“All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”— Richard Avedon, 1980

Avedon: Photographs from The Richard Avedon Foundation

November 20, 2010

PARIS Christie’s Paris is proud to offer an extraordinary group of works by Richard Avedon (1923-2004) in Avedon: Photographs from The Richard Avedon Foundation. One of the most important artists of the 20th century, Avedon’s work covered the most prominent figures of his time —  icons of political and social significance — as well as groundbreaking fashion.

Christie’s evening sale on November 20 of more than 60 Avedon photographs represents not only the largest ensemble of his works to ever hit the market, but also offers several unique and extremely rare items.  The auction, to take place at Christie’s during the Paris Photo Festival (November 18-21), is estimated to exceed €3-5 million ($3.7 million- $6 million). Proceeds from the sale will initiate The Richard Avedon Foundation’s endowment in support of its philanthropic mission.

“The Richard Avedon Foundation is pleased to work with Christie’s on this sale in Paris,” said Paul Roth, the Foundation’s Executive Director.  “In establishing his foundation, Avedon intended that we sell photographs to fund its operations, including philanthropy in support of the visual arts and photographic education.”

Philippe Garner, International Head of Christie’s 20th Century Decorative Art & Photographs departments, noted:  “Here, in this sale, you have a pantheon of the great creative figures of the 20th century. In addition to landmark images of the glamour and elegance of fashion at its most sophisticated we have intense, commanding pictures that confront the human condition.”

Avedon was one of the most recognized and influential figures of photography, the defining medium of the 20th century.  The scope and inventiveness of his portraiture and fashion imagery have long been recognized by leading curators and art historians, most recently through a series of monographic exhibitions and books. Avedon wrote: “A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact, but an opinion.  There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate.  None of them is the truth.”

A native New Yorker, Avedon was born in 1923 and started to make photographs with a Kodak Brownie Box camera at age 12.  Following service during World War II as a photographer in the Merchant Marine, Avedon’s rise to the pinnacle of editorial fashion and portraiture was meteoric. Early in his career at Harper’s Bazaar, he developed a great affinity for Paris, and photographed the fashion collections there for over forty years. Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris (estimate: €400,000- 600,000/$500,000-700,000), his best-known image from Paris, is one of the highlights of the sale. The print being offered is the largest exhibition print in existence, shown during the national tour of Avedon’s 1978 Metropolitan Museum of Art fashion retrospective. Avedon’s love of French culture, reflected in his joyful and energetic fashion images from the 1950’s, helped restore vibrancy to the City of Light in the aftermath of World War II.

Avedon breathed life into fashion photography, transforming static poses into dynamic vignettes that danced off the page. Veruschka (estimate: €12,000-18,000/$15,000-25,000), Jean Shrimpton (estimate: €15,000-25,000/$20,000-30,000) and Twiggy (estimate: €15,000-25,000/$20,000-30,000) are notable works in the sale. 

Avedon’s classical works being offered range from a unique, vintage print of his iconic portrait of Marilyn Monroe (estimate: €80,000-120,000/$100,000-150,000); to Brigitte Bardot (estimate: €60,000 -80,000/$70,000-90,000); to rare prints of fellow artists such Pablo Picasso (estimate: €30,000-50,000/$40,000-60,000), Marcel Duchamp (estimate: €15,000-25,000/$20,000-30,000). Also included are political leaders such as Malcolm X (estimate: €50,000-70,000/$60,000-90,000) and the Dalai Lama (estimate: €8,000-12,000/$10,000-15,000).

A key highlight is The Beatles Portfolio, London, England (estimate: €250,000-350,000/$300,000-500,000), Avedon’s well-known but rarely available set of four psychedelic portraits of John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Christie’s set the world record for Avedon at auction for the same work, which sold for $464,000 in October 2005.

“Avedon’s sense of the zeitgeist was extraordinary, and throughout his career it never faded,” commented Roth. “For half a century, in portraiture and in fashion, he repeatedly produced iconic images comprising a collective vision of the times.”

The sale includes several images from Avedon’s seminal work, In the American West, in which he captures anonymous people encountered on his travels, fixed against a seamless white background. Prints from the series were produced on a monumental scale. One such work is Jay Green, Grain Thresher, Burley, Idaho, August 19, 1985 (estimate: €60,000-100,000/$80,000-120,000).

“Avedon prints have an electricity to them — they sparkle,” added Garner. “They are both image and object.”

The Avedon sale follows several other Christie’s auctions devoted to single photographic artists: Photographs by Diane Arbus (2008), which realized $1.4 million for a total of 51 lots; Photographs by William Eggleston (2008), which garnered $3 million on 50 lots; and, most recently, Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs from the Collection of Patricia McCabe (April 2010), which realized $3.8 million for a total of 67 lots in a sold-out, “white glove sale” at Christie’s New York in April 2010. “Christie’s is presenting another spectacular event in what has been a historic series of monographic photography sales,” noted Garner.

Proceeds from the November sale will be used by the Avedon Foundation to create an endowment fund. Using this fund, the Foundation will pursue aspects of its mission: organizing the photographer’s archive; providing access to the collections for scholars, students and other researchers, and creating educational programs devoted to Avedon’s life and work. Proceeds from the sale will also support the philanthropic work of the Foundation, the funding of projects and initiatives related to photography and photographic education. For further information on The Richard Avedon Foundation, visit

Auction: November 20, 2010 5pm


Christie’s New York:

October 1-2 10am-5pm

October 3 1pm-5pm

October 4-6 10am-5pm

October 7  10am-2pm


Christie’s Paris:

November 18 10am-6pm

November 19 10am-6pm

November 20 10am-3pm

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