Sothebys Spring 2008 Sales of Photographs

NEW YORK – Sotheby’s three spring sales of Photographs in New York on April 7-8th totaled $17,302,050 (est. $9/14 million*), with each sale far exceeding its individual high estimate. This extraordinary season was highlighted by two single-owner sales: The Quillan Collection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Photographs, which brought $8,901,350 (est. $4.5/7 million), and Edward Weston’s Gifts to His Sister and Other Photographs, which achieved $1,530,375 (est. $900,000/1.4 million). A various-owners sale of Photographs also performed strongly, realizing $6,870,325 (est. $3.6/5.6 million). Records were set across the three sales for a total of 25 artists at auction, including Edward Weston, Paul Strand and Diane Arbus.

Denise Bethel, Senior Vice President and Director of Sotheby’s Photographs department in New York said: “This was an outstanding series of sales. The fine art photographs market has never been more vibrant. The response to great material, as evidenced by our overwhelming number of individual artists’ records, is as strong as ever. We offered 300 lots—and only 26 did not sell. Our total is a record for a Sotheby’s season of photographs sales.”

This evening sale put a spotlight on The Quillan Collection, the legendary, highly concentrated tour-de-force of 68 rare and unique images ranging in date from 1847 to 1985, assembled by Jill Quasha, a private photography dealer who specializes in building both public and private collections, on behalf of the Quillan Company, an investment group. The spectacular performance of the Collection far exceeded expectations, bringing $8,901,350 (est. $4.6/7 million) and setting records for eighteen artists at auction, including Edward Weston, when his Nude, from 1925 sold for $1,609,000 after a heated bidding battle (est. $600/900,000), and Paul Strand, whose Rebecca went for $645,800 (est. $600/900,000). Peter MacGill of the Pace-MacGill Gallery was the successful bidder for both record-breaking lots. Also among the top lots was August Sander’s Werkstudenten, from 1926, which surpassed its high estimate of $250,000 to achieve $493,000—again, a record for the artist at auction. Records were also set for Richard Avedon, Hans Bellmer, László Moholy-Nagy, Bill Brandt, Christian Schad, Edward S. Curtis, Henry Peach Robinson, Adam Clark Vroman, Louis de Clerq, Charles Marville, Francis Bruguiére, Francis Frith, Iller, Timothy O’Sullivan and William Henry Jackson.

Edward Weston’s Gifts to His Sister and Other Photographs – April 8, 2008
More than 40 photographs by Edward Weston and nine photographs by his son Brett were offered at this morning sale, all of which had remained with descendants of the Weston family since their making. The sale achieved $1,530,375 (est. $900/1.4 million), and the top lot was Nude on the Sand, Oceano, which sold for $325,000 (est. $120/180,000). Other top prices were achieved for Dunes, Oceano, which went for $181,000 (est. $120/180,000) and Bananas, which demanded $85,000 (est. $80/120,000). A number of rarely-seen Edward Weston photographs from his Guggenheim fellowships and his Leaves of Grass project were offered, setting new benchmarks for this work, including $44,200 for Grand Cañon of the Colorado (est. $20/30,000), $55,000 for a study of Connecticut Barns (est. $20/30,000), and $37,000 for Gulf Oil, Port Arthur (est. $12/18,000). Brett Weston’s Dune, Oceano, was among the top lots, bringing $44,200 (est. $20/30,000).

The various-owners Photographs sale brought record-breaking prices for photographs from across the history of the medium. The top lot, Diane Arbus’s Family on the Lawn One Sunday in Westchester N. Y. from 1968 far exceeded its high estimate of $300,000 when it sold for $553,000, a new record for the artist at auction. But following the Arbus closely on the price scale was a half-plate daguerreotype created more than 100 years earlier: Albert Southworth & Josiah Hawes’s Portrait of Samuel Appleton circa 1850, which went for $409,000, more than four times its top estimate of $90,000, setting a new record for the artists as well as for an American daguerreotype at auction. Karl Struss’s Metropolitan Tower—Twilight from 1909 rounded out the top three lots, again achieving multiples of its high estimate ($50,000) when it brought $313,000, and again setting a new record for the artist at auction. All in all, seven records were set for artists as diverse as the three mentioned above, plus William Dassonville, Minor White, Walter Peterhans, and Henry Wessel, Jr.

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