SOTHEBY'S SELLS OVER $4.7 MILLION AND NEARLY 84% OF MULTI-OWNER AUCTION; SWANN DOES VERY WELL WITH OVER $1.2 MILLION AND 76% SOLD IN OCTOBER AUCTION; RECENT PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS IN TIME FOR HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING: EDWARD WESTON AND JOEL-PETER WITKIN
SOTHEBY'S SELLS OVER $4.7 MILLION AND
NEARLY 84% OF MULTI-OWNER AUCTION
By Stephen Perloff, The Photograph Collector Newsletter
After the success of Christie's sale, just when you thought it could not get any better... Well, Sotheby's rarely disappoints. The sale had hardly any let up.
Ansel Adams's The Tetons and the Snake River (a 1978 print, $18,000-$22,000) still brought $36,000 from the phone. A phone bidder topped Michael Shapiro, consulting on his cell phone, for Adams's Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake, Alaska ($20,000-$30,000) at $52,800. And different phone bidders took the next four Adams lots: Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine ($12,000-$18,000) for $26,400; Moonrise ($25,000-$35,000) for $31,200; Mt. Williamson, Sierra Nevada ($10,000-$15,000) for $24,000; and Aspens, Northern New Mexico ($15,000-$20,000) for $69,600!
Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras actually went a bit below the low estimate at $31,200. Likewise Portfolio Two at $45,600. Portfolio Three went at the low estimate, $60,000.
The Oswald Gallery, who bought a couple of other Adams prints, came up short against a phone bidder on a rare, vintage Rocks and Barnacles ($7,000-$10,000), which climbed to $21,600. Then Clearing Winter Storm ($20,000-$30,000) blew by at $43,200.
And that was just in the first 23 lots.
Jan Kesner went for Brett Weston's White Sands portfolio at $28,800, within the estimates. A set of 83 lantern slides of Wells Cathedral by Frederick Evans, from the collection of George Tice, climbed the sea of steps over estimate to $36,000. Eugène Atget's La Vilette, Rue Asselin ($10,000-$15,000) hooked a winning bid of $62,400.
Lee Marks outstroked all comers to capture a deluxe edition of Doris Ulmann's Roll, Jordan, Roll ($12,000-$18,000) for $57,600, a record for this work by a wide margin. A Richard Benson print of Paul Strand's Wall Street ($25,000-$35,000) clocked in at $26,400. Lewis Hine's Young Girl in a Carolina Cotton Mill spun out a bid of $72,000, over estimate and good for tenth place on the day. Sotheby's identified the phone bidder as the Howard Greenberg Gallery.
An album of Civil War bigwigs was the first notable lot to pass. But a lot of four daguerreotypes of James Duncan Graham attributed to John Plumbe, Jr., went within estimate at $28,800 and a half plate of his son went well over the high estimate to $60,000.
A group of six nude studies by Manuel Alvarez Bravo more than doubled the high estimate to $26,400 and the Bravo portfolio ($30,000-$40,000) elicited $40,800, both from the same phone bidder (Ramis Barquet is our suspect here).
A great, early modernist vintage print by Imogen Cunningham of the Mills College Amphitheatre, 1920 ($70,000-$100,000) was the site of its own drama, as Peter MacGill on a cell phone finally took it at $209,600, good for third place.
Edward Weston's Prow failed to leave the dock, but Jack Hastings went home with his Church at Laguna, New Mexico at $22,800, over estimate. A phone bidder went just over estimate for Weston's nude of Charis at $38,400. And his Pepper (2P) went into Edwynn Houk's market basket just underestimate at $78,000, tied for eighth place.
Paul Strand's intense portrait of his first wife Rebecca saw an equally intense battle between Houk and Robert Burge. Burge had to more than double the high estimate at $176,000 (fifth place) to win the prize. Bill Brandt's London (Nude with Bent Elbow) continued its steady climb to $26,400, a record for this image, too, I believe.
A rare, vintage print of Henri Cartier-Bresson's Valencia, 1933, brought $78,000 (tied for eighth). A phone bidder held off Lee Marks to take Renato Fazioli's fascinating photocollage, Le Scale, 1932 ($20,000-$25,000), for $66,000. Man Ray's Rayograph Emak Bakia ($30,000-$40,000) went to order for $57,600. Michael Mazzei raised his hand for Man Ray's Bras (Arm), just at the low estimate, $72,000 (tied for tenth). A phone bidder went to $55,200, over estimate and over Paul Hertzmann, to win the Rayograph with Buttons.
