, and a tie for seventh place. Weston's Nude on Sand, Oceano, went to Richard Morehouse for $265,600, good for fourth place. Michael Colacino, building a collection for his real estate firm, Julien J. Studley, Inc., won a different Weston Dunes, Oceano, for $108,000. A phone bidder took Weston's savory White Radish away from Maggie Weston at $55,200.
Another phone bidder carried off Frederick Sommer's stunning Livia, a haunting portrait that was one of my favorite images hanging in the old, old installation of photographs at the Museum of Modern Art and an image that is certainly a precursor of the work of Loretta Lux, although I haven't seen it referred to in that context yet.
Then we were back to an early Weston nude, Breast. Michael Mattis (and Judith Hochberg) outdrew Peter MacGill for this lot at $299,200, a record for a Weston nude, and second place in the sale. Tina Modotti's Telegraph Wires called on the usual suspect, Spencer Throckmorton, who wired $164,800 to Sotheby's account (ninth place).
Howard Greenberg needed a trim more than Thea Westreich, as he paid $198,400 for Walker Evans's Negro Barbershop, Atlanta, a record for Evans and sixth place in the sale. Paul Strand's Toadstool, Maine was a veritable bargain, selling within its estimates to Maggie Weston, outbidding Jack Hastings, at $114,000. Larry Miller told me that his father, Robert, had once bought this very print for $1,350.
Edward Steichen's glamorous portrait of Gloria Swanson sold on the phone to a private European collector, over the efforts of Howard Greenberg, for $153,600 (tenth place). Peter MacGill snacked on Steichen's luscious Three Pears and an Apple for $114,000.
A phone bidder fell in a big way for Man Ray's solarized nude, Anatomies (Grand Dos Noir), bidding $108,000 over Edwynn Houk. Then Robert Burge was back again in a big way as he paid $288,000 for a Man Ray Rayograph, the third highest price of the sale. A unique Man Ray muli-media assemblage, Boite a Conserves, brought more than three times the high estimate, $209,600 (fifth place). Edwynn Houk broke through with Brassaï's Nu 132, at $43,200. Steichen's Dixie Ray for Woodbury Soap cleaned out a phone bidder at $66,000.
Irving Penn's Girl (in Bed) on Telephone went, appropriately enough, to the phone for $50,400. The same bidder then returned for Helmut Newton's Sie Kommen, Dressed/Sie Kommen, Naked, in a small size, for $114,000, almost quadrupling the high estimate. Newton's Rue Aubriot, Fashion Model and Nude seemed a slacker at $40,800.
When the smoke cleared, all 43 lots had sold, all but seven of them for over the high estimate (with only one selling under the low estimate), for a total of $3,949,600 or an astonishing $91,851 per lot.
The next morning Sotheby's offered 33 photographs from the Gordon L. Bennett Collection of Carleton Watkins "New Series" Photographs of Yosemite. Bennett had discovered them in a San Francisco rare bookstore in 1967 and traded some other artwork for them. Made in 187881, after Watkins had lost his gallery and his pioneering large-plate negatives made in the 1860s to creditors, these "New Series" images have rarely come on the auction market and not at these price levels. But the dramatic views, rarity, and high quality of these prints allowed Sotheby's to set some relatively aggressive estimates. They were not disappointed. As in the evening before, all 33 lots sold, 21 above the high estimates, only three below the low estimates.
Boston dealer Robert Klein took the first lot, On the Road to Yosemite Falls, for $84,000 (the eighth highest lot of the sale), and two other lots in the top ten: Cathedral Spires for $66,000 (tied for ninth place), and Washington Column for $102,000 (tied for fourth place). Illinois collector Joe Schieszler was also active as he bought six lots including Cathedral Rocks and Spires for $52,800, Mirror Lake for $28,800, and El Capitan for $52,800.
Jeffrey Fraenkel was of course in the midst of the fray and took four lots: Vernal Fall and The Half Dome, from Glacier Point, both for $90,000 (and tied for sixth place), Upper Yosemite Falls for $31,200, and the stunning, modernist cover lot, Agassiz Rock and the Yosemite Falls, for a world record $310,400, also obviously the top lot of the sale, reportedly for the Getty.
