Top 10: Contemporary photography
Contemporary photography can be loosely defined as encompassing images taken after the Second World War, when photography was firmly established as an art form. The ability to reprint and recreate photographs does not, as the results below indicate, diminish their value – the original prints of these artists are much coveted collectible items.
10) Diane Arbus - A Family On The Lawn One Sunday In Westchester, N.Y. (1968), $553,000
One of Diane Arbus’s most iconic and analysed photographs, this image of 60s American suburbia, oozing with repression and tension, achieved the price of $553,000 at a Sotheby’s New York auction in April 2008.
9) Ansel Adams – Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1948), $609,600
This extremely popular landscape photograph was reproduced by Ansel Adams over 1,300 times, yet as this sale indicates, this does not diminish its value. It sold for $609,600 at a New York Sotheby’s auction in October 2006.
8) Robert Mapplethorpe – Andy Warhol (1987), $643,200
This photograph of pop artist Andy Warhol is typical of the frank and stylised black and white portraits for which Mapplethorpe is known, and is one of his most honest and striking celebrity photographs. It fetched the price of $643,200 at a New York Christie’s auction in October 2006.
7) Richard Avedon – Dovima with the Elephants (1955), $1.15 million
Richard Avedon’s sensual and elegant black and white image of the first supermodel, Dovima, posing in a Dior dress at a circus, with elephants either side, was sold at a Paris auction by Christie’s for €841,000, or $1,151,976, in November 2010.
6) Dmitry Medvedev – Kremlin of Tobolsk (2009), $1.7 million
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s photograph of this Sibertian fortress, an image of true Russian tradition, sold for 51 million rubles, $1.7 million, at a charity auction in January 2010. The proceeds went towards buying furniture for World War II veterans, equipment for a children’s hospital, and a kitchen for a rehabilitation centre.
5) Andreas Gursky – 99 Cent II Diptychon (2001), $3.34 million
Prints of Andreas Gursky’s two part image, a chromogenic color print of a colourful supermarket interior have sold at Sotheby’s for $2.25 million in May 2006, and $3.34 million in February 2007.
4) Richard Prince – Untitled (Cowboy), $3.4 million
Over the years, Richard Prince’s series of Untitled (Cowboy) ektachrome prints have sold from several hundred thousand dollars, up to $1.05m, $1.25m, $1.48m, £993,250 ($1.56m), and $2.84m at Christie’s, and up to $1.38m, and the highest, $3.4m at Sotheby’s, in November 2007. These images are ‘rephotographs’, taken from the photographic Marlboro cigarette advertisements of the Marlboro Man. They represent an idealized figure of American masculinity. Untitled (Cowboy) was the first ‘rephotograph’ to achieve more than $1 million at auction.
3) Jeff Wall – Dead Troops Talk (1992), $3.6 million
Canadian photographer Jeff Wall’s photograph, full title ‘Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986) was created with actors in a studio in 1992. The image pictures dead troops rising up and talking fetched $3,666,500 in May 2012 at Christie’s.
2) Cindy Sherman – Untitled #96 (1981), $3.9 million
Cindy Sherman’s series of stylised self-portraits, the Centerfolds/Horizontals, are hugely popular amongst collectors. They draw on the imagery of magazine and pornography center spreads, and portray women – all played by Sherman herself – in various roles. Her Untitled #153 sold for $2,700,000 at Philips de Pury & Co in November 2010, and her Untitled #96 for £3,890,500 in May 2011 at Christie’s.
1) Andreas Gursky – Rhein II (1999), $4.3 million
It may appear to be merely a dreary image of the sludgy Rhine river on a grey day, yet this chromogenic colour print by Gursky is the most expensive contemporary photograph ever sold, achieving $4,338,500 at Christie’s in November 2011. It is considered a contemporary twist on a typical landscape image.
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