Get Your Big Ticket Items At This Season's Photography Auctions

Posted by David Ozanich — 4 Apr 2011

jewishgiant.jpg"A Jewish Giant at Home With His Parents in the Bronx" by Diane Arbus


Here's a choice quote from an auctioneer at Christie's aimed towards anyone looking to do a little redecorating now that Spring is here: "As the price of paintings have become incredibly expensive," she added, "a lot of people have moved into photography as something that's affordable and still decorative."

Got a little extra cash lying around? If so, may I recommend checking out what's on sale at this season's big photography auctions courtesy the arbiters of taste at the Wall Street Journal. Famed photographers like Robert Frank, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Man Ray, Ansel Adams, Cindy Sherman and Robert Mapplethorpe are all represented among many others.

Some of the stuff sounds downright great - for instance at Sotheby's are some 1930s Man Ray works which also got picked to grace the cover of their auction catalogue:

"Photomontage with Nude and Studio Light," using two negatives sandwiched together, is a classical study of a female torso combined with a distorted image of Man Ray's studio. One can see his camera, a naked light bulb dangling from the ceiling, and even the slippered feet of the artist, an American who spent most of his career in Paris. Sotheby's expects the photo to sell for at least $100,000.


Man Ray's "Solarized Male Torso" uses a method known as solarization, introducing light as part of the developing process, and is projected to bring at least $70,000.

An intriguing show at Christie's is from the collection of a trucking company called Consolidated Freightways from the 1980s:

The theme is America's love affair with the highway, photos that could have been taken from the cab of a truck, and it includes such classics as Ansel Adams's 1953 "Coastal Road," showing a lonely stretch of highway with hills in the distance, and Robert Frank's "U.S. 285, New Mexico," a 1956 photo focusing on the center strip of a highway at what appears to be dusk.


"This was the corporate collection, hanging on the walls of the company's offices," says Laura Paterson, a Christie's photography specialist. Christie's is selling the collection as individual photos and expects it to bring at least $975,000.

Finally, at Phillips de Pury is a selection of classics including Diane Arbus's "A Jewish Giant at Home With His Parents in the Bronx" (seen above), a dash of Mapplethorpe, and some Cindy Sherman (seen below):

What is expected to be one of the highest-priced photos of the week, selling for at least $200,000, is Cindy Sherman's 1993 "Untitled #278," showing a dissolute-looking woman sitting in a leopard-skin chair, interpreted as a critique of the fashion industry. Ms. Sherman, as usual, posed for it herself.

If you have a couple hundred K to throw around later this week, do pick yourself up some nice "decorative" art at the auction houses. Happy bidding!

cindy.jpeg"Untitled #278" by Cindy Sherman

Diane Arbus via and Cindy Sherman via.

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