Monday, September 14, 2009

Auction: The American Landscape: Color Photographs from the Collection of Bruce and Nancy Berman, October 7, 2009 @Christie's

Christie's begins its busy Fall photography season with a selection of color photographs from the collection of Bruce and Nancy Berman. Many collectors will remember that the public dismantling of this collection began last Fall, with a very successful sale devoted entirely to William Eggleston (preview here, results here). The group of images up for sale now also has a heavy dose of Eggleston's work, mixed with a variety of other well known photographers who have documented vernacular American architecture/life (mostly small town/rural) in its various forms; many of these images were on view at the Getty in 2006 (here).

Given the strong influence of Eggleston, Shore, Sternfeld, Christenberry, and others on the current crop of contemporary photographers working in color, this sale is a great chance for collectors to tie together the "vintage" and "contemporary" realms we discussed a bit last week; nearly 85% of the lots here are in the lower price range, making it more realistic/reasonable to pick up an image or two from these earlier masters to help tell the back story of a contemporary color collection. Overall there are a total of 189 lots of photography on offer, with a total High estimate of $1679000. (Catalog cover at right.)
Here's the breakdown:

Total Low Lots (high estimate up to and including $10000): 160
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): $955000
Total Mid Lots (high estimate between $10000 and $50000): 27
Total Mid Estimate: $414000
Total High Lots (high estimate above $50000): 2
Total High Estimate: $310000

The top lot by High estimate is lot 151, Bruce Davidson, Subway portfolio, 1980, at $150000-250000.

Here's a list of the photographers who are represented by more than five lots in the sale (with the number of lots on offer in parentheses):

William Eggleston (58)
William Christenberry (21)
Joel Sternfeld (13)
Stephen Shore (10)
Mitch Epstein (8)
Harry Callahan (6)
Robert Polidori (6)
Alec Soth (5)
Zoe Leonard (5)

Even though we have virtually no color in our collection at the moment, there is plenty to tempt us in this sale. Here are some of the highlights from our perspective.
  • Lot 4, Alec Soth, No.48, Cadillac Motel, 2005 (cover lot, top)
  • Lot 21 William Eggleston, Untitled, 1971/1999
  • Lots 27 and 28, Walker Evans, Untitled, 1973-1974 (SX-70 Polaroids)
  • Lot 115 William Eggleston, Untitled from Los Alamos portfolio Cousins, 1966-1974/2002 (image at right, middle)
  • Lot 121 William Eggleston, Untitled, Berlin from Kiss Me Kracow, 1983
  • Lot 149 William Eggleston, Untitled, Mississippi, late 1970s (image at right, bottom)
  • Lot 177 William Christenberry, Otis and Willi Mae Hicks Store, Outside Greensboro, Alabama, 1987, and T.B. Hicks Store (detail), Newbern, Alabama, 199
The complete lot by lot catalog can be found here. The eCatalogue is located here.

October 7th
20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020
UPDATE: The folks at Christie's have reminded me that the first sale in the Berman series was actually not the Eggleston sale that I mentioned above, but the sale of Diane Arbus images the previous spring (April 2008). Of course, they're right; my mistake.

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