Thursday, June 25, 2009

Auction: Photographs, July 1, 2009 @Christie's London

Given that we have been at this photography collecting craziness for quite a few years now, we have clearly become relatively jaded as far as auction catalogs go. They thump down on our doorstep and we voraciously dig through them page by page, looking for lots that fit what we're up to. At this point, we are nearly entirely material driven; we care most about what's for sale, rather than where it is for sale (unless it is being auctioned at a house we don't know well, and then we are a bit more wary of potential kinks in the downstream process.)

This mindset assumes that all the catalogs are generally the same, which for the most part, they are. An exception to this rule is the work of the London team at Christie's, who have stepped out of the traditional format from time to time and added in "curated" sections of related images from different geographies. In the sale next week, in addition to the normal selection of lots, there are three special sections: Distinctively British, Distinctively Korean and Distinctively Japanese II (part I having occurred a few seasons ago). (Catalog cover at right.)

There are a bunch of things to like about these sections:
  • There is a short, scholarly essay, written by someone not affiliated with the auction house, providing some background and context to the work from that particular geography. As such, it is generally unbiased by the selling going on nearby and can be instructive.
  • The work in the sections is nearly all fresh contemporary work, often from photographers that are perhaps less well known to the average collector (particularly those from America). In this way, we get a snapshot of the "scene" in a given geography, and an edited group of the best of what is being produced. These groups can be thought of as samplers of what's exciting from any given locale, or lists of artists to explore outside the confines of the sale.
  • The works that have been selected almost always fall outside the normal, run of the mill imagery that tends to dominate auction catalogs. Thankfully, these aren't Chez Mondrian, or New York at Night, or Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico; we're out on the edges a bit more.

Having seen an influx of Korean work for the first time this season (reviews here and here), I am particularly interested to see many of these same artists represented in this sale. It says to me that there is a firming up of the consensus opinion about these photographers; we can expect to see more from these artists in the near future. The auction also contains many of our more recent discoveries from Japan (relatively new to us, that is), each represented by solid works.

Overall, the sale has a total of 123 lots on offer, with a total high estimate of £1365500. Here's the breakdown:

Total Low Lots (high estimate up to and including £5000): 42
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): £162500

Total Mid Lots (high estimate between £5000 and £25000): 73
Total Mid Estimate: £713000

Total High Lots (high estimate above £25000): 8
Total High Estimate: £490000

The top lot by High estimate is lot 68, Andreas Gursky, Singapore Borse I, 1997, at £150000-200000.

For our particular collection, we liked the following:

Lot 3, Anderson & Low, Battersea Power Station, 1997
Lot 40, Koo Bohnchang, In the Beginning #41, 1995
Lot 55, Ryuji Miyamoto, Kobe Ekimae Building, Chuo-ku from After the Earthquake, 1995
Lot 60, Osamu Kanemura, Keihin Machine Soul, 1996
Lot 64, Naoya Hatekeyama, Lime Work #30214, 1992

The complete lot by lot catalog can be found here.

July 1st

8 King Street, St. James's
London SW1Y 6QT

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