2015 Spring Auction Summary
2015 Spring Auction Results:
Five photography sales were held at New York’s three major auction houses this spring, some more successful than others. Cumulatively, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips brought in a total of $16,444,125 from the sale of 476 lots out of 691 offered, resulting at an overall buy-in rate of approximately 31% between the three houses.
The first sale of auction week, Leaves of Light and Shadow, Photographs Gathered by William T.
Hillman, held at Christie’s, was the least successful with a buy-in rate of 51% and a total dollar amount of $1,271,000, which is more than one million dollars below the total pre-sale low estimate. Christie’s multiple-owner afternoon sale also had a relatively high buy-in rate of nearly 43% and an overall total just below the pre-sale low estimate. Between both sales, Christie’s sold a total of 140 lots from the 262 offered and collected $5,465,250.
Sotheby’s sale was more successful, bolstered by Lee Friedlander’s The Little Screen Series fetching $850,000, which comfortably exceeded the estimate range and previous records by the artist. The overall buy-in rate of the sale was 23.4%, while the total proceeds of $5,166,875 for the 144 lots sold neared the top end of the pre-sale estimate range.
Wrapping up the week of sales was Phillips, which held two consistently positive sessions bringing in the highest proceeds of the season. Realizing a total of $7,083,000, the day and the evening sales at Phillips hit the middle ground of the cumulative pre-sale estimated range. Selling 192 of the 241 lots offered, the sales also had the lowest buy-in rate at 22.3%.
The following is a brief report of the highlights from each auction:
The lackluster outcome of Christie’s Leaves of Light and Shadow was most definitely exacerbated by its top pre-sale lot, Diane Arbus, Waitress in a Nudist Camp, N.J., 1963 (lot 11), estimated at $200,000 to $300,000, which did not sell. The sale’s top selling lot was Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Blast Furnaces, Frontal Views, 1976-1986 (lot 117), estimated between $80,000 and $120,000, which sold for $112,500. Lots that realized more than double their high estimates included Merle, 2003, by Mona Kuhn (lot 1), which was estimated at $6,000 to $8,000 and sold for $16,250, and Model and Graffiti, Paris (Vogue), 1961 by William Klein (lot 43), estimated at $7,000 to $9,000 and sold for $25,000.
The strongest result from Christie’s evening sale was Alfred Stieglitz’s From the Back-Window, -291, 1915 (lot 237). Estimated between $250,000 and $350,000, it sold for $473,000. Stieglitz’s Georgia O’Keeffe, 1918 (lot 233), which at $400,000 to $600,000, held the auction’s highest pre-sale estimate, but realized the second highest price at $413,000. Lots that sold for more than double their high estimate included Irving Penn’s Callot Swallow-Tail Dress, 1974/1978 (lot 253), which was estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 and realized $81,250, and Michael Cooper’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967 (lot 259), which was estimated at $50,000 to 70,000 and sold for $161,000, among a few others.
Although the most highly estimated photograph, Paul Strand’s Rebecca, 1921 (lot 38), at $300,000-500,000, failed to sell, the two sales at Sotheby’s were full of positive surprises. Headed by the previously mentioned record price for Friedlander’s Screens (lot 145), which at $850,000 realized nearly triple its high estimate, there were 17 other lots that sold for at least double their high estimates. Edward Weston’s Church, Motherlode (Church Door, Hornitos), 1940 (lot 73), was estimated between $30,000 and $50,000, and sold for $125,000. A later print by Yousuf Karsh, titled Georgia O’Keeffe, 1956 (lot 72) was estimated between $5,000 and $7,000, but realized $27,500. Other highlights included Dorothea Lange’s Taos, 1922 (lot 26), which was estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 and sold for $75000, and Larry Sultan’s Practicing Golf Swing, 1986 (lot 117), which realized $25,000 after an estimate of $5,000 to $7,000, among others.
Phililips day and evening sales were the most successful of the bunch. With highest total proceeds, Phillips also had the top price realized by an individual lot: $905,000 was paid for Helmut Newton’s Walking Women, Paris, 1981 (lot 18), just above its high pre-sale estimate. Known for sales with abundance of contemporary material offered, Phillips boasted 11 contemporary lots that realized more than double their high estimate. A print by Annie Leibovitz, titled Lauren Hutton, Oxford, Mississippi, 1981 (lot 115), sold for $17,500 on an estimate of $4,000 to $6,000. Salgado’s The Eastern Part of the Brooks Range, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, USA, 2009 (lot 222) realized $97,500 after an initial estimate of $35,000 to $45,000. Another surprise sale was young photographer Alex Prager’s Crowd #2 (Emma), 2012 (lot 273), which was estimated between $20,000 and $30,000, but sold for $75,000.
By Dora Yordanov