Lee Marks climbed highest for The Yosemite Falls, from Glacier Point, reaching $187,200 (third place). And a phone bidder survived Yosemite Falls, View from the Bottom with a bid of $265,600 (second place). The same bidder also took home Yosemite Valley, from Big Oak Flat for $102,000 (tied for fourth). Another phone bidder bought four lots, including The Vernal and Nevada Falls for $66,000 (tied for ninth) and Bridal Veil, from the Black Spring for $60,000.
Other winning bidders included Edwynn Houk, Maggie Weston, New York collector John Gibbons, and Willie Schaefer. The final total was $1,993,800, or a whopping $60,418 per print, a figure that would have been talked about for a long time had it not been for the sale of the previous evening.
After a moment for everyone to catch their breaths, auctioneer Denise Bethel plunged right in to the various-owners' sale. New York gallerist Robert Mann, on a cell phone, bid up a c. 1976 print of Ansel Adams's Georgia O'Keeffe and Orville Cox ($6,000-$8,000) to a substantial $43,200. According to Mann, this is a very rare image of which Adams made few prints. And Mann considers it "by far the best portrait he ever made." It rarely comes up at auction (the last time was in 1999), and Mann reports that he has had a client who has been looking for it for years. But the estimate was rather misleading as the last time Sotheby's offered one, in April 1998, it was estimated at $3,000-$5,000 and sold for $14,950, and at the Butterfield's sale in May 1999 it was estimated at $4,000-$6,000 and sold for $13,800. Still, it was a record price for the image. To continue the unexpected, Henry Feldstein, of all people, bought the Adams Portfolio VII for $52,800.
Then it came, Lot 85, a group of three of the lesser-known images from Portfolio VII. Down came the hammer: "Pass." A wry smile came over Bethel's face. Had anyone else noticed? After the auction she told me that appraiser and consultant Dale Stulz, a former auctioneer who was sitting in the first row, had noticed and had made an "OH NO!" face at her, thus her reaction. Yes, after an unprecedented 84 straight lots sold, finally one had passed. There would be other passes, of course, but the first of this extraordinary series of auctions made one pause for a moment.
A half-plate ambrotype of a young (white) boy with a black family sold for $28,800, three-and-a-half times the high estimate. Then came lunch.
The afternoon session led off with a selection of 37 lots from the collection of famed cinematographer Robert Richardson. Harry Callahan's Eleanor (Double Exposure) brought $52,800 from the phone. A phone bidder bested Spencer Throckmorton for Tina Modotti's revolutionary Corn, Guitar, and Cartridges at $120,000 (tied for second). Howard Greenberg paid the same price for Weston's rare Pepper (3P). William Eggleston was hot here, too, as his Morton, Mississippi sold to the phone for $45,600, more than double the high estimate.
A Selkirk print of Arbus's Midget Friends in a Living Room ($7,000-$10,000) reached $33,600. And Robert Adams's tract house, Colorado Springs, got a bid of $21,600, three-and-a-half times the high estimate. Now Richardson can fund his own blockbuster.
Moving on to the rest of the sale, Howard Greenberg returned to take another Weston, and the top lot of this sale, Shells, for $232,000. A phone bidder snared the cover lot, Man Ray's surrealist portrait of Harry Melvill for $52,800.
Edwynn Houk lavished $102,000, just over high estimate (and fourth place), on a vintage print of Arbus's Waitress, Nudist Camp. Jeffrey Fraenkel took home the Garry Winogrand Fifteen Photographs portfolio for $55,200 (seventh place).
Eggleston's Sumner, Mississippi was hammered down for $48,000 and his Greenwood, Mississippi (the red ceiling in a slightly later print than the one at Phillips) lit up the scoreboard at $84,000 (tied for fifth). Lastly, Robert Mapplethorpe's Torso (Lisa Marie) nearly tripled its high estimate at the same $84,000 price.
This portion of the sale totaled $2,795,200 with a minuscule buy-in rate of 19.6%. As noted above, the three sales totaled a record-breaking $8,738,600. Wow!
