Published: May 1, 2001
Sotheby’s Sale of MoMA Photographs A Record $4 Million
NEW YORK CITY – In a packed salesroom at Sotheby’s April 25, photographs from The Museum of Modern Art brought $4 million, establishing a new record for a single-owner sale of photographs in New York. Bidding in the room was fierce for the 225 lots consigned by the museum, driving many pieces above their high estimates. The top lot of the sale was Walker Evan’s photograph of a photographer’s window display, the “Penny Picture Display, Savannah,” 1936, that sold for $181,750, establishing a new world auction record for the artist. The sale had been expected to bring approximately $3.5 million.
Particularly spectacular was a group of 14 Man Ray images originally from the collection of James Thrall Soby, which brought a total of $814,000, with all but one work finding a buyer. Chief among the works by Man Ray’s was “Untitled” (Rayograph with Statuette and Geometric Shapes)” which surpassed a pre-sale of $150,000 to sell for $176,250. Also sought-after was his “Nude” which sold for $121,250 against an estimate of $70/100,000.
Nineteen photographs by Walker Evans, most from his work with the Farm Security Administrator in the 1930s, brought $444,450. Other highlights include: “Houses in Negro Quarter of Tupelo, Mississippi,” which sold past a high estimate of $30,000 to sell for $69,750; and a later print of “Main Street, Saratoga Springs, New York,” which soared passed an estimate of $3,000 to sell for $21,450.
Among the top ten lots were notable works by Edward Steichen. Chief among them was his rare, Whistlerian “Self Portrait” from 1898, which brought $170.750, and his “Heavy Roses, Voulangis, France,” which sold for $154,250. Also featured was Steichen’s “The Black Canyon,” which two bidders in the room completed for before the hammer fell for a total of $115,750, over the high estimate of $100,000.
Alfred Stieglitz was represented by a number of works. Highlighting that group was his sensitive and expressive photograph of “Dorothy Norman’s Hands,” 1932, which brought $115,750. Also by Stieglitz was “Radio City, Morning,” which brought $104,250 against a pre-sale of $80/120,000. As many as six bidders vied for Stieglitz’s classic photogravure of “The Steerage,” in its original American Place frame, driving the price to $46,750, nearly double the high estimate.
Also featured in the sale was a small group of photographs of Paris and environs by Eugene Atget, drawn form the museum’s Abbott-Levy Collection. All of the six works found buyers, bringing a total of $192,800. Atget’s “St. Cloud” from 1924 surpassed a high estimate of $30,000, to sell for $51,350 to a bidder in the room.
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