New York - Christie’s is pleased to announce the details for its New York Photographs auction, taking place on October 3. The sale encompasses over 200 lots that represent the history of photography, with strong examples from the early 20th century through the present day. Several remarkable collections and estates accentuate the October auction, including the Carol Carlisle Collection, The Georgia O’Keefe Museum, The Estate of László Moholy-Nagy and the Collection of Allison V. Smith. The selection will also feature William Eggleston’s Untitled (Greenwood, Mississippi), c. 1976 (estimate: $80,000-120,000) from the renowned Collection of Celeste and Armand Bartos. Estimates for the sale begin at $1,000 and top out at $1.5 million. In addition to the Photographs sale, Christie’s will also hold a single artist auction Into Africa: Photographs by Peter Beard on October 3rd, which will include 28 works by the celebrated American artist. Please click here to view the full release.
The sale’s top lot is a complete set of The North American Indian, Portfolios 1-20; and Text Volumes 1-20 by Edward Curtis (estimate: $1-1.5 million). The artist’s dream to document every Indian tribe west of the Mississippi in text and photographs came to fruition in 1904 when he photographed the children of Theodore Roosevelt for ‘The Prettiest Children in America’ contest. Subsequently, Roosevelt lent his support to Curtis, arranging an introduction to J.P. Morgan and writing the foreword to The North American Indian. J.P. Morgan offered Curtis $75,000 over five years in return for 25 sets, as well as 300 additional prints. However, the proposed five-year project actually took almost thirty years to complete and eventually cost Morgan nearly $400,000. Curtis photographed 80 tribes, exposing over 40,000 negatives and recorded 10,000 songs on an early Edison wax cylinder recording instrument. The complete set of The North American Indian, published in Massachusetts between 1907 and 1930, includes 20 text volumes illustrated with 1500 images and 20 corresponding portfolios in folio format, each with approximately 35 plates. The majority of complete sets remain in institutional collections and are rarely offered at auction. This set was subscribed to by Lammot duPont (1880-1952), President of the duPont Company (1926-1940) and director at General Motors (1918-1946).
Among the highlights is a significant group of eight photographs by Erwin Blumenfeld from the Collection of Allison V. Smith, a granddaughter of retail legend Stanley Marcus. The eight photographs comprising this collection reveal the story of a very special collaboration between this extraordinarily innovative photographer and the visionary Dallas retailer. These exquisite prints were selected by Blumenfeld from his favorite images completed in New York, many of which he continued to re-invent over the years. Presented in exchange for a case of Blumenfeld’s favorite champagne, they marked the beginning of a wonderful relationship of great mutual respect. Highlighting the selection is the sale’s cover lot, New York, ca. 1948 (estimate: $40,000-60,000). Another print of this image was included in Blumenfeld's section of ‘In and Out of Focus,’ the group exhibition organized by Edward Steichen at The Museum of Modern Art in 1947.
Coming directly from the artist’s estate is László Moholy-Nagy’s unique gelatin silver photogram, Untitled, Dessau, 1926 (estimate: $200,000-300,000). Scholar Renate Heyne points out in her catalogue raisonné of Moholy-Nagy photograms that he first became acquainted with the technique through the flower photograms produced by Bertha Günther in 1922 at 'Loheland' in Germany. He made flower photograms in Berlin, then Dessau, and later when he lived in Chicago. According to Heyne, 'Flowers are the only recurrent motif in Moholy's photogram oeuvre, perhaps because flowers owe their life to light. In his photograms, the flowers live to see their rebirth, brought forth again by light. In this particular photogram, the flower seems to undergo a rotating state of metamorphosis toward a light-radiating, energy-emitting lode star.'
After a career of nearly 35-years, Carol Carlisle retired as Managing Editor of Popular Photography magazine, where she was celebrated for her keen eye and ruthless sense of perfection. It was her reputation as an insightful and meticulous editor that brought both her, and the magazine, such an outstanding reputation. She was also acclaimed for her work as a photographer, with her images published many times in the magazine and on the cover. What the photography world did not know about Carol during her lifetime, however, was that she was an avid collector of almost anything that delighted her eye. During her tenure, she amassed more than 1,200 such prized prints, 20 of which will be included in the sale. Each represents a rare piece and specific moment in time, mostly from the 60s and 70s that, if not for her collector’s and conservationist’s eye, might have been lost forever. Leading the group is Berenice Abbott’s quintessential image, New York at Night, 1932 (estimate: $20,000-30,000), a long exposure that she created in 1932 from the top of the then-new Empire State Building.
Frederick H. Evans’ 'A Sea of Steps', Wells Cathedral, Steps to Chapter House, 1903 (estimate: $120,000-180,000), is unquestionably the artist’s finest architectural photograph. Alfred Stieglitz described Evans as the greatest proponent of architectural photography, recognizing his singular ability to impart emotional content to his meticulous arrangements of light and stone. Evans used a small lens aperture and a very long exposure for maximum definition. This rigorous approach was also applied to printing. An advocate of 'straight' photography, Evans completely rejected the contemporary fashion for a painterly effect achieved through the manipulation of negatives or prints. His own photographs, usually in platinum, were straightforward and unretouched. That this print of his best-known image is in gelatin silver makes it an intriguing curiosity and therefore possibly more rare than its platinum counterparts.
Christie's is honored to present a selection of six photographs from The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum within the sale, including two highly desirable examples by Alfred Stieglitz, Equivalent, 1926 (estimate: $40,000 - 60,000) and Equivalent, 1927 (estimate: $40,000-60,000). Proceeds from the sale of all six items will support acquisitions to strengthen and enhance the Museum's collections.
The sale also contains two photographs by Robert Frank, which are being sold by the artist on behalf of The Andrea Frank Foundation. The monies raised by the sale of these two photographs, New York State, 1955 (estimate: $10,000-15,000) and Chicago, 1956 ($50,000-70,000), will be used to help facilitate Art Education programs in New York City public schools.
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