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Fashion photographers

[12 Nov 2006]

 

To mark the opening of Paris Photo, a selection of works encapsulating the various facets of fashion photography will come under Thierry de Maigret’s hammer in an auction to be held at Drouot on 16 November.

The commercial and creative alliance between fashion and photography was first forged back in the early years of the 20th century. Fashion photography then rapidly gained in popularity thanks to magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and was already flirting with art by the time MAN RAY began using surrealist backdrops for his commercial orders. Art, fashion and advertising have now been intricately linked for more than a century and, since the 1980s, the boundaries between these previously distinct universes have become increasingly blurred. Some fashion photographers have managed to craft a striking aesthetic signature and their work is now carving out a niche in galleries and museums.

Fashion photographers are in vogue. To see this, we need look no further than the spectacular increase in the price of works by Helmut NEWTON — up 100% since 2000. Hated by some, adored by others, this artist, who magnified the female nude, achieved a record GDP 150,000, (more than EUR 220,000), for his Big Nude III, Paris (200cm x 120cm) at Christie’s London on 1 November 2005. Newton remains the best known and the highest priced artist in this market, accounting for 90% of sales at UK and US auction houses. Many contemporary photographers take such liberties with their subjects that the works offered for sale and the “models” immortalised in them serve as a pretext for creating bizarre, other-worldly scenes tinged with a touch of arrogance. The stars of this fanciful universe are Inez VAN LAMSWEERDE, David LACHAPELLE, Guy BOURDIN and Jean-Baptiste MONDINO. In addition to their purely commercial work, these artists produce mural-style works, more than a metre square, that can fetch between EUR 10,000 and EUR 15,000 in the case of Inez Van Lamsweerde and David LaChapelle. In response to growing demand for monumental photographs, large-format works by David LaChapelle first appeared at auction in 2005. These baroque images triggered such a price surge that on 19 June his Say it with Diamonds sold for three times its estimate at Sotheby’s Olympia, London, fetching GBP 18,000 (EUR 26,368). Traditionally-sized photographs (between 20cm and 60cm per side) by David LaChapelle, Van Lamsweerde and Patrick DEMARCHELIER are still accessible, however, fetching average prices of EUR 1,000 to EUR 2,000.

Portraits of the most sought-after models and other top celebrities command high prices at auction — Peter LINDBERGH’s photograph of Cindy Crawford, Tatjana Patitz, Helena Christensen, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Karen Mulder and Stephanie Seymour, for example, sold for double its estimate at GBP 17,000 (EUR 24,963) when it went under the hammer on 17 May at Christie’s London — whilst prints of the less feted can be snapped up for less than EUR 5,000. Lindbergh’s portrait of Joaquin Cortès, Vogue Italy, El Pais, for example, failed to find a buyer at auction on 30 April 2005 (Lempertz, Cologne) despite an estimate of EUR 3,500. Similarly, a vintage image by Cecil BEATON, Fashion Shot for Vogue, shot in 1945, sold for EUR 700 on 31 May 2006 at Bassenge in Berlin, whilst the buyer of three portraits of Francis Bacon sold at Christie’s South Kensington, London on 10 February 2006 had to part with EUR 32,000 (EUR 46,570).

Riding the wave of enthusiasm for fashion photography that has built up over the past five years, Jean-Baptiste MONDINO made a modest entrance to the market at Briest’s auction house in Paris in 2001. His first work under the hammer, on 23 June, was a large-format, single print self portrait (90cm x 60cm) that sold for FRF 2,100, equivalent to EUR 320. The market for Mondinos is still very much a fledgling one (just three photos have been sold at auction to date) but his renown as a photographic artist could soon match his reputation as a music video director. Also affordable are works by Guy Bourdin, which fetch between EUR 1,000 and EUR 6,000 on average, and those of Karl LAGERFELD, which sell for around EUR 500.Big names of photography such as Irving PENN and Richard AVEDON have also turned their hand to fashion photography. Some of Avedon’s shots have achieved huge prices; Stephanie Seymour, Model, New York City, for example, was knocked down for USD 220,000 (more than EUR 180,00) at Christie’s NY on 10 October 2005. On occasions, however, fashion photography can provide an opportunity to acquire works by leading names at a modest price; prints of photographs by Penn and Avedon can be picked up for around EUR 5,000. For example, a 1981 print of Penelope Tree, Suit by Ungaro, Paris, a photograph taken by Avedon in 1968, sold for USD 6,000 (EUR 4,786) at the same auction house.

In addition to these internationally-renowned artists, on 16 November Thierry de Maigret will also be offering collectors an amazing selection of images by fashion photographers whose works will be coming under the hammer at public auction for the very first time. These newcomers to the auction world include Gilles Bensimon, Patricia Canino, Jean-François Carly, Thierry Demarquest, Oleg Dou, Thomas Gizolme, Pierre Gayte, Frédéric Imbert, Bertrand Jacquot, Toni Meneguzzo, Brigitte Niedermair, Manuela Pavesi, Camille Vivier, Ralph Wenig, Paolo Zambaldi, and Gilles Zimmermann. Most of their images will be priced for sale at between EUR 1,000 and EUR 2,000.

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