Auctions at three major New York houses next week are headlining some of photography's stellar names—as well as a collection that once decorated the walls of a giant trucking company.
The wealth of offerings follows the recent rebound of other parts of the art market from the 2008 recession, with potential sellers now sensing that they can get top dollar, says Sarah Hasted, co-owner of photography specialist Hasted Kraeutler Gallery.
The auctions, at Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips de Pury & Co., feature landmark works from Robert Frank, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Man Ray, Ansel Adams and Robert Mapplethorpe. These auctions generally occur every spring and fall.
On the front and back of its 173-work catalog for its April 6 auction, Sotheby's has put two Man Ray photos from the 1930s noted for their abstract, contemporary feel. "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.
Overall, Sotheby's expects to take in between $2.8 million and $4.3 million. These photos are open for public viewing starting Saturday.
At Christie's, a highlight is the 130-image Consolidated Freightways collection, put together in the 1980s by the trucking company now known as Con-way Inc.
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.
The Phillips sale includes some classic photos, such as the 1987 "Flag" by controversial artist Robert Mapplethorpe, known for his frank nudes, flower still lifes and celebrity portraits.
Another Phillips photo is "A Jewish Giant at Home With His Parents in the Bronx," a 1970 photo by Diane Arbus, who specialized in the abnormal. This one shows a mother and father looking up at their giant son, whose head almost reaches the ceiling of the room.
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.
Photos are proving increasingly attractive to collectors, Christie's Ms. Paterson says. "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."
Click here for the article with video link: John Arena, senior vice president at U.S. Trust, explains how ultra-high-net-worth investors can leverage their existing art collection to raise cash. Dow Jones Wealth Adviser's Veronica Dagher reports.