Highly attractive photography auctions



After a sluggish 2003, the photography market is now booming once again. With prestigious sales to take place at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips in the next few weeks, Artprice has taken stock of one of the art world’s most dynamic segments.

The Artprice Index, which bases its calculations on sales/resales of similar photographs, shows that USD 100 invested in January 1994 in a photograph would on average be worth USD 268.60 on 1 October 2004, up USD 57 on the year before. By way of comparison, the same amount invested in a painting would be worth only USD 163.30 today. After riding the speculative wave of 1997-2001, photographic prices collapsed between April 2002 and October 2003. The market became extremely selective, with a no-sales ratio of 39% and only the prestige items selling. The US upturn, which kicked off in November 2003, has given it a real boost, driving photographic prices up by a spectacular 23.5% in 12 months, to a level never before seen. As prices have risen, record after record has been broken. The most notable registered by Artprice since January 2004 include all-time highs from Diane ARBUS (USD 420,000), Frederick Simpson COBURN (USD 320,000), Carleton Eugene WATKINS (USD 270,000), Edward S. EGGLESTON (USD 187,000), Bernd & Hilla BECHER (USD 150,000) and Hiroshi SUGIMOTO (USD 140,000).

Artprice Index of Photography (1997 – Sept. 2004)
Base 1997 = USD 100

The forthcoming sales in New York look set to reap a particularly rich harvest, with the catalogues brimful of exceptional works. On 15 October, Christie’s will auction more than 400 photographs covering all eras, with estimates ranging from USD 2,000-200,000. The following day will see Sotheby’s put up for sale some very beautiful old and modern photographs, including a selection of important works by Arbus. But the crowning event will be orchestrated by Phillips, whose sale of Baroness Lambert’s collection of contemporary photography, on 8 and 9 November, is estimated to fetch more than USD 10 million. The star lots include a Richard PRINCE cowboy, photographs from Cindy SHERMAN’s “Film Still” series, and major works by Andreas GURSKY.