“175 Masterworks To Celebrate 175 Years of Photography: Property from Joy of Giving Something Foundation” auction held at Sotheby’s New York on December 11th and 12th, broke the world record for a photography auction. The sale was drawn from a collection gathered by the late American financier Howard Stein. The auction grossed the grand sum of $21,325,063, or £13,591,629 – beating its presale estimate of $13–20 million, or £8.2 – £12.7 million. The sale greatly surpassed the previous record, set in 2006 by a Sotheby’s sale of photographs from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which reached the total of $15 million, or £9.5 million.
The auction also set a number of artist’s records. The top lot, an impressionistic view of Venice by Alvin Langdon Coburn (Shadows and Reflections, Venice, 1905) fetched the staggering sum of $965,000, or £614,726. The work nearly doubled its high presale estimate of $500,000 or £318,000. Another notable record was for August Sander, whose Handlanger sold for $749,000, or £477,000. the work had a presale estimate of $350,000 to 500,000 or £222,000 to 318,000. Sander’s previous record was set in 2008, also at Sotheby’s New York, with the sale of Werkstudenten for $493,000, or £313,000.
Female photographers also did particularly well. Tina Modotti’s Workers’ Parade (1927) sold at $485,000 or £308,000, this exceeded the work’s $300,000 or £190,000 estimate, setting a new record for the artist. Julia Margaret Cameron’s No. 5 of series of twelve life-sized heads (Kate Keown) sold for $461,000 or £293,000. This sale almost doubled the artist’s previous record, established last year with The Val Prinsep Album, a piece which gathered 32 photographs. Lee Miller’s Untitled (Iron work) (1931) fetched $377,000 or £239,000 , which is also a new record. The sale marks a significant increase in the value of Miller’s work, whose previous record was set in 2012 with Condom, which sold for $230,500 or £146,000 at Sotheby’s New York.
“The market for classic photographs has never been stronger,” stated Christopher Mahoney, Head of Sotheby’s Photographs Department. “With eight prices over $500,000 (£318,000) and numerous records set, the auction demonstrated the enormous appetite among a broad base of collectors for top-tier photographs from the 19th and early-20th centuries.”