S otheby’s Photographs Department kicked off 2022 with the blockbuster New York auction A Grand Vision: The David H. Arrington Collection of Ansel Adams Photographs. The nearly white-glove sale saw ten photographs soar above the $100,000 mark and more than 60 percent of lots offered sell above pre-sale high estimates. “The David H. Arrington Collection sales at Sotheby’s have recalibrated the market for Ansel Adams, establishing not only new world records for the artist but also driving in new collectors to the field,” says Emily Bierman, Global Head of Department.
In London, Bailey’s Parade, a selling exhibition of works by legendary photographer David Bailey, brought together for the first time three key strands of his 60-year career: iconic portraits from the 1960s, still lifes and rarely seen, unique overpainted photographs. This remarkable selection of works meant the exhibition was widely publicized and attended, averaging about 200 visitors per day.
Brandei Estes, Head of Department, EMEA, says: “2022 was an exciting year for our category, starting off on a high note with the Arrington Collection auction and selling exhibition of works by David Bailey. The latter was the first time ever that his silver, platinum and painted photographs were presented alongside each other, a real coup for us to be the ones to offer this.”
A busy fall season in New York began with the inaugural Sotheby’s Impact Gala in support of Instituto Terra, the nonprofit environmental organization co-founded by Sebastião Salgado and Lélia Wanick Salgado. Complementing the gala was Magnum Opus, a weeks-long selling exhibition of 50 seminal photographs by Salgado, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Instituto Terra. Salgado also partnered with Sotheby’s on his debut foray into NFTs with Tree of Life — a unique work combining video, audio and photography — and Amazon̂ia, a collection of 5,000 works comprising the most ambitious collection of NFT by a living photographer.
The London Photography Department was proud to contribute five works to the Contemporary Discoveries Auction, which raised funds for vital work undertaken by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in response to the crisis in Ukraine. All photography works were donated directly by the artists, and one key lot, consigned by Anastasia Taylor-Lind, was taken by her in Bucha, Kyiv Region, only few weeks before the auction took place.
Sotheby’s Global Photographs team was also thrilled to relaunch its dedicated Photographs auctions in Paris. It was an honor to present 100 lots from the collection of renowned luxury shoe designer Ernesto Esposito as part of the November auction in Paris, which ran alongside Paris Photo. Carefully assembled over the course of four decades, The Esposito collection of photographs includes works by photography giants Thomas Ruff, Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton and Thomas Struth, as well as gems by artists that rarely appear at auction such as Dan Rees, James Bidgood and Giasco Bertoli.
“The past year saw numerous single-owner collections and sequences being offered in New York, London and Paris,” says Estes. “Perhaps my biggest privilege and highlight however was offering Chris Levine’s Lightness of Being (2008), a unique lenticular lightbox portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the British Art: The Jubilee Auction, a marquee evening sale in June. The work was kindly donated by the artist to benefit the Platinum Jubilee Pageant Fund, a fitting tribute mere months before her death.”
Looking forward to 2023, Bierman says: “Photographs are and will continue to be on the main stage. We have a number of incredible projects, beginning with a major single owner auction in February – more details coming soon! I am also excited to be collaborating cross-departmentally and present photographs alongside other works of contemporary art. Offering Diane Arbus’s most famous and iconic images – her portrait of identical twins from Roselle, NJ – in the Contemporary Evening Auction in New York in May stressed the cross-category nature of most collectors who are seeking out the best of the best, and who don’t limit themselves to one category. This contextualization showcases how photographs are a critical piece of the larger art ecosystem and will drive market growth in the coming year.”