PROPERTY FROM THE ARCHIVE OF MAGNUM PHOTOS, INC.
SOLD TO BENEFIT THE CREATION OF A DIGITAL LIBRARY
In its best sense, although always a commercial venture, Magnum was created as an endorsement of the subtlety and potential of photography when practiced by gifted individuals, and as an attempt to empower photographers by providing them with an independent base and a collegial solidarity, a human warmth, from which to work.
- Fred Ritchin, "What is Magnum?", In Our Time, p. 418.
In this year 2001, the first of the new millennium, a paradox has already begun to develop about the previous century. The visual memory of the last one hundred years, replete with images of everything imaginable from everywhere on Earth, seems to have begun to fade or is dated, like a snapshot left in the sun. It was just yesterday when the world came to us through magazines and books of photographs. The collective base of photographic images that have defined the modern century that we all draw upon is destined to be augmented and replaced as time goes forward. Will strains of "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" with the plaintive voice of one who had just so recently experienced greatness parallel the fate of 20th century photography? It is history now but not yet ancient or outmoded.
So much of the collective vision of the 20th century is based on the photojournalism of Magnum, the oldest photojournalism agency extant. Officially created in 1947 by Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour (a.k.a."Chim") and Robert Capa, Magnum has served to document world events without discrimination as to place, state of affairs or conditions. In its 55-year history, dozens of photographers have since become members of this cooperative agency. Always facing the challenge of changing times, Magnum now looks to fully enter this new century by incorporating the digital era into its functions.
The following lots have been culled with Magnum's cooperation and guidance from hundreds of prints reviewed. The photographs were selected from the agency's archive and from the photographers' own holdings. Rare and valuable, many of these prints do not exist in any other form or are unique in their presentation. It took months to make the selection with many hours spent reviewing what was found. The images are iconic and surprising, representing everything from the finest of classic Magnum to contemporary works that muddy the lines between what is document and what is art.
Christie's would like to thank Nathan Benn, Director of Magnum in New York and David Strettell, Director, Cultural Projects for their direct assistance in the selection process. We would also like to thank all of Magnum's membership whose efforts to contribute rare examples of their own work is fully appreciated.