Sunday, April 13, 2008

Christie's Rare Photobook Auction Results

On April 10th I attended Christie's auction of rare Photobooks from an Important Private Collection. Believe it or not this was my first attendance at an auction as opposed to just going to the preview. I never felt it necessary to follow up and attend the actual event mostly because -- well -- I can't afford anything. But this time my curiosity got the better of me and I sat through three hours of auction time and watched in amazement at what transpired.

First of all, there was absolutely no sign of a faltering economy. It was if we had returned to the height of the dot-com bubble, Bush Jr. hadn't yet become a war criminal, and all there was to worry about was a stain on a blue dress. Secondly, over half of the books sold at close to or well above their highest estimate. Lastly, the one book that had become a shining example from the sale of the ultimate association copy, Brassai's Paris De Nuit signed to Andre Kertesz was withdrawn before the sale. I heard that this was due to the cover of the book becoming detached during the preview but this has not been yet confirmed to me. According to the auction results, the tally on the day's take is hovering near 2.5 million US dollars (including the buyer's premium) from the 200 books offered.

In keeping with my usual jealousy and bitterness towards those who can afford such extravagances I've decided to parallel the auction results with the average annual median income (AMI) for families in different countries around the world. Ready?

Laszlo Maholy-Nagy - Malerie Photografie Film Est: $7,000-10,000 Final Sale: $16,000 AMI: Bahamas

Germain Krull - Metal Est: $20,000-30,000 Final Sale: $30,000 AMI: Italy

Piet Zwart - NFK Est: $10,000-15,000 Final Sale: $19,000 AMI: French Polynesia

August Sander - Antlitz Der Zeit Est: $9,000-12,000 Final Sale: $16,000 AMI: Bahamas

Walker Evans - The Bridge Est: $9,000-12,000 Final Sale: $17,000 AMI: Brunei

Lewis Hine - Men At Work Est: $5,000-8,000 Final Sale: $9,000 AMI: Slovakia

Jindrich Styrsky - Emilie Prichazi Ka Mne Ve Snu Est: $60,000-90,000 Final Sale: $160,000 AMI: Dubai 2010

Rodchenko and Stepanova - 10 Let Uzbekistana SSR Est: $15,000-20,000 Final Sale: $32,000 AMI: Kuwait

George Hugnet - La Carte Surrealiste Est: $5,000-8,000 Final Sale: $6,000 AMI: Lebanon

El Lissitzky - No Pasaran! Ispaniia Est: $1,200-1,800 Final Sale: $3,800 AMI: Belize

Rodchenko and Stepanova - Pervaia Konnaia Est: $10,000-15,000 Final Sale: $26,000 AMI: Spain

Rodchenko and Stepanova - Moskva Rekonstruiruetsia Est: $12,000-18,000 Final Sale: $30,000 AMI: Italy

Manuel Alvarez Bravo - Fotografias Est: $7,000-10,000 Final Sale: $12,000 MI: Czech Republic

Weegee - Naked City w/letter Est: $8,000-12,000 Final Sale: $30,000 AMI: Italy

Robert Frank - The Americans Est: $10,000-15,000 Final Sale: $26,000 AMI: Spain

Ed Ruscha - Complete artist books Est: $60,000-90,000 Final Sale: $100,000 AMI: Norway and Bermuda

Harry Callahan - Photographs Est: $4,000-6,000 Final Sale: $11,000 AMI: Hungary

Emmet Gowin - Concerning America... Est: $30,000-40,000 Final Sale: $70,000 AMI: Norway

Provoke 1,2,3 Est: $12,000-18,000 Final Sale: $35,000 AMI: France

Lee Friedlander - Self Portrait (misprinted cover) Est: $3,500-4,500 Final Sale: $8,000 AMI: Poland

Nobuyoshi Araki - A Sentimental Journey Est: $7,000-12,000 Final Sale: $17,000 AMI: Puerto Rico

Daido Moriyama - Shashin Yo Sayonara Est: $10,000-15,000 Final Sale: $19,000 AMI: Greenland

Robert Adams - The New West Est: $3,500-4,500 Final Sale: $6,000 AMI: Botswana

William Eggleston - Morals of Vision Est: $28,000-35,000 Final Sale: $48,000 AMI: Denmark

Richard Misrach - Grapestake Gallery Est: $3,000-5,000 Final Sale: $7,500 AMI: Lithuania

Nan Goldin - Ballad of Sexual Dependency Est: $1,500-2,000 Final Sale: $4,800 AMI: Uraguay

Allen Ginsberg - Photographs Est: $10,000-15,000 Final Sale: $24,000 AMI: Liechtenstein

Sophie Calle - La Fille Du Docteur Est: $4,000-6,000 Final Sale: $10,000 AMI: Estonia

Hiroshi Sugimoto - Time Exposed Est: $9,000-12,000 Final Sale: $16,000 AMI: South Korea

Richard Prince - Adult Comedy Action Drama Est: $20,000-30,000 Final Sale: $48,000 AMI: Ireland

The books that were on my wish list were:

Zdenek Tmej - Abeceda Dusevniho Prazdna Est: $6,000-9,000 Final Sale: $5,000 AMI: Saint Lucia

Yukata Takanashi - Toshi-e Est: $4,000-6,000 Final Sale: $4,000 AMI: Dominica

Bill Brandt - Londres De Nuit Est: $4,000-6,000 Final Sale: $5,500 AMI: Venezuela

El Lissitzky - Red Army of Workers and Peasants Est: $10,000-15,000 Final Sale: $9,000 AMI: Croatia

Maybe a thoughtful buyer had me in mind when bidding. I'll be keeping an eye out for the Fed-Ex truck in the meanwhile.

I want to thank Sven Becker for letting me take my time with the books.


Anonymous said...

At Christies a nude photograph of France new first lady ,a former model, was sold for 91.000 .The initial estimate was 3000.A color photograph of Pope Ratzinger peeing at a little bush, in the gardens of the Vatican might sell for an even higher price than mere nudity.
Anton K./Landshut

Anonymous said...

The Pope peeing at little Bush!

oper33 said...

I was a little surprised at the results of the auction. I was fairly optimistic that most books would get the estimates but would never have guessed that most books would double the estimates. I hope this is an indication that the photobook market is very healthy, or at least that is how I am choosing to look at it. Great week to be in New York, with all the auctions and the AIPAD, I am so jealous.

Anonymous said...

joshua: the results could be deceiving as there were probably no more than 15 bidders and only one, or three at most bidding on an item. so really the auction is for a few deep pockets - not that this is bad, the books were great and i am glad people value them. but as a "photobook market" i think sales of current books and reasonably priced op books is the real market - which i hope stays strong.

Anonymous said...

17 grand for "A Sentimental Journey"?

That makes that one scene in Arakimentari even better- the one where Araki pulls a copy off the shelf, licks his thumb to open it, and slides his palm down to crease the cover back to show the camera the first page...

Anonymous said...

great sale and the prices well justified,what unbeleivable provenance and inscriptions!WHO WAS THE SELLER THOUGH,CAN SOMEONE TELL ME.SUPPOSEDLY A NEW YORK DEVELOPER IN REAL ESTATE?

Adam said...

I was told that Harper Levine sold or helped the collector get most of the books. Not totally sure if he was the dealer/collector/seller or he just worked with another collector who them sold them.

They have a lot of amazing books on their site - many similar to the ones in the auction.