Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Auction: Photographs, New York, March 31, 2009 @Christie's

Christie's Spring Photographs sale is further evidence of a truly brutal environment for enticing consignors to sell their collections. There are a total of 116 lots on offer in this sale, with a total estimate of $3340000, which on the face of it looks just fine.

But contrast this with the statistics from the Christie's Photographs sale last fall and you get a rather different view: 258 lots on offer, for a total estimate of $7587000 in October - less than half the lots for less than half the estimate this time around, just a few months later. The first 20 lots of this sale are all Helmut Newtons, hold overs from the Constantiner Collection (making this a somewhat hidden Part III to that historic sale). If you take these lots out as committed quite a long time ago, a fairly dim picture of the consignment environment emerges. The age of the wrist breaker, door stop catalog seems to be emphatically over, so much so that Christie's needs only one session to get through this entire sale.

Here's the breakdown:

Total Low lots (high estimate $10000 or below): 15
Total Low estimate (sum of high estimates): $123000

Total Mid lots (high estimate between $10000 and $50000): 86
Total Mid estimate: $1707000

Total High lots (high estimate above $50000): 15
Total High estimate: $1510000

The top end is meaningfully lighter than the previous season, both in terms of lots and estimate value. Interestingly, there are significantly fewer Low lots as well, perhaps indicating a tightening window of what Christie's will accept in terms of quality. There are also no 19th century lots in this sale.

Beyond the predominance of Newtons (22), the photographers with the most lots in the sale are the usual suspects: Ansel Adams (10), Irving Penn (10), Diane Arbus (8), and Henri Cartier-Bresson (7), making this a rather perfunctory offering overall I'm afraid, with few surprises.

For our particular collection, another Mapplethorpe flower, Calla Lily, 1988 (lot 38, image at right) would be the best fit, although again, it is almost certain to be priced higher than we'd like. Beyond this, unfortunately, there weren't many images that jumped out at us.

The lot by lot catalog can be found here.

March 31, 2009

20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020


Camilla said...

I enjoyed your analysis and find it odd that the Esser is used as the front cover when this is rather the odd one out rather than indicative of the lots.

gphoto said...

The catalogue looked like it was from 1999.