Published: December 2, 2008
Bonhams’ first sale of fine photographs simulcast to its New York City salesroom brought nearly $600,000 on October 28, with several lots inspiring competitive bidding and robust landscapes capturing collector interest. The sale featured views of each city where it was staged, as well as familiar images from lauded photographers of the mid-1800s to the present.
The sale’s top lot was a work by Diane Arbus. Titled “Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park,” the 1962 black and white image was printed by Neil Selkirk in 1972 and had been acquired by an agent directly from Doon Arbus, the photographer’s daughter, who had numbered it 59 of 75. The photograph of the exasperated-looking boy sold for $54,000.
Also drawing much collector attention were prints from Ansel Adams and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Adams’s vividly contrasted “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” and Sugimoto’s stark and moody “Irish Sea, Isle of Man II” each fetched $24,000.
Several large format murals of Adams’s works were commissioned in the mid-1950s by the American Trust Company (that firm later acquired by Wells Fargo Bank). Sold separately, the group brought more than $35,000. They were offered from the collection of Richard Lorenz, who had removed the seven mammoth murals before the bank building was demolished and the Transamerica Pyramid constructed.
A collector paid $13,200 for a platinum print signed and dated by Laura Gilpin, “Bryce Canyon,” 1930. Laura Gilpin worked almost exclusively in platinum and silver bromide prints up until 1935. According to Bonhams specialists, she maintained a passion for platinum prints throughout her life.
Two works by the iconic Henri Cartier-Bresson performed well. His 1961 image of “Siphnos, Greece,” a signed gelatin silver print printed circa 1990, sold within estimate for $11,400, while his 1959 image “Queen Charlotte’s Ball, London,” outperformed its $7/9,000 estimate as bidding danced to $11,100.
Another lot selling above estimate was a dreamy architectural view by Julius Shulman, who photographed a Richard Neutra commission in Palm Springs in 1947. The gelatin silver print, “Kaufman House,” shot from the backyard pool area, sold for $5,100.
Several perspectives on New York City attracted bids: 1940s works depicting children on the streets of the “Big Apple” by Helen Levitt, a 1916 photogravure by Paul Strand that sold for $7,200 and “42nd Street as Viewed from Weehawken,” 1942, by Andreas Feininger at $7,200. “Windstorm in Greenwich Village, NYC,” 1949, by Ruth Orkin sold within estimate for $3,300.
Of particular interest to bidders was a gelatin silver print from Iranian artist Shirin Neshat. Titled “Guardians of Revolution,” the piece is from her controversial “Women of Allah” series and brought $20,400. Another work by the Iranian artist, in collaboration with Israeli artist Izhar Patkin, untitled (Hands), 2005, sold for $7,200. This digital inkjet print was signed by both artists and numbered 78/100.
Portraiture included a pair of Helmut Newton photographs, one depicting Mick Jagger while in Paris in 1977 that sold for $6,000 and the other capturing the film director John Huston playing poker in Los Angeles in 1984 and selling for $3,000.
An Edward Weston gelatin silver print depicted an attentive cat on a weathered wood stump. The work was a gift in the 1940s to the daughter of one of Weston’s best childhood friends; it brought $10,800. Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For information, www.bonhams.com/us or 415-503-3259.
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