Thursday, November 29, 2012

Auction: A Show of Hands: Photographs from the Collection of Henry Buhl, December 12 and 13, 2012 @Sotheby's

While I haven’t posted many auction previews/results in recent months, I think the upcoming single owner Buhl sale at Sotheby’s is worth following. Henry Buhl’s extensive collection of photographic hands (over 1000 images I'm told) is somewhat legendary among collectors. Shown at the Guggenheim in 2004, it’s an obsessive, expansive, single subject matter private collection that spans the entire history of the medium, from Fox Talbot and early daguerreotypes to Wall, Baldessari and Sherman. It includes photograms, Surrealism, FSA imagery, a wide range of portraits, photojournalism, advertising, scientific photographs, basically any and every type of photograph ever made with a hand in it in some fashion. As subject matter driven collectors ourselves, I am fascinated by what he has unearthed and gathered together, and how compellingly it can tell the story of photography through a single narrow slice. Most every major photographic name is represented here, sometimes by an iconic show stopper (like the ones illustrated at right), but often by an image that is much less well known. I think this is the genius and joy of the collection - going off in a direction no one else is interested in and uncovering countless gems that have been overlooked and underappreciated. The sale itself includes a total of 432 lots across two days, with a total High estimate of $12157500. The preview will certainly be worth a visit, for collectors and casual gallery goers alike.

Here's the statistical breakdown:

Total Low Lots (high estimate up to and including $10000): 270
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): $1560500

Total Mid Lots (high estimate between $10000 and $50000): 116
Total Mid Estimate: $2387000

Total High Lots (high estimate $50000 and above): 46
Total High Estimate: $8210000

The top lot by High estimate is lot 33, Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe - Hands and Thimble, 1919, at $800000-1200000. (Image at right, top, via Sotheby's.)

Here's the list of photographers represented by four or more lots in the sale (with the number of lots in parentheses):

Man Ray (7)
Ruth Bernhard (4)
Imogen Cunningham (4)
Adam Fuss (4)
Ralph Gibson (4)
Robert Mapplethorpe (4)
Edward Weston (4)

(Lot 12, Herbert Bayer, Lonely Metropolitan, 1932, at $300000-500000, image at right, middle, and lot 20, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Fotogramm, 1925, at $300000-500000, image at right, bottom, both via Sotheby's.)

The complete lot by lot catalog can be found here.

A Show of Hands: Photographs from the Collection of Henry Buhl
December 12th and 13th

1334 York Avenue
New York, NY 10021

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