Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fine Photobooks auction at Christie's


Those of you with deep pockets will be interested to know that there is another Christie's auction coming up on Thursday, April 10, 2008. This is being touted as the greatest photo book auction to date. All of the 200 lots come from an "important private collection" in which some of the rarities of photography book history have been amassed and all of which are supposedly in very fine condition. What additionally makes many of these extra special is the fact they are signed or are association copies. For instance should you have an estimated $40,000 you might be the highest bidder for a copy of Brassai's Fine PhotobooksParis De Nuit signed to Andre Kertesz from Brassai. Oh -- and many come housed in a custom-made cloth folding box with foil stamped titles and information on the spine.

Here are a few other items that caught my eye:

A copy of Jindrich Styrsky's Emily Comes To Me in a Dream published in 1933 for $70,000. This is the deluxe issue, one of only 10 copies signed by Strysky and Bohuslav Brouk who provided the text.

A copy of Facile inscribed by Paul Eluard and Man Ray to Hans Bellmer. ($35,000)

Bill Brandt's The English at Home within which Brandt inscribed a note to his wife's sister and signed it ‘Billy.’ ($4,000-6,000)

Hans Bellmer’s La Poupee with an additional silver print. Number 4 of only 5 copies. ($60,000-80,000)

Robert Capa's Slightly Out of Focus inscribed “To Pat Covici who published my first book [Death in the Making] and sold 317 copies in ten years of it. With continuous love, Robert Capa.” ($5,000)

Henri Cartier-Bresson's The Decisive Moment signed by ‘Hank’ to Edward Weston. ($25,000) Bresson seemed to enjoy finding different ways to sign his name by using Hank, Henri and the very unusual moniker of Enri Ca Bre'.

A copy of William Klein’s Life is Good and Good For You in New York: Trance Witness Revels that he gave to Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. ($7,000-10,000)

If you have an estimated $60,000-90,000 you might wind up the proud owner of a complete set of Ed Ruscha's 19 different artist's books.

For $2,500-3,500 you could own Bruce Nauman's Burning Small Fires which is an artist book of photographs of Nauman burning a copy of Ruscha's Various Small Fires and Milk. I like the book but financially speaking I think Bruce would've been better off if he hadn't taken a match to his copy.


Harry Callahan's Photographs signed to Aaron and Caroline Siskind ($4,000-6,000)

One fun item is a copy of Lee Friedlander's Self-Portrait on which the back cover of the book is printed with an upside down and sepia colored version of the front cover design and photograph. Within Lee's inscription he offers a return policy to the recipient Arnold Crane.

There is an interesting copy of Robert Adams's The New West that was from the collection of Peter Bunnell a curator at the Museum of modern Art who curated Adams's show. This copy comes with a photocopied maquette predating the book that was meant to assist in installing the exhibition at MOMA in 1971.


There is a copy of a book that I must own at some point in my life. Take this as a small cry of assistance to anyone for whom money is no object and who feels an appreciation of my efforts here at 5B4 enough to want to reward me with a copy of Yutaka Takanashi's Toshi-e - Towards the City. ($4,000-6,000) Raise a paddle in the name of 5B4. Pretty please? (Second book in comp above after Friedlander)

One other book that I saw down in Washington that is up for auction is a copy of William Eggleston's Morals of Vision. Number 2 of only 19 copies it is a book of eight C-prints mounted onto heavy paper. From what I have heard the couple of Eggleston's books that do include C-prints (Election Eve, Flowers and Wedgwood Blue) were made as a way to protect the prints from fading. ($28,000 to 35,000)

A copy of Donigan Cumming's disturbed little book, The Stage within which Cumming has annotated many of the pages with the subject’s current status of: ‘alive’, ‘gone mad’, ‘beaten to death’, ‘dead’, etc. ($2,500-3,500)

For those of you like me who feel out of place even observing auctions from the sidelines should at least find a copy of the catalog which is the thickest I have ever seen for a book auction. Each title is given its own page and often its own spread of pages. In most cases, the signature or inscription is shown.

Christie's is offering six days of previewing for this auction starting on April 4 and running each day until the auction so albeit unfortunate that that will be the closest that most of us will ever get to these great books, it will be a treat to see them in person.

It will be interesting to see how this auction does considering how fine the American economy is doing. According to Bush all is well because our Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke worked over the weekend to straighten it all out so I am expecting record-setting results. So go to it, turn your gold into paper at the wave of an auction paddle.

5 comments:

Matt Weber said...

The catalog itself is so nice, it'll become a bonafide collectible before you know it.

Wanna split EW's copy of The Decisive Moment?

dbrown said...

What about a guided 5b4 tour of the preview? It's the sale of the century.

Thought I'd only see some of these things in the book of 101 books... I tried to find a copy of that Styrsky book about 15 years ago, it felt like hunting a myth.

jeff ladd said...

I'm going by the preview. I need to see the Takanashi book again. See if it is as good as I remember it from a month ago.

Eric Marth said...

Thanks for writing about the sale. I called for the catalogue yesterday afternoon and it showed up at 10 this morning. A real pleasure to read through, incredible to image the process of acquiring it all.

Any guesses as to whose collection this could be?

vincent said...

A collector not from the photography world (i.e., not an artist, curator, etc.). I can't wait to be a fiscal fly on the wall at the auction... should set some records. VB