Buhl Photography Collection breaks World Record with $12.3m sale



2015-06-26 11:21:21

Buhl Photography Collection breaks World Record with $12.3m sale

Sotheby’s recorded one of the biggest photography sales of the year on Friday (December 14), as the private collection of Henry Buhl became the most expensive ever sold at auction.

Assembled by the celebrated philanthropist Henry M. Buhl, the collection focused on depictions of the human hand throughout the history of photography. Inspired by his first purchase in 1993 – a portrait by Alfred Stieglitz depicting the hands of his wife and muse Georgia O'keeffe – Buhl went on the acquire approximately 1,100 photographs.

Featuring work by almost every major 20th century master, the auction in New York was highly anticipated – and lived up to expectations as it achieved a World Record total of $12.3 million.

“The exceptional result of this sale is a testament to the skill and discernment of Henry Buhl – a visionary collector and philanthropist,” said Denise Bethel, Head of Sotheby’s Photography Department. “ Bidders from around the world competed fiercely for the very best examples of classic images from the first half of the 20th century, with pieces by Herbert Bayer, László Moholy-Nagy, and Man Ray selling for multiples of their high estimates. A Show Of Hands: Photographs from The Collection of Henry Buhl now stands among the landmark single-owner auctions in this field, with the $12.3 million total the highest ever for a private collection of photographs sold at auction.”

Topping the sale were László Moholy-Nagy’s ‘Fotogramm’ (1925) and Herbert Bayer’s iconic (and often reproduced) ‘Lonely Metropolitan’ (1932) – each selling for a remarkable $1,482,500. Both are now equally listed as the joint-third most expensive classic photographs ever sold at auction.

In total, five of the photographs featured in the sale were amongst the ten most expensive sold at auction in 2012.

These included the experimental 1922 Man Ray work ‘Rayograph With Hand, Lens, And Egg’ which sold for $866,500; the Alfred Stieglitz photograph ‘Georgia O'keeffe -Hands And Thimble’ which sold for $770,500; and El Lissitzky’s ‘The Constrictor’ sold for $506,500, the 1925 print of which was originally gifted by the photographer to the artist Kate Steinitz.

The auction saw record prices set for the work of Herbert Bayer, El Lissitzky, Lee Miller, Peter Hujar, and Helen Levitt, along with new record prices for photographs by the artists Man Ray and Gabriel Orozco.

The bulk of the proceeds from the sale will be donated to the Buhl Foundation, an organization which supports projects in education, youth development, homeless charities and the arts.

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