Here Feininger's The Photojournalist passed at $19,000. And Eisenstaedt's Children at a Puppet Theatre brought $39,600.
Weegee's Boston, Seat of Culture, showing, discreetly, the interior of a bathroom, forced Jack Hastings to more than double the high estimate to $20,400 to wrest it away from Lee Marks.
Tom Gitterman took a phone bidder over estimate for Harry Callahan's Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago, but the phone bidder, not to be disappointed again like the Cubs, won this one at $52,800. Callahan's Grasses, Detroit ($6,000-$9,000) was mowed down for $31,200. His oversize nude of Eleanor ($20,000-$30,000) brought an oversize price as the phone dashed Peter MacGill's hopes at $84,000 (tied for sixth place).
But no time to rest. The next lot was Robert Frank's Hoboken, the image of two women looking out of two different windows, one obscured by a flag, printed not later than 1966 ($80,000-$120,000). This time Howard Greenberg topped MacGill at $198,400, the fourth highest price of the sale.
An order bidder could have bought a lot of martinis for the $84,000 paid for Irving Penn's Girl Drinking (M.J.R.) ($30,000-$50,000) (tied for sixth place). Then another elegant Penn, Mermaid Dress, hit its high estimate at $60,000. And his Woman with Roses on Her Arm sold above estimate at $43,200. Penn's Cigarette #34 ($8,000-$12,000) was smoked by Jeffrey Fraenkel at $20,400.
The Helmut Newton portfolio 15 Photographs sold just below the high estimate at $55,200. Fraenkel was back for the similarly named portfolio by Lee Friedlander ($20,000-$30,000) at $50,400. Fourteen of the fifteen photographs from the Garry Winogrand portfolio Fifteen (not "15") Photographs ($15,000–$25,000) went to the phone for $72,000, a third lot tying for tenth place. The same bidder came back for 13 of the 15 photographs from Winogrand's 15 (not "Fifteen") Big Shots ($10,000-$20,000) for $36,000.
Next up was Arbus. Child with a Toy Hand Grenade (a Selkirk print) exploded just at the low estimate, $60,000. A vintage print of A Family on Their Lawn One Sunday in Westchester, N.Y., inscribed to a psychotherapist Arbus had once spoken to on the phone, went, appropriately, to a phone bidder for $232,000, just over the low estimate but good for the second highest price of the sale. Another vintage inscribed print, this time of Eddie Carmel, a Jewish Giant with His Parents in the Living Room of Their Home, Bronx, N.Y., dwarfed even the previous print, as the same phone bidder topped the high estimate at $388,800, also the top price of the day. A Selkirk print of Boy with a Straw Hat Waiting to March in a Pro-War Parade, N.Y.C., was rounded up by Joseph Bellows for $36,000, at the mid-point of the estimate.
Mapplethorpe's flowers continued their hothouse prices as his color Jack in the Pulpit ($25,000-$35,000) brought $52,800. And just in time for the holiday, Howard Read treated himself to Eggleston's Outskirts of Morton, Mississippi, Halloween at the high estimate, $60,000.
At the end of the day the buy-in rate was a mere 16.3% with a 94.6% sold value and the total was $4,718,160, or a striking $27,918 per lot sold.
Denise Bethel said, "Our October 16th auction was one of the most successful various-owners' sales of photographs ever to be held in New York. All of our clients were extremely pleased with the small size of the sale, and our strategy in making the sale a select one certainly paid off: our average lot value was by far the highest, and our buy-in rate by far the lowest, of all the photographs auctions in town. We again were thrilled to have the leading lot of the season, Diane Arbus's Eddie Carmel, a Jewish Giant, which sold for $388,800, one of the most expensive Arbus photographs ever sold."
SWANN DOES VERY WELL WITH OVER $1.2
MILLION AND 76% SOLD IN OCTOBER AUCTION
By Stephen Perloff, The Photograph Collector Newsletter
Swann Galleries' sale the following Tuesday proved to be their best in several years with a low buy-in rate of 24% and total sales of $1,238,665. Again, attendance in the room was relatively small, about 50 people, but the phones were active and there were numerous order bids.
