Discover 6 Scene-Stealing Lots from Artnet’s Select Photographs Auction

From a portrait by Diane Arbus to African wildlife by Peter Beard, these images capture the possibilities of photography.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Origins of Love (9 works from the Diorama Series) (2004). Est. $8,000–$10,000.

Since its inception in the 19th century, photography has continued to capture the minds and imaginations of viewers around the world, and it has continually proven to be a potent medium for artists seeking to engage with the world around them. Whether shot in color or black and white, documentary or abstract, every photographer’s distinctive style brings new possibilities to the medium.

Live for bidding through February 14, 2024, Artnet Auctions is presenting the Select Photographs auction, featuring the work of such renowned practitioners as Diane Arbus, Peter Beard, and Florian Maier-Aichen. Below, our specialists take a deep dive into a few of the sale’s unmissable lots.

Tina Barney, Father and Sons (1996)

Tina Barney, Father and Sons (1996). Est. $8,000–$12,000.

Tina Barney, Father and Sons (1996). Est. $8,000–$12,000.

Tina Barney was born into a wealthy New York family, a fact which informs her oeuvre; her colorful, large-scale prints depict narrative tableaux of privileged friends and family. Barney’s photographs often pose more questions than answers. In Father and Sons, for instance, each figure is arranged very deliberately within a sumptuous setting, giving the image a hint of drama and enigma.

As the artist writes, “When people say that there is a distance, a stiffness in my photographs, that the people look like they do not connect, my answer is that this is the best we can do. This inability to show physical affection is in our heritage.”

Barney’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, among others.

Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled (2013)

Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled (2013). Est. $15,000–$20,000.

Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled (2013). Est. $15,000–$20,000.

This large-scale work by Florian Maier-Aichen was created using a technique similar to cel animation—a process that was used to make Disney films in the 1930s—in which painted, transparent sheets are layered before being photographed. The resulting image tests the boundaries between painting and photography, embracing chaotic handmade gestures and experimental processes, with a nod to digital manipulation.

Also known for his breathtaking landscapes employing early photographic methods such as the tri-color process, Maier-Aichen’s works celebrate traditional photography while maintaining a subtle, yet identifiable, element of digital manipulation.

The German artist has become a staple within the contemporary photography and digital art scene, with works exhibited at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, the Denver Art Museum, Denver, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Peter Beard, Hunting Cheetahs on the Taru Desert, Kenya, June 1960 (1960)

Peter Beard, Hunting Cheetahs on the Taru Desert, Kenya, June 1960 (1960). Est. $15,000–$20,000.

Peter Beard, Hunting Cheetahs on the Taru Desert, Kenya, June 1960 (1960). Est. $15,000–$20,000.

With its handprint, inscription, and fantastic portrayal of cheetahs, this unique work bears all the hallmarks of the late American photographer Peter Beard. The American artist was—and remains today—best known for his images of African wildlife that are arranged as unique photo collages.

After moving to Africa in the 1960s, Beard began to catalog the demise of elephants and rhinoceroses in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park—an endeavor that would inform the rest of his career. In his words: “The wilderness is gone,” the artist had said, “and with it much more than we can appreciate or predict. We’ll suffer for it.” Just as his works exist in between photography, collage, painting and drawing, Beard’s work also embraces aspects of both documentation and activism.

Beard was a fascinating figure—having broken his pelvis in five places from an elephant attack, amongst many other stories—who collaborated widely with other artists such as Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon.

Sheila Metzner, Mouille Shapes (1992)

Sheila Metzner, Mouille Shapes (1992). Est. $10,000–$15,000.

Sheila Metzner is currently the star of a solo exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, which closes on February 18, 2024. The internationally acclaimed American photographer is best known for her sensitive fashion and still life shots.

The still life Mouille Shapes, offered in our current auction, is from Metzner’s series “Metal Objects in Time and Space,” for which she photographed metal hardware by the famous lighting designer, Serge Mouille (1922–1988).

Metzner is known for her use of the Fresson technique—a labor-intensive and fragile process that gives the work a distinct hazy and soft quality that makes it appear more like a drawing than a photograph.

It was after having her work featured in The Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, “Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960,” that Metzner gained the attention of important galleries and commercial clients including Valentino, Fendi, and Bergdorf Goodman. Today, her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Art, Houston; and the Art Institute of Chicago; among others.

Diane Arbus, Boy With Straw Hat (1967)

Diane Arbus, <i>Boy With Straw Hat</i> (1967). Est. $15,000–$20,000.

Diane Arbus, Boy With Straw Hat (1967). Est. $15,000–$20,000.

Diane Arbus is undeniably one of the most influential portrait photographers, whose work can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among other major institutions.

This work, Boy With Straw Hat, was made in 1967 amid major protests about America’s aggression in Vietnam. The boy’s youthful innocence is contrasted with his formal suit and pro-violence badges—one reading “BOMB HANOI!”—to create a blunt yet impactful image that poses questions about patriotism, war, and youth.

Arbus took this particular image with a large-scale camera that is more associated with studio photography rather than street photography. This made for a less spontaneous and more posed, slow process—resulting in the photograph’s stiff quality, amplified by the boy’s neat attire.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Gulf of Bothnia (1996)

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Gulf of Bothnia (1996). Est. $25,000–$35,000.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Gulf of Bothnia (1996). Est. $25,000–$35,000.

This eerie yet calm work is from Hiroshi Sugimoto’s “Seascapes” series, which he has returned to, again and again, for over four decades. Captured from atop rural clifftops looking over the ocean, the artist isolates the sea and sky within these large-scale, meditative images. Whether the Black Sea, the Mediterranean—or, in this particular case, the Gulf of Bothnia—this series has taken the artist all over the world.

By capturing only the fundamental elements of water and air, Sugimoto views these works as connecting himself and viewers with the origins of life—these featureless views are unchanging and enduring. In his words, “The beginnings of life are shrouded in myth” he wrote, “… Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home.”

Sugimoto’s work was recently the subject of a large-scale retrospective at London’s Hayward Gallery (October 2023–January 2024). His works can be found in major public collections across the world, including Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Explore these lots and more in the Select Photographs sale, now open for bidding through February 14, 2024.

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