On March 31, Christie’s New York will showcase a broad range of photographs from the early 20th century through to the present day. As the market for the medium flourishes, Christie’s is committed to offering a carefully choreographed group of desirable images. Highlights include important photographs, all from private collections worldwide, by artists such as Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Robert Mapplethorpe, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Baron Adolph de Meyer, Ansel Adams, Bernd and Hilla Becher, William Eggleston and Shirin Neshat. Overall, the sale comprises 116 lots with a projected sale total of $3 million.
Helmut Newton: Photographs from the Collection of Leon Constantiner: Third and Final Part
The final selection from the extraordinary Constantiner collection underscores Helmut Newton’s ascension to the position of one of the most sought-after photographers in the current market. In December 2008, Christie’s New York held Part I of this Newtonled collection, which totaled over $7.7 million and established the world auction record for a work by the artist. The March 31st sale will open with twenty classic works by Newton. His diverse, often mischievous fashion nude and landscape studies are all represented in the selection, a highlight of which is the Big Nude I: Lisa, Paris, (estimate: $25,000-35,000). Estimates for the group range from $4,000-$60,000.
The meticulous work of Robert Mapplethorpe is well-represented in the sale, including two versions of his beautiful, highly decorative, Calla Lily, 1988 (estimates: $100,000-150,000 and $40,000-60,000 respectively), and an important, complete set of four images of Ajitto, 1981 (estimate: $120,000-180,000), a favorite model of the artist. These four images were a gift from the artist to their original owner. As a homogenous group, not collected piecemeal, they are extremely rare. A complete set of Ajitto has not been offered at auction in almost 20 years.
Christie’s is renowned for its sale of highly desirable fashion photography and, accordingly, will offer a number of significant works from various New York private collections. Important examples include the Harlequin Dress, 1950 (estimate: $150,000-250,000), Irving Penn’s graphic homage to his wife and muse Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn and his sublimely understated Handkerchief Glove (Dior), Paris also from 1950 (estimate: $25,000-35,000). The sale also includes two very different prints of Richard Avedon’s timeless Dovima with Elephants, and Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, 1955 (estimate: $70,000-90,000 and $30,000-50,000 respectively), as well as Herbs Ritts’ complex nude grouping of 1980s supermodels, Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood, 1989 (estimate: $20,000-30,000). Baron Adolph de Meyer’s extraordinary Portrait of the Marchesa Luisa Casati, 1912 (estimate: $25,000-35,000), fittingly is from the personal collection of Richard Avedon. Casati, a celebrated stylemaker and femme fatale, was one of the most eccentric women of the 20th century, wearing live snakes as jewelry and walking her pet cheetahs through the streets of Venice. Lavish parties, held in her palazzo, were attended by an avant-garde elite such as Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Giovanni Boldini and Ezra Pound. De Meyer’s remarkable portrait distills the intense charisma of Casati’s personality. The image is extremely rare as the photographer destroyed much of his own work before the war.
The cover lot of the sale is a typically lyrical landscape by Elger Esser, Amboise Frankreich, 2006 (estimate: $25,000-35,000). The photograph is part of a California collection, which also includes several noteworthy prints by Diane Arbus such as Nudist lady with swan sunglasses, Pa., 1965 (estimate: $12,000-18,000), Albino sword swallower at a carnival, Md, 1970 (estimate: $15,000-25,000) and Man and his girlfriend with hot dogs in the park, NYC, 1971 (estimate: $8,000-12,000).
Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Judith Martinez Ortega, Mexico, 1934 is an exceptional and probably unique print, belied by its very modest estimate ($9,000-12,000). It formed part of a 1946 scrapbook encapsulating Cartier-Bresson’s best work to date. In 1934, Cartier-Bresson spent several months in Mexico City where he met a number of important artists and patrons, one of whom was writer Judith Martinez Ortega. Cartier-Bresson’s portrayal is a wonderful stylistic blend of surrealism and reportage.
The sale offers a strong selection of work across a broad range of themes and periods. For collectors of more traditional landscapes, there are a number of important photographs by Ansel Adams from several private collections, including Portfolio Two, Portfolio IV (both estimated at $70,000-90,000) as well as emblematic single images such as Clearing Winter Storm, 1944 (estimate: $40,000-60,000), Frozen Lake and Cliffs, Sierra Nevada, 1932 and Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, c. 1941 (estimate: $25,000-35,000).
Among the many contemporary artists included in the sale are four stunning, typically stark images by Bernd and Hilla Becher from their Stone Breaker series, 1987-1989 (each print extremely modestly estimated at $9,000-12,000). Equally arresting and typically unsettling is Shirin Neshat’s, Faezeh + Amir Kahn, 2009 (estimate: $50,000-70,000). The life-size image of a solemn young couple with Neshat’s characteristic inclusion of extensive handwritten text – in this case, passages from Shahrnush Parsipour’s novel, Women Without Men – imparts a strong narrative quality to the work.