Sotheby's & Surface magazine's Photographs Auction

Image above: ©Horst P. Horst. 1906-1999. CHANEL BEAUTY, NEW YORK


This week Sotheby’s auctioned a collection of over 200 works chronicling decades of photographic history. Encompassing a huge array of styles, expressions and periods. From modernist pieces from Alfred Stieglitz to post-war pieces from Francesca Woodman, Sotheby’s presents a compelling representation of the ever-changing medium through time.

With Diane Arbus’s early image of the National Junior Interstate Ballroom Dance Champions gracing the cover of the catalogue, the auction sent various various pieces out into the public. Images such as the Arbus image, that have been preserved and collected privately for decades will be available for purchase. The prices ranging from $5,000 to $350,000, reasonably represented the preciousness of the vintage pieces. The total sale earnings amounted to over 3 million dollars.

041N09405_846TPImage above: ©Diane Arbus. 1923-1971. NATIONAL JUNIOR INTERSTATE DANCE CHAMPIONS OF 1963, YONKERS, N. Y.


Untitled-1Images above: (left) ©Imogen Cunningham. 1883-1976. 'FRIDA KAHLO RIVERA' ; (right) ©Philippe Halsman. 1906-1979. MARILYN MONROE.


Alfred Stieglitz’s portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe painting, is one of the few depictions of the icon in existence. The cherished image estimated to sell for around $100/200,000, sold for $212,500. The painter gifted the photograph to her famous collector sister Anita O’Keeffe Young. The piece remained in private hands for years. Other Stieglitz images feature in the collection, showcasing the photography master’s early experiments.

Other more current photographic masters such as Robert Frank featured heavily in the collection. His image, Untitled (Chicago Loop), which Frank gave to Robert Delpire, the influential French publisher responsible for the first edition of The Americans, sold for $81,250. Delpire’s friend and acquaintance, Henri Cartier Bresson, also featured in the collection with a signed print know as; Hyères, France. Sold for $16,250, the piece exemplifies the prestigiousness of the collection, with it’s rare selections of iconic photographers across different genres.

416N09405_8FVXZImage above: ©Robert Frank. B. 1924. UNTITLED (CHICAGO LOOP).


László Moholy-Nagy’s modernist Photogram featured as a groundbreaking and memorable visual of the modernist art movement in the 1920s. It was at this point that Maholy had mastered the process of the photogram and transformed it into an exciting and expressive new medium of image-making. The piece was heavily featured in his one-man exhibition Künstlerhaus Brno, 1935 in which he showed a number of other enlarged photographic works. An installation showed the work in it’s glorious original format via a projection of the image hanging in horizontal.

Untitled-2Image Above: ©Robert Mapplethorpe. 1946-1989. MAN IN POLYESTER SUIT.


Amongst a few other Erwin Blumenfeld pieces, Young Eyes featured prominently along with other heroic portrait photographers, Horst P. Horst, and Irving Penn. The three showcased a linear connection through time as they each revolutionized the medium.

A selection of Sally Mann’s Cibachrome portraits feature heavily in the collection. The collection also featured a Sally Mann Self-portrait from 2011. Following a serious nose injury in 2006, Mann began producing self-portraits using an ambrotype process. The uniquely positive image was created through the use of the same chemistry on black and varnish.

Amongst the aforementioned, photographers such as Jean Paul Goude, Nan Goldin, Peter Beard and many others, were brought together to make up this unique presentation of the medium through time. The expressive breadth of the medium was illustrated thoroughly and immaculately within the polished space. Although the distinct differences amongst the varied selection occasionally felt juxtaposed, the collection was an exciting reminder of all the greats that have come to influence and reshape photography as a medium today.

N09405-189_webImage above: ©Sally Mann. B. 1951. UNTITLED (SELF-PORTRAITS)



by Mick Abela

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