Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Most Expensive Photo in the World


Christie’s, Andreas Gursky/Associated Press) - This 1999 photograph provided by Chrisitie’s shows the Rhine river by German artist Andreas Gursky. Titled “Rhein II,” the chromogenic color print face-mounted to acrylic glass was sold for $4.3 million Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, at Christie’s in New York City, setting a record for any photograph sold at auction.

Via BBC:


Glass-mounted panoramic colour print Rhein II, created in 1999, is one of an edition of six works.

Others hang at New York's Museum of Modern Art and London's Tate Modern.

It beat the previous record of $3.9m (£2.5m) achieved by an untitled 1981 colour print by Cindy Sherman, who is the subject of all her own works.


"The viewer is not invited to consider a specific place along the river but rather an almost 'platonic' ideal of the body of water as it navigates the landscape” -- Christies



Gursky's print had a pre-sale estimate of $2.5m-$3.5m (£1.6m-£2.2m).

Rhein II is the largest of the six photographs, which are produced in various sizes.

As well as in New York and London, other photographs in the edition are housed in Munich's Pinakothek der Moderne and Glenstone art museum in the US.

Gursky has spoken of "a particular place with a view over the Rhine which has somehow always fascinated me, but it didn't suffice for a picture as it basically constituted only part of a picture".

He said he "carried this idea for a picture around with me for a year-and-a-half".

"In the end I decided to digitalise the pictures and leave out the elements that bothered me," he added.

Christie's said the viewer was "not invited to consider a specific place along the river, but rather an almost 'platonic' ideal of the body of water as it navigates the landscape."

After last year's Fall aucton season, we posted "The just-completed Contemporary sales totaled over $1 BILLION dollars in sales (with Andy Warhol accounting for over $200 million alone); the Impressionist/Modern sales about another half - BILLION; and almost as an afterthought a Qianlong-dynasty vase sold for $85.9 MILLION dollars. The Fall photo auctions in New York brought in $16 million."

No matter how you look at it, the prices for the "masters" of photography are a fraction of the prices for the masters of art.  The reaction to the Gursky sale seems to be "Really? $4.3 Million for That Photo?"

Here are just a few reactions:

@jmcolberg many shocked tweets at Gursky's photo price tag. Would people be so shocked if it were a painting that sold for $4M? Difference?

Raw File is asking " Really? $4.3 Million for That Photo? Let us know what you think in the comments or tweet us @rawfileblog." So far, there are more than 80 comments.

Seattle Post Intelligencer:   Here’s the world’s most expensive (and boring?) photo
via The Atlantic Wire:  "Gursky's photo is also the reason you should have become an art broker, like yesterday", with comments.

Related: Wall Street Journal: "New Art Drives $1 Billion Fall Auctions"