Bonhams & Butterfields Fall Sale of Fine Prints and Photographs Totals $3.3-Million

New buyers and seasoned collectors filled Bonhams & Butterfields’ galleries in San Francisco and Los Angeles for the opportunity to bid on works on paper by legendary printmakers and ground-breaking photographers on November 6-7, 2007. More than 650 fine prints and photographs were offered over the two-day auction, boasting strong sale results and a world auction record for Diane Arbus.

Simulcast between Northern and Southern California, the highly competitive sale garnered both national and international bidder interest for well-known photographers and printmakers such as: Irving Penn, Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams, John James Audubon and Joan Miró, among many others.

“This is the first Fine Photographs auction in recent history at Bohams & Butterfields to boast a $1-million result for the photos section. The fall 2007 sale surpassed corporate expectations, in many regards. In conjunction with Fine Prints, the two-day auction totaled an impressive $3.3-million.” said Judith Eurich, Director of Fine Prints and Photographs.

The marquee lot of the sale was Irving Penn’s Orientalist masterpiece Woman in Moroccan Palace from 1951. The image depicts Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, the wife and muse of the famed fashion photographer, enrobed in a North African costume, complete with a white turban. Elegantly seated on woven rugs within a beautifully tiled alcove, she is positioned alongside accoutrements for a traditional tea service. According to Eurich, “Irving Penn was a master of the Platinum-Palladium photography process. The bidding for Woman in Moroccan Palace was highly competitive, resulting in the final sale at $300,000. This is one of the four highest prices ever paid at auction for Penn, along with the first $300,000 photograph of any type sold at Bonhams & Butterfields.”

Famous portrait photographer Diane Arbus was featured with seven works, including photographs of some of the more quirky characters who sat for her. The group was highlighted by Triplets in Their Bedroom which sold for $45,000, a new auction world record for the artist. The work depicts the conformity present in 1960s suburban New Jersey. The photo was printed by Neil Selkirk in 1963, signed by Doon Arbus (executor). These later prints, at 14×15-inches, are larger than the earlier versions and the price achieved by B&B in November is the highest paid for any of these Selkirk prints sold at auction.

“This particular group of Arbus photographs, including Triplets in Their Bedroom, is significant in that the works capture the humanity behind the archetype. It is this intangible quality that the artist is best known for,” said Eurich.

Similar to Irving Penn, Ansel Adams is noted for capturing the rich dramatic qualities of life in a variety of settings. Although primary focus of Adams’ pallet is natural landscapes, both artists use of intangible qualities of light, dark and shadow to endow the viewer with a similar reaction. Using these attributes Clearing Winter Storm from the Yosemite National Park series brilliantly displays the forces of nature with a stark composition of land and sky. The gelatin silver print surpassed the high estimate, selling for $42,000.

The 19th century and Modern prints section was highlighted by Hooping Crane after John James Audubon. A desirable example of Audubon’s expertise, this exquisite print, circa 1834, sold for $72,000.

Spanish artist Joan Miró was also represented in the sale with a colorful etching on Arches paper with collage titled Gaudi XXI, a tribute to the famous architect. Signed in white pencil and numbered 20/50, the work sold above its high estimate for $39,000.

Other 20th century works of note include five Andy Warhol silkscreen images featuring the iconic depictions of Superman, from Myths (sold for $102,000), Marilyn Monroe (sold for $84,000), The Star, from Myths (sold for $51,000) and two Mick Jagger portraits (each sold for $39,000).