NEW YORK—Spring photography auctions, held immediately after the major annual (Association of International Photography Art Dealers) show (ANL, 4/10/12), pointed to an overall healthy market, though volume was down from last spring and buying appeared to be selective. Christie’s had the highest total, at $6.8 million, though this was down from the $8.1 million achieved last year when two private collection sales boosted its regular auction. Still, the house exceeded the presale estimate of $4.2 million/6.3 million. Phillips de Pury & Company was next in terms of overall sale volume, posting a healthy total of $6.1 million, a slight improvement on last year’s previous high of $5.8 million. Sotheby’s $3.8 million sale on April 3, was down from the $5.6 million achieved last year, and saw a 30 percent buy-in rate, compared with 19 percent at Phillips and 18 percent at Christie’s.
International Bidding Boosts Prices at Christie’s
Christie’s photographs sale offered 344 lots. Of these 283, or 82 percent, found buyers. By value, the auction was 92 percent sold. Adding to collector interest in the sale was an offering of 71 lots that were being deaccessioned from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and which realized $775,750.
The top lot of the auction was Irving Penn’s Black and White ‘Vogue’ Cover, 1950, that sold for $434,500 to a private European buyer, well above the $200,000/300,000 estimate. The same price was achieved for Robert Frank’s Trolley-New Orleans, 1955, against a lower estimate of $100,000/150,000. These were followed by William Eggleston’s Untitled, 1973, a dye-transfer print of a rooftop with a sign reading “Peaches!” underneath a Coca-Cola logo. It sold for $242,500, against an estimate of $70,000/90,000.
A new auction record was set for a photo by Christian Schad when his photogram Untitled, Schadographie Nr. 17, 1919, fetched $218,500 (estimate: $200,000/300,000) from a private buyer.
Deborah Bell, Christie’s vice president and head of photographs, said the saleroom saw “enthusiastic international bidding, which continues to demonstrate the ever-increasing strength of this category being felt throughout the globe.”
Other lots that brought prices well above expectations included Frank’s Charleston, South Carolina, 1955, which tripled the high $50,000 estimate to sell for $182,500; Eugène Atget’s Documents pour l’histoire du vieux Paris, ca. 1910, which sold for $158,500 (estimate: $30,000/50,000); and Penn’s portrait, Picasso (B), Cannes, 1957, which sold for $116,500, compared with an estimate of $50,000/70,000, to a private Asian buyer.