Photography: 3 days of Paris sales and 32 records

[29 Nov 2010]

Timed to coincide with Paris Photo (a series of photography exhibitions and events all over the French capital during the month of November) Parisian auction companies held three days of specialised sales (19 – 21 November) generating a total revenue of €14m (Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Piasa and Ader Nordmann & Kapandji Morhange) and 32 auction records.

In an unprecedented move, Christie’s devoted its entire sale to a single artist, the American photographer Richard AVEDON (all works from the R. Avedon Foundation) and posted a number of excellent results including new world record at €700,000 for Avedon’s fetish print Dovima with elephants, Evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris. The sale’s total revenue amounted to 4.5m, double that posted by its rival Sotheby’s (€2.2m).
Every one of the 65 lots at the Christie’s sale found buyers… nothing remained unsold! The bidding for certain lots was highly competitive, particularly for the picture of Suzy Parker and Robin Tattersall, Dress by Dior, Place de la Concorde a print of which (made in 2002) fetched €180,000, seven times its low estimate!
The least costly photo of the sale was a 1993 silvered print of a charming young girl whose picture was taken in Central Park in 1949. The print fetched €7,000. A portrait of William Burroughs also sold for less than €10,000 (€8,500).
Richard Avedon had never been the subject of such an abundant auction sale and the event once again proved the extent to which solo sales of classic signatures can elicit buyer enthusiasm. For example, the picture of Stephanie Seymour (from a limited edition of 5) sold for €80,000 on the 19 November at Sotheby’s and then fetched €220,000 the following day at Christie’s thanks to the “R. Avedon” stamp and the effervescence of the sale (Stephanie Seymour, model, New York City, May 9).

Top 10 : Photography Aucction records in November in Paris

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Previous Record
1 Richard AVEDON €700 000 Dovima with elephants… €330 280
2 Josef SUDEK €250 000 Sans Titre (Étude de Nature-Morte) €69 939
3 Manuel ÁLVAREZ BRAVO €190 000 Portrait de L’Éternel, Mexico (1935) €149 237
4 Fernand LÉGER & MAN RAY €27 000 Le ballet mécanique 1st auction
5 Russell JAMES €13 000 Gisele, Virgin Gorda 1st auction
6 François-Marie BANIER €12 000 Silvana Mangano. Paris €500
7 Frères & Cie. CHARNAUX €10 000 Passage d’une crevasse… €2 600
8 François AUBERT €4 600 Cathédrale de Mexico… €3 446
9 Yoshihiko UEDA €4 000 Quinault # 9… €2 876
10 Léon HERSCHTRITT €3 600 Le couple €2 200

While Richard Avedon was clearly the star of the three days of photography sales, a number of other records – some unexpected – are worth mentioning: for example, François-Marie BANIER – recently projected into the public’s eye by the Bettencourt legal battle in France – scored a new record at €12,000 for his photo Silvana Mangano. Paris whereas his photos have until now not fetched beyond €500 at auctions.

At Sotheby’s, a magnificent Portrait de L’Éternel, Mexico taken by Manuel ÁLVAREZ BRAVO in 1935, generated €100,000 more than its pre-sale estimate going under the hammer at €190,000. Sotheby’s posted two other exceptional results for works by Josef SUDEK, including €250,000 for Étude de Nature-Morte against a pre-sale estimate of €18,000 – €23,000.

Fortunately for some buyers, not all the records were so spectacular; the photography market has an abundant supply of photos at less than €10,000, such as the new personal record for François AUBERT at €4,600 for two albumen prints, Cathédrale de Mexico/Cathédrale de Mexico (Ader Nordmann & Kapandji Morhang) or that of Yoshihiko UEDA for two large prints that sold below their estimates at €4,000 (Quinault # 9/Quinault # 18, Sotheby’s, Paris).

In addition, the three days of Paris auctions provided plenty of opportunities to acquire photos by Édouard BOUBAT, Jan SAUDEK, KIKI OF PARIS, Michel GINIES, Shahrokh HATAMI and many other artists for less than a thousand euros.