Denise Bethel, Director of Sotheby's Photographs department and the auctioneer for the sales said, "We are thrilled with the highly successful results of our three April photographs auctions. The three sales taken together are a record for a series of photographs auctions in New York. The combined total of $8,738,600 was more than $2 million dollars above our pre-sale high estimate, and is especially gratifying to us, given the small number of lots offered, which totaled 255 for all three sales. For the 220 lots sold, the average lot value was extraordinarily high, at $39,721. Four artist records were set: Diane Arbus, Carleton Watkins, Walker Evans and Robert Frank. The two single-owner sales, Important Photographs from a Private Collection, and The Gordon L. Bennett Collection of Watkins 'New Series' Photographs of Yosemite, had no unsold lots, something unusual in recent years. These two white-glove sales, back to back, took the market for fine art photographs to a new level."
Surely this is a new level. But it may be a while before the auction houses can coax this much high quality material onto the market at one time. We shall see.
(Copyright ©2004 by The Photo Review. 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 (overseas airmail is $169.95). 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.)
SPRING CLEARANCE SALE ON I PHOTO CENTRAL
HAS ONLY THREE MORE DAYS LEFT, ENDS ON MONDAY
You can only see the Special Spring Clearance sale on I Photo Central for just three more days. After June 21st prices will revert on these items to the original list price. The sale is brought to you by our photography dealers. These items were available at special sale prices (from 20 to over 60% off the regular list price) for only a limited time. Many of the items regular list prices were reduced earlier by over 20%, 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 SpringClearanceSale2 into the key word field. Then you can also use the other search fields, such as price range, country, 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 $1,000 (or $2,500 or $5,000) to No Limit.
PHOTO SAN FRANCISCO TO BE HELD
JULY 22-25 AT FT. MASON CENTER;
DISCOUNTS FOR READERS AVAILABLE
Photo San Francisco 2004, the 5th annual San Francisco Photographic Art Exposition will be held at the historic and scenic Festival Pavilion at the Ft. Mason Center from July 22-25, 2004.
Last year's event tallied 4,500 visitors and even more are expected this year. In anticipation of increased attendance the exhibition has moved to the spacious Festival Pavilion, adjacent to the former venue at the Herbst Pavilion.
Photo San Francisco has attracted more than 70 galleries and private dealers from the United States and around the world, presenting photographic art ranging from rare 19th-century prints to photo-based art. This is an opportunity for collectors, curators, photographers, and enthusiasts to view a multitude of images and associate with leading artists and art professionals.
Images by Diane Arbus, Ruth Bernhard, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Imogen Cunningham, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Larry Fink, Robert Frank, Lynn Geesaman, Judy Gelles, Lauren Greenfield, Andre Kertesz, Man Ray, Ken Ohara, Luis Gonzalez Palma, Robert Polidori, Aaron Siskind, Paul Strand, Josef Sudek, Weegee, Gary Winogrand and many others will be included.
The opening night reception will take place Thursday night, July 22, 2004, from 6-9 p.m. The proceeds will benefit the Fort Mason Center Historic Preservation Fund, which enables the Fort Mason Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service, to preserve this important national historic landmark. Tickets to the opening night reception are $75 and may be purchased at the door on the evening of the event by calling the Fort Mason Center Box Office at 415-345-7575.
Seminars and lecture panels will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 23-25. Seminar panelists include: Sandra Phillips, curator of the Museum of Modern Art San Francisco and organizer of the blockbuster exhibit "Diane Arbus: Revelations"; Penelope Dixon, owner and founder of the appraisal firm, Penelope Dixon & Associates, Inc., specializing in archive, donation, and insurance appraisals in addition to collection management, cataloguing services, and marketing and auction consultation; Drew Johnson, curator of fine art photography at the Oakland Museum of California and author of Capturing Light, a visual history that celebrates 150 years of California's greatest photographers; and Keith Davis, Chief Curator of the Hallmark Fine Art Collection.
Guest speakers include acclaimed photographers: Mark Citret, whose technical and philosophical approach to photography informs his luminous environmental landscapes; David Maisel, renowned for his abstract, aerial photographs of environmentally impacted landscapes; Alec Soth, whose emotive portraits of ordinary people appeared in Fortune Magazine, Newsweek and New York Times and Joel Peter-Witkin, whose compelling images are noted for their complex juxtaposition of beauty and oddity. Seminars are conducted at 9 am before public hours, and are limited to 30 people. Reservations are required. Please call for a schedule of events. Tickets are $65 per seminar and include a three-day pass to Photo San Francisco.
