Christie’s will hold its photography sale on 29 June, focusing on 20th and 21st-century photography. It will feature over 120 lots including iconic prints by Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, and Edward Weston as well as more contemporary works by Walead Beshty, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Nick Knight, Sohei Nishino, Richard Prince, Thomas Ruff, and Mario Testino. A collection of Nick Brandt’s photographs from his first series On This Earth will be led by one of his most famous images, Elephant Drinking. Historic, documentary, fashion, and contemporary photography will be presented alongside each other with estimates ranging from €1,000 to €80,000.
For the past six years, Christie’s Paris has been keen to highlight fashion photography at its summer sale, and with great success, demonstrated by the sale of the Leon Constantiner Collection in June 2019. An iconic work by Irving Penn leads the auction on 29 June, Black and White Vogue Cover (Jean Patchett), New York, first published on the cover of the April 1950 issue of American Vogue, and illustrating the issue’s theme of ‘The Black and White Idea’. With its simple but powerful use of clean lines and contrasting black and white, the Black and White Vogue Cover was one of the boldest and most innovative covers in the magazine’s history, worn by the famous model of the time, Jean Patchett. It was Penn’s first monochrome cover, demonstrating his talent for composition. It is estimated at €80,000-120,000.
Another fashion photographer prized by collectors, Helmut Newton, invites us into his erotic and provocative world through Tied-up Torso, estimated at €50,000-70,00, presenting an image of a powerful model sublimated by a cinematic composition.
Also on offer will be a series of five iconic prints by Richard Avedon, immortalising supermodel Stephanie Seymour for Egoïst magazine: “La Passante du Siècle” (estimate: €12,000-18,000 each). In a desire to break free from the traditional limitations imposed by fashion magazines, Richard Avedon captures Stephanie Seymour in the changing guise of the 20th-century woman. Exploring the different forms of fashion and female identity through the decades, Richard Avedon sketches a stylized history of the woman, in total freedom of expression.
The second top lot in the sale, not least for the testimony to a vanished past that it offers, in addition to its artistic value, are nine prints of Coal Bunkers by Bernd & Hilla Becher (estimate: €60,000-80,000). For more than 40 years, Bernd and Hilla Becher photographed former industrial sites in Europe and North America, whose systematic documentation of the industrial landscape has served as the basis for an entire school of contemporary photography. Their black-and-white images, always sober and lifeless, have defined a style of their own, making them one of the most important sources of influence for contemporary European photography and art.
Another highlight of the sale is a collection of works from Nick Brandt’s landmark series On this Earth, led by Elephant Drinking, Amboseli (2007), number sixteen of an edition of twenty-five, estimated at €40,000-60,000. The full-length portrait of this elephant embodies the photographer’s ability to create a sense of intimacy with the natural world while framing these animals in their natural environment. A brilliant representation of Brandt’s twenty-year relationship with wildlife, Elephant Drinking was chosen as the cover image for the photographer’s second book, On This Earth, a Shadow Falls, published in 2014.
Africa and its wildlife have also been a favorite subject of Peter Beard, infamous for his decorated images of African wildlife often realised as unique photographic collages combining painting, drawing and the artist’s annotations within the photograph, of which we have here a very fine example with Giraffes in Mirage in the Taru Desert, Kenya, (June 1960), estimated at €12,000-18,000.
Another iconic image in the history of photography, Edward Weston’s Pepper (1930), is presented for the sale from the Estate of Lester Bookbinder, estimated at €12,000-18,000. Assumed to represent a sculptural form, the subject is revealed to be a pepper, sublimated by the play of light and shadow along its surface. This work is presented alongside two other arresting portraits by Edward Weston – Civilian Defense, (1942) and Maudelle Weston, (1939).
Among the contemporary photographs on offer is this beautiful portrait, Thula, Alkmaar (2017) by Dutch photographer Bastiaan Woudt. Self-taught, Bastiaan Woudt trained his eye by reading photography books and visiting exhibitions and fairs. He soon established his signature style that honors the history of photography, reinterpreting classic portraits while adding surrealist elements. Elaborated in a minimalist spirit, his images are constructed in a skillful balance of black and white, and a play of shapes and details that give rhythm to the image. This print is number three of an edition of ten, estimated at €15,000-20,000.
Finally, in the context of the recent partnership initiated between Christie’s and the World Health Organization (WHO), the sale will also feature two works that have been generously donated by several artists and will benefit the WHO Foundation and The Future is Unwritten artists’ fund to provide an urgent response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on mental, social and environmental health through the arts. Humanity is the common theme of these works – a portrait of a waxwork Catherine Howard by Hiroshi Sugimoto, alongside a portrait by Joana Choumali. A group of Magnum photographers will present works offered in the Autumn in the context of a private selling exhibition in Christie’s Aspen premises.