Monday, November 29, 2010


Earlier this month, we posted our thoughts on the record Fall art auctions, and the corresponding "bargains" for photography by comparison.  Two articles on the photography market have recently been published that are worth noting. states "Strong demand and an abundant offer: having earned a legitimate place in the history of art, photography has become a dynamic medium with a rapidly maturing and increasingly demanding market. Today the photography medium accounts for 7% of total global auction revenue generated from contemporary art and its auction revenue total has grown 1,300% since the end of the 1990s (+1,270% between 1998 and 2008) in a market traditionally dominated by painting, sculpture and drawing."

Read the full article here.
The Financial Times has a very informative article in today's edition, which has already been posted on several photography sites today. In case you missed it, we have it posted below.

By Francis Hodgson
©The Financial Times

Richard Avedon’s “Dovima with Elephants”

When a photograph sells at auction for $1m, the market can surely be considered healthy. The oversize print of Richard Avedon's "Dovima with Elephants", which made €841,000 ($1.12m) at Christie's in Paris last Saturday, was just one of 13 prints in that sale to achieve more than €100,000 (all prices quoted include premium). And the event achieved the still-rare accolade of being a "white-glove sale", one in which every lot finds a buyer.

This came only a matter of days after Andreas Gursky's "Frankfurt" made more than $2m in the contemporary art sales at Sotheby's in New York. It was the second Gursky to top $2m this year, following his "Pyongyang IV", which well exceeded its estimate to reach £1,329,250 in the equivalent sales at Sotheby's in London.

All this gives a pretty clear indication of a market suffering no stress at the top end. High-ticket photographs of the type so often described as "iconic" are continuing to do well, and prices are well on the way to surpassing their pre-recession levels for these items. Such photographs have become strongly branded decorative objects, safe to display in corporate buildings while still retaining a hint of daring.

It was reassuring in that context to see that Christie's did well enough with its October 7 sale in New York devoted to Joseph-Philibert Giraud de Prangey, a connoisseur's daguerreotypist, a brilliant 19th-century pioneer but undeniably obscure. Even the largest daguerreotype is tiny by the showy standards of the giant prints of today; they look fantastic but you can't exactly identify them from across an atrium. Heartening to see that such difficult objects to exhibit can still find good buyers, and the sale's total proceeds of approximately $3m showed a growing awareness of the importance of good early photographs.

The range of general photographic sales, with their more modest prices and less fierce levels of competition between high rollers, remain the domain of specialist collectors; they are still to recover pre-recession confidence levels and there are certainly bargains to be had in the general sector.

A couple of tendencies to note: the Avedon image (a 1955 fashion shoot displaying a Dior dress, and now bought by Dior) echoes a strengthening market for pictures from the magazine world. Philippe Garner of Christie's has nurtured the Gert Elfering collection, over several sales and several years, for example, which has resulted in something above $10m in sales. The most recent auction in the series, this summer, sold 67 prints by the late Jean-Loup Sieff, a magazine photographer if ever there was one, hitherto barely noticed by the market.

A continuing trend is the presence of great photography across different saleroom sectors – the record for Cindy Sherman, for instance, was broken not at a sale devoted to photographs but at Philips' contemporary art sale, also in early November, with her "Untitled #153" (1985) achieving $2,770,500.

Photographs appear in books, too. The saleroom habitat of specialist dealers in photographic books has traditionally been Swann's. But Christie's photobook sales in London now seem a regular fixture in the calendar, and Sotheby's London book department continues to host a remarkable number of interesting early photographic books. Let the buyer beware, certainly. But let the buyer also have a good time. Photographs are never out of season.

See our Art Price Index for photography 1985-2010

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