Exhibition hours are Friday, July 23rd and Saturday, July 24th, noon to 7p.m, and Sunday, July 25th, noon to 6pm. Tickets are $15 for a one-day pass and $25 for a three-day pass and can be purchased at the door or through the Stephen Cohen Gallery. But if you print out this article and present it at registration you will get these tickets at the reduced rates of $10 and $15 respectively. This special rate is only available on site, but remember to bring your printout.
For further information contact Stephen Cohen Gallery, 7358 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036; Phone: 1-323-937-5525; or visit www.photosanfrancisco.net .
NEW PHOTO BOOKS AND CATALOGUES
By Matt Damsker
IN THE WAKE OF BATTLE: THE CIVIL WAR IMAGES OF MATHEW BRADY. By George Sullivan; 2004. Publisher: Prestel Verlag. Library of Congress Control No.: 2004100561; ISBN No. 3-7913-2929-4; $29.95. www.prestel.com .
For most of us, America's great Civil War exists today almost exclusively in the photography of Mathew Brady, a name synonymous with the black and white images of battlefields, cavalry, soldiers, and generals that continue to haunt and inspire us. The Civil War marked not only the beginning of modern warfare, but also of modern documentarianism, with the ready eye of the camera replacing the retrospective brush of the history painting--and it was Brady's vision that urged it along.
Ironically, Brady had poor eyesight, owing to a childhood illness, and rarely took photographs himself. As George Sullivan explains in his concise, authoritative essays in this fine, 450-page collection of more than 400 Civil War photos, Brady was more entrepreneur than artist. Before the war, he had achieved fame for his daguerreotype portraits of the rich and famous, and his New York gallery was at the forefront of the 19th-century vogue for all manner of formal and souvenir photography. With the advent of the wet plate collodion process, which resulted in a glass negative from which any number of prints could be made, the daguerreotype was rendered obsolete, and the era of mass-produced photography was under way.
Thus, Brady's determination to document the breadth of the Civil War was as much a business decision as it was a historical imperative. Brady knew that the war was a momentous opportunity, so he assembled teams of superb, passionate photographers--among them Alexander Gardner, James Gibson, and Timothy O'Sullivan--to capture as much of the action as possible. The wet collodion process was cumbersome, though, requiring mobile darkrooms and 55-gallon water tanks, and as the war--which Brady thought would be a short one--began to drag on, the expenses mounted. Brady's finances were in a shambles before the war ended, and bankruptcy followed.
But the enduring legacy of Brady's studio outshines the unflattering light in which Brady's opportunism and mismanagement have cast him. Drawing from the thousands of Brady images that now reside with the U.S. Library of Congress and in the National Archives, author Sullivan offers crisp and often unforgettable reproductions of photos that span the war. From the first major battle, Bull Run, in 1861, through Antietam, Gettysburg, Sherman's Atlanta campaign, and the fall of Richmond, this book captures the tragic progression of a conflict that marked the end of America's innocence and the emergence of its new geopolitical landscape.
Indeed, landscape is at the heart of these photos--the sweep of muddy field, smoky encampment, rural and urban ruins, the linear vanishing points of railroad lines and wooden fortifications, and, inevitably, the saddening sprawl of dead bodies on a battlefield. Some photos are almost too perfect in the lost-innocence category--for example, an image by George Barnard of children staring in awe at a line of cavalrymen across the marshy plain of Bull Run. Other shots seem to hum with audible urgency, as in James Gibson's image of a field hospital after a battle, a veritable sea of the wounded.
Less interesting, perhaps, are the many posed photos of soldiers, officers, and regiments standing stiffly for posterity. But when the men are truly historic figures, their postures can be revealing. One famous shot, by Alexander Gardner, depicts President Lincoln before a tent at Antietam. To either side of him are Allan Pinkerton, of the Secret Service, and Major Gen. John McClernand, both of whom affect Napoleonic poses, with their right hands tucked inside their jackets. The stovepipe-hatted Lincoln, by contrast, towers over the two men, and stands easily, unselfconsciously, with an air of such dignity and grave understanding that there is no mistaking him for anything but the very soul of the Union.
