Tuesday, November 16, 2010


We reported on the numerous record-setting and exuberant sales in this Fall's art auctions on our Twitter feed, which scrolls on the right side of this page. Now that the dust has settled, the "experts" are trying to make sense of the extraordinary results.

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.

We are often asked, "what does the broader art market have to do with the photography market?". In our judgement, a lot. It wasn't long ago that the argument existed whether photography was "art" or not. At least we are beyond that phase!

Two observations:

Richard Prince’s “Marlboro Man" (Untitled, Cowboy), below, set a record for a photograph when it sold for $3,401,000 at Sotheby’s in New York in 2007. Prince’s “Cowboy” series consisted of old Marlboro cigarette print ads that he re-photographed. And the Marlboro man was based on a LIFE magazine cover of a photograph by Leonard McCombe of a real cowboy.

The $63.36 million realized on last Monday at Phillips, de Pury by Andy Warhol's “Men in Her Life?” was done in silk-screen technique: the dark black and white picture endlessly repeats a photographic image published in LIFE magazine on April 13, 1962.

The prices for the "masters" of photography are a fraction of the prices for the masters of art. 

Photography's impact, relevance, influence, and relationship to the broader fine art field is still in its infancy.

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