Now on Artnet Auctions: Peter Beard’s Iconic Image of Cheetah Cubs Captures the Effects of Wildlife Devastation

Learn more about the late artist's best-selling image.

Peter Beard, Orphaned Cheetahs Cubs, Mweiga, near Nyeri, Kenya (1968). Est. $50,000–70,000 in our Top 20 sale on Artnet Auctions.

The late photographer, artist, and naturalist Peter Beard’s powerful images of endangered wildlife have become increasingly sought-after by collectors of the years. Among these, his Orphaned Cheetahs Cubs, Mweiga, near Nyeri, Kenya (1968) stands as an especially important image from those he made in Kenya during the 1960s. As a powerful representation of the ecological consequences of human decisions, it has become his best-selling work. Offered in our Top 20 sale on Artnet Auctions through January 27, this unique version of the work is estimated at $50,000—70,000. 

After a life-changing trip to the continent in the 1950s, Beard became fascinated with the wildlife in East Africa. Horrified by rampant poaching and natural degradation, he began documenting the demise of elephants and rhinoceroses in Tsavoa—a project that later became his best-known book, The End of the Game (1977). Equal parts documentarian and activist, Beard split his time between the fashion photography scene in New York City and Nairobi, Kenya, attempting to bring awareness to the importance of preserving the natural world through his images. 

In this iconic image of the cheetah cubs, the two young animals stare directly into the lens, in an emotionally captivating glance. Beard’s shot captures the innocence of the young animals and the duress of their abandonment. As with many of Beard’s pieces, he left behind a unique mark on the print itself. In this case, an imprint of the artist’s hand is marked in paint onto the surface of the work, reminding the viewer of Beard’s intimate, diaristic relationship to his practice. In 2017, a different print of this same image with its own unique markings set the world record for Beard at auction, selling for $672,5000. 

Peter Beard’s global auction sales totals have shown a steady climb in the last five years.

Last year, Beard’s global auction sales volume topped $2 million, a healthy total for a photographer whose works sold at an average price of $35,000. It was only the second time over the course of his career that Beard had over 100 works offered at auction in one year, and 42% of them sold for over their high estimates. The image of the cheetah cubs has steadily sold very well at auction each time it has come up, no matter the size of the print, and with varying degrees of painting that makes each piece unique. Another version of the print of a similar size to the one in our auction sold for $81,250 in 2013, making our estimate of $50,000–70,000 a very approachable and realistic price point. 

These days, people are increasingly seeking refuge in nature, and, as such, Beard’s work is increasingly resonant with collectors, and, in the wake of Beard’s passing in April 2020, his unique works have become even more in demand. Be sure to place your bids on Orphaned Cheetahs Cubs, Mweiga, near Nyeri, Kenya (1968) before Top 20 closes on January 27. 

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the specialist for this lot, Susanna Wenniger, with any questions.

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