Similarly, the images of displaced slave families and of the black Union soldiers of Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, remind us that the Civil War's catalyst, slavery, lent it its most human face. The black soldiers stand proudly, yet with a sober, mistrustful demeanor that charges the photograph with high ambiguity. It would have been easy for Brady's photographers to ignore the racial component of the war, given that the audience and market for these photographs would be overwhelmingly white, but it is obvious that the likes of Gardner and Gibson responded to a higher calling.
By the end, of course, as Brady's cameras document the "Grand Review" of the Army--a parade of troops along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., only weeks after the war's end and Lincoln's assassination--we can sense how quickly this central event in American history would become steeped in myth. The photos palpably convey a tired march of horses and men, an almost Homeric procession that carries a message of irrevocable change, sacrifice and the ongoing cost of freedom. Perhaps Mathew Brady viewed the Civil War, at first, as a theater of capitalism, but his cameras always saw it for what it was.
UN MONDE NON-OBJECTIF EN PHOTOGRAPHIE. November 2003. Catalogue published by Galerie Thessa Herold; 7, rue de Thorigny 75003 Paris. Telephone: 33 (0) 1 42 78 78 68; Fax: 33 (0) 1 42 78 78 69. E-mail: email@example.com
Maybe it is misleading to ascribe non-objectivity or pure abstraction to the fruits of photography, given that the medium inevitably fixes images of things that exist in the world. And yet the abstract tradition has played a great role in photography's development ever since the advent of the modernists and, certainly, the surrealists. In the early 1920s, surrealism's pied piper, Andre Breton, was ecstatically championing the potential of a "veritable photographie de la pensee," relishing the contradiction of an objectifying medium that could channel the essence of pure thought and unmediated dreams.
Ultimately, such lofty sentiment matters less than that a great many memorable and haunting images have resulted from photography's abstract wave. This 190-page catalogue, keyed to a recent exhibition at the Galerie Thessa Herold in Paris, charts the course of non-objective work with a sampling of wonderful photos, stretching from the surrealist heyday to contemporary artistry, all superbly annotated and printed on luxuriantly glossy paper. Thus, and with the help of fine essays by one of France's great scholars of photography, Michel Poivert, we can trace Breton et al.'s fascination with photos of lightening bolts and electrical surges. These were suggestive to the surrealists of convulsive mental processes and the beauty of sheer, preliterate inspiration.
By the 1930s, we can see, in the carefully crafted black and white exposures of Brassai, how photography can turn the natural geometries of rock crystals, sponges and coral into dream symbols. And Raoul Ubac's close-up, tightly cropped shots can turn anything from the drops of water on a windowpane to the patterns of a manufactured bottle into biomorphic mysteries. Then there is Man Ray, of course, whose Rayogrammes caught the shapes of various everyday objects--brushes, straws, string--as they interacted with light sources and photosensitive paper.
Interestingly, one of photography's great realists, Henri Cartier-Bresson, is even represented here with an image of mud-caked terrain, "Roches," from 1935. By 1940, we have Herbert Matter's kinetic shots of Calder mobiles in motion, with their blurred ellipses and mathematical rigor. Indeed, the sheer visual energy of the European avant-garde ranges widely, from Alexander Rodtchenko's naturalistic abstraction of agave cactus needles and Poet Zwart's textural tours de force, exploring tree bark and cobwebs, to Ernst Fuhrmann's or Carl Struwe's magnifications of plant cells, pollen, and plankton.
From there, American and German photographers, such as Edward Quigley, Arthur Siegel, Aaron Siskind, Otto Steinert and Hannes Kilian, are featured. It is interesting to note how they build on the surrealist and European pioneers, echoing some of the classic abstract imagery with ever sharper focal approaches and more ambitious patterning. Is it surprising that much of the non-objective work sampled here from the 1940s and 50s does not seem to reflect the gestural heroics of Abstract Expressionism? Maybe not, since photography has a way of being painterly without calling on the rhetoric of painting.
