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Kertész: His Vintage Paris Prints Can Soar to $1M

Prices for the works of André Kertész (1894-1985) have risen “considerably” over the past two years, says New York photography dealer Bruce Silverstein, whose gallery of the same name represents the artist’s estate in New York (see ANL, 10/12/04). It is represented in Chicago by the Stephen Daiter Gallery, and in Toronto by the Stephen

NEW YORK—Prices for the works of André Kertész (1894-1985) have risen “considerably” over the past two years, says New York photography dealer Bruce Silverstein, whose gallery of the same name represents the artist’s estate in New York (see ANL, 10/12/04). It is represented in Chicago by the Stephen Daiter Gallery, and in Toronto by the Stephen Bulger Gallery.

Kertész’s popularity has been boosted by a number of gallery shows of his U.S. works, says Silverstein, as well as a major traveling retrospective that features works of the pre-Paris, Paris and post-Paris eras. The show was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., where it was recently shown (Feb. 6-May 15) before traveling to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (June 12-Sept. 5), and concluding its run at the International Center of Photography, Manhattan (Sept. 16-Nov. 27).

Vintage prints from Kertész’s tenure in Paris, the most valuable and difficult to find, are priced from $100,000/1 million, depending upon the condition of the print and the quality of the image, says Silverstein.

From March through May, the Daiter Gallery exhibited an historical survey of 55 Kertész photographs—the earliest dating from 1914, the latest from 1984—and “more than half” were sold, Stephen Daiter told ARTnewsletter. Most of these images were listed between $5,000/100,000, although a 1926 print of Chez Mondrian on view is priced at more than $1 million.

This fall the Bruce Silverstein Gallery will exhibit 50 or so original contact prints, from the estate that Kertész produced while he was still in Hungary. Priced from $5,000/20,000, these are very small images—between 1-by-11⁄2 inches and 11⁄2-by-21⁄2 inches—that will be inside a large, 16-by-20-inch mat and a frame. There are only a “handful of images from that time that were blown up,” says Robert Gurbo, curator of both the Kertész estate and the André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation. “Kertész didn’t have an enlarger for a long time, and the photographs were intended to be seen at that size.”

Photographic prints created after 1937 range in price from $5,000/40,000. “The older the image, the more expensive,” Silverstein says. Besides taking new photographs (he was very prolific throughout his career, leaving his estate with thousands of images), Kertész made additional prints while in the U.S. of some of his most celebrated pictures that had been produced during his Paris years.

The prices of these works also increase as one goes back in time, according to gallerist Daiter. While “a vintage Chez Mondrian might go for a million dollars,” he points out, “a version of it from the 1940s could reach $200,000, maybe $80,000 if from the 1950s, and, let’s say, $10,000 if from the 1960s or ’70s.” Part of the reason for the descending level of prices is that Kertész made far more prints of his most sought-after images later in life, while the quality of the prints diminished principally because of diminished silver content in photographic papers starting in the 1960s.

The highest auction prices for Kertész’s work have been, as at the galleries, for the images produced during his Paris years. The top public-sale price to date is $376,500, paid for the 1926 Mondrian’s Pipe and Glasses and surpassing Christie’s estimate of $150,000/200,000 in 1997.

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