A hand-tinted sixth-plate tintype of an African-American woman with an American flag in her sash, estimated at only $800-$1,200, was an initial surprise as it sold to a phone bidder for $11,500. A sixth-plate ruby ambrotype of George Armstrong Custer as a graduating cadet at West Point was surrounded for $23,000, good for eighth place, but below the low estimate, by a dealer Keya Morgan bidding on the phone. This was probably the "buy" of the auction, considering its importance and rarity.
A Mathew Brady album containing 157 cartes-de-visite of Union Generals, 1861-65, brought a patriotic $34,500, at the mid-point of its estimate, also from the phone and tied for the fifth highest price of the sale. Philadelphia dealer Richard T. Rosenthal emerged victorious--and with a bargain--when he captured a Brady album of 44 Civil War views ($20,000-$30,000) for $17,250.
Camera Work Number 10, with 10 Stieglitz images ($12,000–$18,000), failed to find a buyer. But Steichen's Henri Matisse with "La Serpentina" sold at the high estimate, $34,500, tied for fifth. Edward Curtis's Waiting in the Forest--Cheyenne ($20,000-$30,000) is still wandering in the wilderness, which has been overrun by an archive of 650 prints and 217 negatives of U.S. billboards that sold for $9,775 on an estimate of $2,000-$3,000.
Atget did well. 61 Rue au Maire ($6,000-$9,000) brought $17,250 from a phone bidder and Avenue des Gobelins, with its rows of dresses and coats ($15,000-$25,000), enticed the Edwynn Houk Gallery to go on a $39,100 shopping spree (tied for third).
The portfolio Berenice Abbott's New York, tied for the highest price of the day at $43,700, going to an order bidder. Another portfolio, Walker Evans: 14 Photographs, went just under low estimate, but still was tied for top spot at $43,700.
Thirty-four prints of Pittsburgh and rural Pennsylvania in the 1930s by Luke Swank went to the phone for $13,800, more than two-and-a-half times the high estimate.
Richard Avedon's Dovima with Elephants, Evening Dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, Paris, was taken by a phone bidder for $18,400 over Michael Feldschuh, a young collector who bid at Christie's and was very active in this sale, buying 15 lots for $55,660 and underbidding several others.
Bill Brandt's Bent Elbow, underestimated at $2,500-$3,500, flexed to $16,100. An early abstract from 1953 by Aaron Siskind ($15,000-$25,000) sold to order for $13,800, the same price as his Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation 474 ($8,000-$10,000).
Ansel Adams's Moon and Half Dome, rose to $39,100, just over estimate and tied for third place. But seven "graphic" images from the second edition of Larry Clark's Teenage Lust ($18,000-$22,000) were not titillating enough.
Helmut Newton's color image, Eiffel Tower, Paris ($4,000-$6,000)--a much more erotic image than usually portrayed by his Teutonic Valkeries--was recognized as such by a phone bidder who spent $21,850 (number nine).
Closing out the sale in eighth place was Sandy Skoglund's Revenge of the Goldfish ($12,000-$18,000), which swam upstream to $23,000.
One other item of note was that bidders could follow the auction and bid online through Live Bid. According to Caroline Birnbaum, Director of Swann's Public Relations Department, Swann has used the service five times since last September and that it has drawn them new clients and that many online bidders had been successful. Indeed, in this sale 14 lots were bought by internet buyers, the vast majority under $2,500, but still enough to make a difference of, probably, several thousand dollars.
(Copyright ©2004 by The 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.)
RECENT PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS
IN TIME FOR HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING:
EDWARD WESTON: LIFE WORK
By Matt Damsker
EDWARD WESTON: LIFE WORK. PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE COLLECTION OF
JUDITH G. HOCHBERG AND MICHAEL P. MATTIS.
Preface by the collectors. Essays by Sarah M. Lowe. Memoir and Summation by Dody Weston Thompson. Published by Lodima Press; Revere, Pennsylvania, 2003; 252 pages. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 2003105874; ISBN No. 1-888899-09-3. Lodima Press, P.O. Box 367, Revere, PA 189533 USA; Phone: 1-610-847-2007; Fax: 1-610-847-2373; www.lodimapress.com . Price: Hardcover Edition: $150 (plus $10 shipping) Special Price through December 31, 2004: $125. Plus shipping: $10 additional. Special Limited Edition: Includes a modern print of a rare portrait of Edward Weston by Tina Modotti. Limited to 100 copies. The second 25 copies are $600. Prices will increase thereafter.