If anything, this catalogue shows us that today's non-objective photographers want to connect with the real world in fresh ways, not merely by crafting a swirl of imagery but by evoking emotional complexities, as in Joan Fontcuberta's "Tao Te Ching" (1999), which makes a kind of lunar horizon from a sheet of Braille. And Beatrice Helg's 2001 series of "Equilibre" photos places a wiry metal sculpture on an oxidized, shadowy stage--a ballet of industrial material that mimics human movement. As paintings, these abstractions might seem forced; as photographs, they are more purely, and logically, about vision.
TEN PHOTOGRAPHERS, 1946-54: THE LEGACY OF MINOR WHITE, CALIFORNIA SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS, THE EXHIBITION PERCEPTIONS; 2004; $25. Catalogue published by Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc., P.O. Box 40447, San Francisco, CA 94140; Phone: (415) 626-2677; Fax: (415) 552-4150; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Any survey of American fine-art photography ought to linger gratefully in post-World War II San Francisco. That is where such groundbreakers as Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunnigham, Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston and Minor White inspired a fresh generation of students at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). At the time, White led the school's new fine-art photography program, and the post-war energy and optimism of the era seemed as fresh and strong as the wind gusting from the Bay.
This liberated atmosphere led to at least one legendary display, Perceptions, a 1954 show at the San Francisco Museum of Art in which Adams, Cunningham, Lange, Weston, White, and 41 other photographers--many of them students of the famous five--exhibited their work. The show was unusual in that it emphasized the photographs rather than the photographers, leaving the prints unsigned and espousing something of a new California manifesto for fine-art freedom. It also proclaimed its artists as cutting across "the boundaries of several contemporary 'isms.' Some photograph nature, some lean toward the non-objective and surreal, some photograph the social scene; but all have a vital principle in common. This principle is to photograph with the inner eye."
Fifty years later, the ongoing influence of Perceptions--and, indeed, of the California "inner eye"--has inspired San Francisco fine-art photography dealers Paul Hertzmann and Susan Herzig to revisit the show in their way. So they have created a 48-page catalogue focusing on ten of the "distinguished students" represented in the original show, each of whom has gone on to enjoy a fair share of recognition since 1954. Alphabetically, they are John Bertolino, Zoe [Lowenthal] Brown, Benjamin Chinn, Bob Hollingsworth, Gene Petersen, Nata Piaskowski, F.W. Quandt, Jr., Donald Ross, Charles Wong and Harold Zegart.
An essay by Deborah Klochko articulates the legacy of Minor White as educator, co-founder of Aperture magazine, and the driving force in the acceptance of a Bay Area photographic aesthetic that took root back in the early 1930s. At the time, a group of several Bay Area photographers known as Group f.64--Adams, Cunningham and Weston among them--embraced a "straight photography" approach that believed that fine-art photos "must develop along the lines defined by the actualities and limitations of the photographic medium, and must always remain independent of ideological conventions or art and aesthetics that are reminiscent of a period and culture antedating the growth of the medium itself."
In other words, to invoke Ezra Pound on modernism, it was time to "make it new" again. The Bay Area school thus favored social realism, available light, cropped-out figuration and a tonal rigor that made the most of the California melting pot and the documentary power of black and white. But it was not easy to "remain independent" of European classicism. And so, John Bertolino's iconic image of an exhausted young woman on a city bench, her head in her arms while she rests on a battered suitcase, marries the formal elegance of a Vermeer to the immediacy and random discovery that only photography offers--that shred of torn paper at her feet seems to echo the curve of her shoulders.
Likewise, Zoe Brown, Charles Wong, and Benjamin Chinn capture black and Asian children very much in the act of being themselves or in the context of Chinatown celebrations and inner-city dwellings that emphasize the rhythm and freedom of Bay Area life. Bob Hollingsworth and Gene Peterson, on the other hand, document the abundant visual information all around them, turning traffic signs, fire hydrants, graffiti and tombstone friezes into found objects. And then there's Nata Pieskowski, whose still lifes and street scenes--especially an image of a poor black couple in troubled conversation--suggest a complex social fabric. More atmospherically, F.W. Quandt, Jr. and Donald Ross capture mist on the Bay and industrial detritus with sharp attention to detail, while Harold Zegart finds beauty in the geometries of vacant lots and a wall of apartment-house mailboxes. Clearly, these ten photographers are kindred artists, united by a sense of place and a confidence bred by a truly Californian sense of possibility.
