PARIS—On Nov. 19 Christie’s auctioned off a large selection of photographs from the collection of French film director and art collector Claude Berri (b. 1934). The sale, timed to coincide with the Paris Photo fair, realized €2.9 million ($3.4 million) for 90 lots on offer.
The collection—which ranged from the 1920s through the ’60s—included works by artists such as Eugène Atget, Constantin Brancusi, Brassaï, Claude Cahun, Harry Callahan, André Kertész, Man Ray, Aaron Siskind, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand and Raoul Ubac.
The sale offered some of the first photographs purchased by Berri, who began his art collection with paintings in the 1980s; he started buying photographs in 1996, when he discovered Graffitis, a series of photos executed by Brassaï that are reflective of skulls and primitive faces. After seeing the images in the home of Brassaï’s widow, Gilberte Brassaï, Berri bought 15 of them.
These Graffitis, offered at auction with estimates of €3,500 ($4,100) and up, brought record prices. One work, Magic (La Magie), 1941, sold for €36,000 ($42,230), or 12 times over the low estimate of €3,000. A skull, from the série VII, fetched €27,600 ($32,374).
Yet another, série VIII 1935-1950, a 1960 gelatin silver print, was sold to European dealer Karsten Greve, for €19,200 ($22,520), well above its estimate of €3,000/5,000. Greve also bought another important photograph in the sale: a 1908 image by Edward Steichen of an Auguste Rodin piece, Balzac by Rodin, 2 AM, Meudon, September 1908, a platinum print estimated at €120,000/180,000. The picture sold within estimate for €156,000 ($182,990).
A highlight of the sale was a new record established for a Rayogram by Man Ray. The 1923 work was purchased by a young American collector for €348,000, or $408,200 (estimate: €150,000/250,000). Several additional works by Man Ray fetched prices from €180,000/236,000 ($211,140/276,828).
Other records were established as well, including those for small-format self-portraits by Surrealist photographer Cahun. One of those works, from 1927, was sold at €48,000 ($56,300). A female nude by Bill Brandt also reached a record price—€78,000 ($91,500) for London, 1952 (estimate: €150,000/250,000).