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The Boston Five

[10 Dec 2006]

 

Also known as the Boston Five, David ARMSTRONG, Nan GOLDIN, Mark MORRISROE, Jack PIERSON and Philip-Lorca DICORCIA are five artists who work independently, but who all explore roughly comparable types of “intimate” photography. The similarity of their work and their common origins (they met at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston) has led certain critics to consider them as one and the same entity dubbed the Boston Five or the Boston School. Both Nan Goldin and Philip-Lorca diCorcia rapidly distinguished themselves on the cultural scene and on the art market and today their works are internationally renowned and sought after. Working in a similar vein, their three friends David Armstrong, Mark Morrisroe and Jack Pierson remain nevertheless relatively unknown.

Of the five, Nan Goldin was the first to be recognised when the prestigious Whitney Museum of Art of New-York held a retrospective show of the artist’s work in 1996 entitled “I’ll be your mirror”. Both small and large format works have been offered at recent sales thus giving amateur collectors an opportunity to acquire works by the star of “intimate” photography. Whereas works from editions of less than 25 copies go for between EUR 2,000 et 7,000 on average, other works are affordable at less than EUR 1,000 such as Suzanne and Philippe on the Train, Long Island, N.Y. edited in 100 copies, one of which sold for USD 1,100 (EUR 829) on 2 December last at Phillips, de Pury & Company in New-York; or again, Self-Portrait Laughing, Paris that went under the hammer for USD 450, (EUR 339) at the same sale.

French auction houses regularly offer works by Nan Goldin, but Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s oeuvre appears to be strictly cantoned to the US/UK market. Nevertheless, the French public is familiar with his works via the media and exhibitions organised by the Almine Reich gallery in Paris. At public auctions, half of his works go for under EUR 10,000. On 17 November 2000 at Christie’s NL, the photograph Mary and Babe provoked unprecedented enthusiasm resulting in the artist’s auction record to date: USD 48,000 (EUR 55,694) compared to a low estimate of USD 7,000! As with Nan Goldin’s work, such “exaggerated” prices quickly fell back to more reasonable levels. In fact, at recent autumn sales, his single editions changed hands for less than EUR 5,000, including the portrait of Gerald Hughes, about 25 years old, Southern California, which sold for USD 5000 $ (EUR 3,941) on12 September last at Phillips, de Pury & Company, NY.

Jack Pierson’s works are today perfectly affordable: one of his untitled single editions was offered with an estimate of EUR 1,000 on 20 March 2006 at Cornette de Saint-Cyr and a non-professional art buyer paid USD 700 (EUR 554) last June for a photo of Kelly O’Bosky that was estimated at USD 1,500 at Phillips, de Pury & Company, NY on 17 June 2006. At the same sale, a photo by David Armstrong was also offered. Still relatively unknown on the public market, Armstrong’s photo, entitled Tom in East River Park, N.Y.C., fetched the modest price of USD 400. The least known of the five Boston photographers is Mark Morrisroe who died in 1989 aged thirty and who has only had 4 works sell at auction (1992). His erotic and melancholic works are indeed rare and have been absent from auction sales for 14 years.

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