WINE NOTES: 2002 BURGUNDY TASTING
AND OTHER RECENT BOTTLES
Along with photography, you have to be able to enjoy other sensory delights. One of my favorites is a good wine. As a founding member of the non-existent International Photographic Wine Club, I thought I would share some of my recent tasting with my fellow members. One of these days, we might actually hold an actual tasting here or in Paris.
One of the better Burgundy producers, especially for the money, is Daniel Rion. According to early reports of the 2002 Burgundy vintage, this will be an erratic group of wines. Some producers frankly had problems from the 2003 heat wave, which hurt some of those who could not keep their cellars cool. But if Daniel Rion's wines are any indicator, some of the Burgundies from this vintage will be the best since 1995, or even 1990. They are loaded with fruit, with great length and balance. The tannins are there but in the better wines barely noticeable. The purity of Rion's top two wines is astonishing. The wines of Cote de Vougeot reportedly did much better this year than the Cote de Beaune.
From a tasting of 2002 Daniel Rion Burgundies (the prices were for pre-arrival, so they might be a few more dollars on actual release):
Haut Cotes-Nuits-Blanc, Rating 86, decent clean and a great value for a "house" white wine ($12).
Cotes-Nuits-Villages, Rating 83, Smoky and simple, but quite drinkable and at $18 a decent, but not spectacular value.
Vosne Romanee, Rating 89, More candy and more complexity ($30).
Chambolle-Musigny Les Beaux Bruns, Rating 92, Nice balance and ph, good purity, the best value of the mid-price range. I considered buying this one ($32).
Nuit St. George Vielles Vignes, Rating 90, More reticent on the nose, more noticeable tannins, but very good ($32).
Vosne Romanee Les Beaux Monts, Rating 91-92+, Quite nice, big nose, very long in the mouth ($44).
Vosne Romanee Les Chaumes, Rating 91-92+, Very similar to the Beaux Monts, very long ($44).
Nuit St. George Haut Pruliers, Rating 92-93+, Very tasty and a definite step up in the tasting ($44). I bought this wine.
Nuits St. George Les Vignes Rondes, Rating 90, My least favorite of the bigger wines, but still excellent, just not as interesting as the other fine wines in this tasting ($44).
Echezeaux, Rating 93+, Beautiful purity and balance. Delicate not heavy, but a bit of tannin at the end, with good length. Meant for the long term. My second favorite wine of the tasting, and I bought this wine ($65).
Clos Vougeot, Rating 94, The very best wine of the tasting. Balance, fruit, great length in the mouth (this wine just goes on and on, like the Energizer Bunny), super nosejust wonderful overall. A solid, exciting wine that is even drinkable today or can easily be cellared for the longer term. I bought this wine ($75).
OTHER RECENT BOTTLES
1991 Pesquera Reserva. Pesquera is always a great value in good years, and 1991 was a very good year in Spain and for Pesquera (as was 1985, 1994 and 1999-2001, actually there were even some good 1995s and 1998s; Spain is much like California this way: most years are decent if not great). I have had great simple crianzas (about $20-25/bottle now for current vintages) and reserves (about $35-45/bottle) from this old Spanish house. I prefer to skip the very top of their offerings (Gran Reserva), which sometime get a bit too much wood for my taste and are just too pricey (close to $100/bottle) to justify the extra expense. The crianzas and reserves are the real "buy" here. The wines almost always seem to drink well after about 12-15 years. Four years ago, I had a 1985 crianza that was still drinking very well indeed (Rating 91), even with a leaking cork. The 1991 reserva is drinking extremely well right now but still has plenty of stuffing left to cellar for at least another 10+ years. I have often found leaking corks from Pesquera for some reason (probably shipping, but possibly bad corks), but astonishingly the wines do not seem to have suffered from it. This one is lovely, with just the right touch of acid to make it interesting, but a lowly low ph mouth feel with lots of fruit. A big wine, make no mistake about it, but its concentration adds to the interest. The nose floats from the glass with just a whiff of eucalyptus, but dark fruits as well. Oddly the nose closes down a bit as time goes on, perhaps indicating a future time where the wine may close down again. Unlike some Spanish wines, this one seems to have the fruit to go the distance. But why wait when it is drinking so well now. Good purity and length. Rating 94 and an excellent buy.