Last Tuesday I was in London for the Christie's Photographs auction and had the chance to sit through the entire sale, something I rarely do.
There's something hypnotic and surreal about the drone of numbers, but it puts you in a good trance-like state from which to contemplate photography and the photography business. A gorgeous vintage print of Edward Steichen's "Wind Fire -Therese Duncan on the Acropolis, 1921" went for $70,000. To my mind one of his masterpieces and the steal of the sale. In today's market an extra zero would not be out of place.
Meanwhile a picture by Dieter Blum, one of the original advertising photographers for the Marlboro Men campaign estimated at $30,000 - $40,000 went for $100,000. Still nothing compared to the $1,248,000 fetched by Richard Prince's untitled appropriation - the picture currently holding the auction record for the most expensive photograph. Today's art market clearly and unequivocally believes that the conceptual trumps the literal and it seems unlikely that this perspective will ever change. But would it be interesting to do a show based on the original Marlboro images by the original photographers?
While nudes always seem to do well, Helmut Newton (about whose work I've always had mixed feelings) had an up and down day. This pair of pictures, which I think would look pretty good in a racy summer house, were also estimated at $30,000 - $40,000, but went unsold and as of now are still available.