The United States is getting a well-balanced look at the peerless modernism of Edward Weston, thanks to a traveling exhibition of his work that will continue through the start of 2007 (with a stop at Spain's Institut Valencia d'Art Modern in the spring of 2006). The 110-photograph survey is drawn from the rigorous Weston collection of Judith Hochberg and Michael Mattis, and this accompanying volume is a suitably rigorous tribute to a photographer whose 40-year career spanned the medium's 20th-century development, from pictorialism to fine-art abstraction.
With informative essays by Sarah Lowe introducing each phase of Weston's career, the book is superbly presented, with first-rate reproductions in 600-line screen quadtone on rich matte and glossy paper, and a wealth of background regarding provenance, bibliography, and chronology. Weston deserves no less, of course, for it is easy to argue that he was the most seriously devoted practitioner of his century, spurring himself on, decade upon decade, from the small-time beginnings of the his first studio near Los Angeles to world-class stature. Indeed, the mark of Weston's modernism--his austere emphasis on form and tonal perfection over anything rhetorical--continues to set an artistic standard for succeeding generations.
As Lowe notes, Weston enjoyed "modest success as a commercial portrait photographer, but he aspired to be much more; throughout his life he adamantly distinguished between his commercial and personal work, often bemoaning the fact that he had to expend time and energy on clients who had little appreciation for his art." Working in the luminous Pictorialist style, with its softly nuanced tonalities, Weston produced early work and a number of classic images, including archetypal portraits of both sterile desert and fertile womanhood (with his wife Flora and his later paramour, Margrethe Mather, as models). But by the 1920s, during a three-year stay in Mexico, he finally freed himself of all studio artifice in favor of the sharp focus and forceful frontality that defines classic Weston.
Thus, we have brave, unique, and timeless images such as 1926's "Boy and Pulqueria Mural," in which a bullfighting poster on the side of a Mexican show is offset by the blurred, casually cropped grace note of a young boy's head in the lower left-hand corner, with telephone poles and a quadrant of sky receding in the distance. Place, time, texture, and culture are represented here with such unforced artistry that photography students could spend a semester studying this one image without running out of material.
Importantly, Weston's modernist sensibility was infinitely curious. As much as he focused on ennobling portraits of people and places, including supreme photographs of such icons as Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and D.H. Lawrence, his fascination was with the form of the visual world. His 1925 photo of a toilet bowl is a study in curvature and functional perfection, with no trace of irony, that takes its place with his most evocative shots of Oaxacan pottery--jars and jugs clustered together like plump citizens--or his famous 1927 spire of three radishes.
By the late 20s and into the 1930s, of course, Weston's focus on still lifes--the great "Chambered Nautilus" of 1927, or the sculptural abstractions he fashioned of cabbage fragments, bedpans, peppers, and toadstools--began to define his mature vision. The dark mysteries of a pelican's wing seen close up, or the scraped bark of a eucalyptus tree, are certainly the equals of his best-known works, the modernist nudes of his lovers and models. But Weston's nudes are where he brings photography a step forward into a realm of high art.
With their heads cropped out, photographed from behind, bent into a pear shape, their limbs and breasts arrayed carefully, never pruriently, Weston's nudes explore human form as part of the topography of the natural world. The rare urban image, a 1941 shot of a nude seen sleeping in a New York interior, beneath Venetian blinds, with buildings half-glimpsed beyond, evokes Edward Hopper's painterly images of modern isolation, but Weston's focus on form, light, and texture exceeds any sense of 20th-century anomie.
Equally vital are Weston's immortal shots of sand dunes, or thunderheads over New Mexico, in which light, darkness and the sheer power of the elements combine to shape the land and sky. Weston's camera grasps this immensity with awe and control, locating the abstract rhythm and contrast of these forms in ways that yield unforgettable photographic canvases. They match anything from the brushes of the Abstract Expressionist painters, of course, and you could say they go them one better: Weston's vision isn't about the drive for self-expression, or the ego-driven gesture of the human against the world; it's about the world itself. And for him, the world was more than enough.
JOEL-PETER WITKIN AND WILLIAM BLAKE
By Matt Damsker
SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE. Poems by William Blake. Photographs by Joel-Peter Witkin. Edited and with an introduction by John Wood. Published by Steven Albahari. An art publication of Leo and Wolfe Photography, Inc., Brewster, Mass; Limited classic edition of 915 copies signed by Witkin in a custom box; classic reserve numbered edition of 75 copies and 10 numbered artist copies. Trade edition ISBN No. 1-892733-11-0; Deluxe edition ISBN No. 1-892733-12-9. 21st Photography, 9 New Venture Dr., #1, South Dennis, MA 02660; Phone: 508-398-300; Fax: 508-398-0343; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
; Internet: www.21stphotography.com .
