MacDougall Arts has had over ten years of experience in the art market, with a successful track record of specialist Russian art auctions. The company has been known for its drive to develop new niche markets. Their latest accomplishment is the opening of a new department of International photography, which along with Western will also hold Russian photography sales.
Photography has barely been represented on the Russian art market, in spite of its great potential: Russian photographers are virtually unknown in the West, and even the handful of names that do appear at auctions command much lower prices than their Western colleagues. Yet even a fleeting glance at the legacy of Russian masters of photography reveals their unique talent and staggering artistic vision.
MacDougall’s will hold two photography auctions this summer. On 21 May, they will have an inaugural specialised sale, The World through Pilgrims’ Eyes. Rare 19th and 20th Century Photography Auction. The sale will feature primarily works by Soviet artists made on their travels. Devoid of pathos and revealing insightful details about the daily life and work of their subjects, these pictures are far removed from the much more ubiquitous images from the period, during which Russian photographers more commonly sought to glorify their country’s achievements.
Director William MacDougall said; “Since our founding over eleven years ago, we have grown to be consistently one of the three largest auction houses in the world for Russian art (with Sothebys and Christies). Our expansion into Russian and international photography is a natural next step”.
Among the highlights is a series of early photographs by Georgy Zelma, one of the maîtres of Soviet photography. They were taken during his stint as Russfoto’s foreign correspondent and documented his trips to Uzbekistan, Central Asia and Africa. These photos, some of them profoundly touching, showcase Zelma’s talent for imbuing seemingly mundane, “minor” subjects with deep meaning. Also notable is a series of works by Solomon Telingater, the celebrated book designer, made on his travels all over the world, from Mexico to Japan. They demonstrate his extraordinary technical mastery from yet another angle, that of portrait and landscape photography. There is also a rare work by Max Alpert, the pioneer of photo reportage, called Kyrgys Girl Leads in a Horse Racing Competition. Dmitry Debabov, the illustrious Russian travel photographer, and Dmitry Baltermants, one Russia’s most famous war correspondents, are also represented.
Furthermore, the auction includes four works by the classic of Russian pictorial photography, Alexander Grinberg, belonging to his celebrated and sought-after cycle of female nudes. Great examples of Grinberg’s oeuvre, they manage to reconcile sheer sensuality with a delicate, lyrical approach to the models, so typical of this master. Grinberg’s most famous pupil, Alexander Khlebnikov, himself a pioneer of Russian still life photography and founder of Novator, the legendary Moscow photography club, is also represented among the top lots with his still-life Milk. The sale also contains an album of female portraits by Alexander Rodchenko, including a portrait of his muse Tatiana Maliutina.
A special mention should be given to an extremely rare set of six daguerreotypes by none other than Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, without a doubt one of the most important European masters and a pioneer of travel photography. The works date from c. 1842–1844 and document de Prangey’s trips to Cairo and Rome. This set not only fits well with the topic of MacDougall’s first photography auction and lends additional importance to it, but also illustrates the evolution of travel photography by going back to its very beginnings. Another non-Russian artist included in the sale is Man Ray, one of the most well-known artists and photographers of the 20th century. We are proud to present one of the famous images of his muse, the queen of Bohemian inter-war Paris, Kiki de Montparnasse.
The second photography auction, Important Russian 19th and 20th Century Photography Auction, will take place on 8 June. It will feature a diverse collection spanning the history of Russian photography from the 19th century up to the present. Among the early photographs, one of the top lots is a collection of images from the 1903 costume ball in the Winter Palace, celebrating the 290th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. This includes an image by Frédéric Boissonnas and Fritz Eggler titled Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Fedorovna.
The war photography section is headlined by Evgeny Haldei with his images of Soviet troops in Berlin (Soviet Soldiers by the Brandenburg Gate) and of the Potsdam Conference (Participants of the Potsdam Conference: Churchill, Truman and Stalin). They highlight Haldei’s acute, intrinsic feel for the momentous historic events, rendering a degree of humility on to even the grandest of them. Among post-war photographs special mention should be given to the sports photojournalist Dmitry Donskoy, with his images of the Moscow Olympic Games and other events. A notable picture in this collection is that of gymnast Olga Korbut, who invented a difficult move that became known as the Korbut flip. Dmitry Baltermants, one of the very few Russian photographers to achieve acclaim in the West during their lifetime, is also represented in this auction with his images from the 1960s, such as Memory.
All works come from an important European collection of photography, one of the biggest and most varied of its kind; most of them were purchased directly from the artists’ estates.
Catherine MacDougall, a Director of MacDougall Arts, says: “There will come a day when talented Russian photographers will become world-famous, in demand and extremely expensive. Those who are still alive, and those who have died in obscurity. All we need to do to appreciate their incredible talent is to open our eyes.”
Auctions in London: The World through Pilgrims’ Eyes. Rare 19th and 20th century photography auction, featuring six daguerreotypes by Girault de Prangey Saturday, 21 May 2016, 14:00
For More Information: MacDougall Arts
Auction Viewing 29 April–20 May 2016, 10:00–18:00
The World through Pilgrim’s Eyes, Rare 19th and 20th Century Photography Auction Saturday, 21 May 2016, 14:00