Photography Sales Highlight the Fall Auction Season at Christie’s

The Christie’s line-up for the Photographs season this October 7 & 8 will include four major sales showcasing the very finest in the medium, from historical 19th century works through to contemporary prints. The four sales are: The American Landscape: Color Photographs from the Bruce and Nancy Berman Collection, Photographs by Sally Mann from a Private Collection, Washington, D.C., The Miller-Plummer Collection of Photographs, and the traditional Various Owners Photographs sale. All four sales will be preceded by a museum-quality exhibition at the Christie’s Galleries at Rockefeller Center beginning October 3. The four auctions in their entirety are expected to realize in the range of $6-9 million.

William EgglestonGreenwood, Mississippi by William Eggleston (estimate: $150,000-250,000). Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2009

Photographs (Various Owners)
Leading the Various Owners sale of Photographs on October 8 is a rare and magnificent portfolio of The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis, a complete 40-volume set of illustrated text volumes and photogravures. The set, originally in the Lammot du Pont Collection, is expected to realize $700,000-900,000.

Exceedingly rare is the 1906 platinum print Water Lilies, by Adolph de Meyer (estimate: $150,000-250,000), pictured right. Recognized by Alfred Stieglitz as one of the greatest images of the early 20th century, Water Lilies came to form part of Stieglitz’s storied collection bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1930’s. The present print represents the only other known platinum print of this image and one of three prints of this image. The third print is a silver print, which is being offered in the Christie’s sale of the The Miller-Plummer Collection of Photographs. Water Lilies shares an affinity with the symbolist art of the time, its curvilinear forms similar to art nouveau.

A quintessential Parisian carte postale print of the 1920’s, André Kertész’s The Stairs of Montmartre, Paris, 1926 (estimate: $80,000-120,000) once belonged to the folio of twenty-one vintage prints that was assembled by Kertész himself and was coveted and tucked away in his apartment only to be discovered after the artist’s death.

At the core of the sale is another enduring classic of the medium, a rare early print by Manuel Alvarez Bravo, El Ensueño, 1931 (estimate: $150,000-250,000).

Highlighting the offerings by American masters are two works by Robert Frank: an oversized print Fish Kill, New York, 1965 (estimate: $60,000-90,000), and an enlarged Contact Sheet, The Americans, (estimate: $25,000-35,000). A remarkable portrayal of midcentury American life, these pictures were presented in his seminal book The Americans, first published in France in 1958 and in the US the following year, and will be the subject of a major exhibition this fall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Also by Frank is a rare combination print, Mary and Pablo NYC, 1951 and 1954 (estimate: $25,000-35,000).

From the Collection of Jane Paxson, is a rare and wonderful Self-Portrait by Ansel Adams from 1930 (estimate: $15,000-25,000). Canonized for his breathtaking landscapes, it is a rare treat to have Adams follow the conventions of portraiture and turn the camera on himself. Another portrait of one of the great 20th century masters is Margrethe Mather’s 1921 platinum print of Edward Weston (estimate: $40,000-60,000).

Of the contemporary color photographs on offer is Greenwood, Mississippi by William Eggleston (estimate: $150,000-250,000). An exquisite image Hope 5, 2005 by Erwin Olaf (estimate: $30,000-50,000) will present collectors a wonderful to acquire the contemporary artist’s already iconic work. Other works in the auction include photographs by Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus, Brassaï, Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.