A marriage made in heaven and, one supposes, hell, this lavish production matches the immortal poetic mysticism of William Blake's "Songs of Innocence and Experience" with the profoundly, profanely visionary art photography of Joel-Peter Witkin. The result, not unexpectedly, is a feast of images that carry the familiar and strange mythology of Blake's unique imagination into Witkin's visual world. It is a world of grotesquely idealized physicality, in which the human form in all its forms--beautiful, obese, transgendered, severed, scarred, and tortured--plays a central role in Witkin's liberated theater of religious duality and sheer sensation.
Witkin's photography, staged in a postmodern netherworld of taboo and spirituality, is hard to look at and hard to look away from. Descended from a painterly line that runs from Hieronymus Bosch and through Lucian Freud, his photos are easy to excoriate as sacrilegious, sadistic, even pornographic, but their command of form, their density, and their uneasy evocation of everything from scripture to circus makes them potent, truly enigmatic, and ultimately self-validating.
In his introduction to the book, John Wood calls Witkin's work "a great polyphonic hymn to the body in all its manifestations," while Witkin himself says he channels nothing less than "the face of the Divine" in his focus on death, sex, deformity, and darkness, and in his equating of miracle with monstrosity. Wood calls Witkin "god-haunted," and indeed, these photos are religious artifacts on their own terms, as are Blake's symbol-rich poems.
Printed in a new 10-color, high-resolution offset process on Arches cotton paper, the book debuts 40 of Witkin's newest images along with 22 familiar plates. Disturbing as they may be, they are never far from a kind of negative beauty that manifests in the elegance of Witkin's compositions and the showman's instinct from which he proceeds. His famous "Harvest," in which a death mask of a human face is surrounded by a headdress of vegetation, is a work of pure genius, expressing the cycle of nature and the fact of humanity with seamless vision and purpose. Harder to take, perhaps, is his twisted portrait of a fetus wearing a black mask, but the surreal shock of the image only opens us to a struggle with its moral questions.
And so it goes, as Witkin's scarred tableaux unfold, page upon page. Sadomasochistic images of bound figures with their genitalia stretched, of four-breasted women, of transsexuals, of a newly crucified Christ on a painterly canvas of inked and flayed textures--Witkin's world is haunted, that is for sure, a dark extension of the realism of photographic forbears from Wegee to Diane Arbus. There is also a dark humor that leavens the load. A portrait of "Amour" depicts a voluptuous maja with a demon's head, with a monkey on a stool to her left. "Cuisine of a Failed Romance" stages a statuesque nude, suspended from the ceiling in a room of contrasting geometric shapes, while a dartboard on the wall sports a winged penis taking aim.
Likewise, "First Casting for Milo" displays a female amputee in the role of the Venus de Milo, in a bra and rumpled gown, posed with a cute dog while a pair of disembodied hands at stage left clap the marker board that announces the shooting of the scene. And a "Severed Leg Weathervane" is precisely what its title describes, a surreal totem of Witkin's imagination at the intersection of Nausea and Comedy.
More literal is an image called "Blackman", in which an African male stands nude and uncertainly between two hulking white men who seem to be either threatening him or selling him into slavery. Witkin avoids explicit narrative in his photography, so the image resonates with possibility and a sense of innocence at risk. Indeed, matched with Blake's "The Little Black Boy" on the opposite page ("My mother bore me in the southern wild, /And I am black, but O! my soul is white."), the photograph perfectly illustrates the exalted humanism of the great English poet. At the same time, it registers Witkin's grace--an odd yet apt word for his kind of artistry--when it comes to celebrating the mysteries of flesh and spirit.
HOLIDAY SALE ON IPHOTOCENTRAL CONTINUES
The special End-of-the-Year Holiday sale on I Photo Central brought to you by all five of the website's photography dealers continues and hundreds more items have been added to the sale. 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 20th. 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 SpecialHolidaySale2 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 "2". 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.
You can also find nearly a hundred new images up on the web site if you have not visited in the last month or so. Just go to http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/search.php
and go to the drop down menu on "Time Frame of Posting" and click on "Past Month". You will see all of the great images posted up within the last 30 days, some just this week. Some of these items have even been added to the Holiday Sale.