ARTnewsletter Archive

Demand Rises for Sugimoto’s Conceptual Photographs

Two traveling exhibits of photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto—best known for his black-and-white photographic seascapes and architectural forms—are further boosting already robust prices and interest in the artist’s work.

NEW YORK—Two traveling exhibits of photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto— best known for his black-and-white photographic seascapes and architectural forms—are further boosting already robust prices and interest in the artist’s work.

The first show, organized by the Japan Society, New York, and the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and entitled “Hiroshi Sugimoto: History of History,” is currently on view through Feb. 19, 2006, at the Japan Society. The second, a retrospective called “Hiroshi Sugimoto: End of Time,” is now on display at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, and will open at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., next Feb. 16.

Sugimoto’s show of recent black-and-white photographs of industrial-age buildings and machines, entitled “Conceptual Form,” at New York’s Sonnabend Gallery last spring (April 30-June 25) resulted in “very good” sales, reports gallery director Antonio Homem.

Eighteen new works, each printed in editions of five in the large size of 71-by-60 inches (framed), were priced at $80,000 apiece. Sugimoto also prints photographs sized 28-by-33 inches (framed), again in editions of five, which sell for $15,000 each. When Sonnabend began representing the artist in the late 1980s, smaller-size photos were each priced around $250, Homem notes.

The photographs shown at Sonnabend were also exhibited simultaneously in London at the Gagosian Gallery, marking the first time Sugimoto had ever exhibited with Gagosian and resulting in strong sales there as well, a gallery spokesman says. The artist has long been represented by Sonnabend and Tokyo’s Koyanagi Gallery.

Sugimoto was born in Tokyo in 1948 but has lived in the U.S. since 1974; he presently resides in New York City. His work has been displayed widely over the last 20 years—in solo exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; La Caixa, Madrid; the Bielefeld Museum, Bielefeld, Germany; the Kitakyushu Project Gallery, Kitakyushu, Japan; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, among others.

Richard Levy, a gallery owner in Albuquerque, N.Mex., who has handled work by the artist on the secondary market, told ARTnewsletter that collector interest has been strongest for the seascapes and images of old theaters. He observes that collectors of Sugimoto “are not just collectors of photography, who tend to be somewhat conservative, but of contemporary art in general.” Sugimoto’s work, he adds, appeals to buyers of conceptual and minimal art.

The secondary market for Sugimoto’s work has been active. The highest public-sale price to date is $209,100, for the 1996 print Sea of Japan, Rebun Island, which was sold at Christie’s last November, more than doubling the house’s $80,000 high estimate.

  • Issues