Sotheby’s April 3 sale of photographs realized a total of $3.8 million for 203 lots offered, down from last spring’s $5.8 million realized for 173 lots offered. At the current sale, which Sotheby’s said was expected to bring “in excess of $3.7 million,” 140 lots, or 69 percent, found buyers. By value, the auction realized 73 percent. On the positive side, there were strong prices reached for a number of prints by top-flight photographers.
Leading the list were Ansel Adams’s Mount McKinley and Wonder Like, Denali National Park, Alaska, 1948, which realized $266,500, falling within the $200,000/300,000 estimate, and his White House Ruin, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1949, which sold for $122,500, compared with an estimate of $100,000/150,000. Both were acquired by the Alinder Gallery, Gualala, Calif., which specializes in his work.
Other strong results were achieved for works, including Robert Mapplethorpe’s Calla Lily, printed in 1985, which sold for $122,500, on an estimate of $100,000/150,000, and Ray Metzker’s Composites: Tall Grove of Nudes, 1966, which also sold for $122,500 on an estimate of $30,000/50,000. The Metzker was acquired by the Hall Family Foundation for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Mo.
Hans P. Kraus, Jr., a New York dealer, was the buyer of William Henry Fox Talbot’s View Through Latticed Window, ca. 1839–40, which sold for $122,500, well over the $20,000/30,000 estimate, as well as a photo “attributed to Nicolaas Henneman” entitled Leaves, which also sold for a price considerably higher than expected, taking $116,500 against an estimate of $30,000/50,000.
Margaret Bourke-White’s The Living Dead at Buchenwald, 1945, was also sold for $116,500, on an estimate of $30,000/50,000, and Edward Steichen’s The Flatiron—Evening, 1905, sold for $104,500, compared with an estimate of $50,000/70,000.
A number of other lots surpassed their estimates by a considerable margin: Brett Weston’s White Sands, 1949, sold for $56,250 on an estimate of $25,000/35,000; Francesca Woodman’s Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island (Skirt and Legs), 1975–76, sold for $34,375, compared with an estimate of $5,000/7,000; Frederick H. Evans’s Bourges Cathedral Across Aisle Nave, ca. 1900, fetched $34,375, compared with an estimate of $10,000/15,000; and Bill Brandt’s London (Nude with Bent Elbow), 1952, sold for $22,500, clearing the high end of the $10,000/15,000 estimate.
Among the lots that failed to sell was Weston’s Untitled (Hand and Ear of Ramiel McGehee), 1929, which was estimated at $70,000/100,000. However, another lot that failed to sell at the auction—Diane Arbus’s A Box of Ten Photographs—did find a buyer immediately after the sale, according to Sotheby’s photo specialist Christopher Mahoney. The price was not disclosed, though Mahoney said it was “one of the highest prices ever paid for this portfolio,” indicating that buyers felt the $400,000/600,000 auction estimate was aggressive.
Arbus had begun the project—her only portfolio—before her death in 1971. Shortly thereafter, Neil Selkirk printed the photos from her negatives.