Will Helmut Newton and Lee Friedlander Smash Records at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips Photography Sales?
Alfred Stieglitz’s portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe is expected to fetch $600,000.
Auction records are forecast to be set as rare prints by photographers from Diane Arbus to Walead Beshty and Thomas Struth come to the auction block in New York this week at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips.
Christie’s will offer 262 lots in two sales on Tuesday, March 31 and expects to realize more than $6.5 million. Sotheby’s will offer 188 lots on April 1, with overall expectations of $3.6–5.4 million. Phillips will offer a total of 241 lots over two sales (April 1-2) with overall estimates of $6.3 million to $8.9 million.
A rare complete set of The Brown Sisters by Nicholas Nixon may exceed the photographer’s current high when it comes up for auction at Sotheby’s on Wednesday. Starting in 1975, Nixon shot portraits of his wife, Bebe, and her three sisters, staging a version of the portrait every year using an 8-by-10-inch camera. The set of 40 is offered as a single lot with an estimate of $200,000–300,000. Even the low estimate would represent a new auction high; Nixon’s current record is $192,000, fetched by a set of 28 works from the series, at Sotheby’s New York in 2005.
Complete sets of The Brown Sisters seldom come up for public sale—just two have gone to auction before—and they’re in the collections of roughly 15 institutions including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Also in record-breaking territory at the same sale is The Little Screens, a selection of 38 photos by Lee Friedlander (1961-70, printed later), expected to bring as much as $300,000. Friedlander’s auction record is $84,000, achieved at Sotheby’s New York in 2005 for a set of fifteen prints from 1962-1971.
A new high water mark may be in the works for Helmut Newton at Phillips’s evening sale on Wednesday, which includes the German-born Newton’s Walking Women, Paris (1981), part of his famous “Big Nudes” series, tagged at north of $700,000. Newton’s current auction high stands at $662,500, achieved at Christie’s New York in 2008.
The biannual photography sales represent a thriving sector of the auction market, even if they don’t have the same headline-grabbing seven- and eight-figure price tags that have become standard at the Impressionist, modern, postwar, and contemporary sales each May and November. (See: Who Says The Lower End of the Art Market Is Suffering? and $140 Million Picasso At Christie’s Is World’s Most Expensive Painting).
Christie’s kicks off the week Tuesday with a sale of 117 works acquired by the collector William T. Hillman over three decades. The Hillman works are expected to exceed $2.3 million. Hillman hopes to eventually donate his holdings to the Carnegie Museum of Art in his hometown of Pittsburgh, and plans to put the proceeds of the auction toward that purpose. Hillman has supported photography initiatives at the museum for some years.
Among the highlights are Diane Arbus’s Waitress in a Nudist Camp, N. J. (1963), which carries an estimate of $200,000–300,000, and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy (1933), a gelatin silver print estimated at up to $150,000. The Cartier-Bresson, said to be among the photographer’s favorite images, was included in his first solo exhibition, in 1933, as well as his last retrospective, in 2003.
Other top-estimated lots include Frederick Sommer’s Livia (1948), tagged at up to $120,000, and a haunting shot of downtown Morton, Mississippi, by William Eggleston, shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1976 ($80,000–120,000).
The main Christie’s sale features 140 lots and is expected to exceed $4.2 million, including Alfred Stieglitz’s portrait of his wife, Georgia O’Keeffe, a 1918 platinum print expected to fetch as much as $600,000.
The earliest work in the Phillips sale is Alfred Stieglitz’s landmark image The Steerage (1907), with an estimate ranging up to $220,000. More contemporary offerings include Nobuyoshi Araki’s A/FILM 6 x 7, (2007) estimated at upwards of $120,000, in which the artist presents a mandala-like gathering of 1.050 film positives, and Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #103 (1982), showing the artist posing with a pained expression in a revealing negligee. (See: Why The James Franco Cindy Sherman Show at Pace Is Not Just Bad, It’s Offensive and The Cindy Sherman App: Not Worth 99 Cents).
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