Of the three auction houses, Christie’s generated the highest revenue. From its three sales of photographs (10 to 12 October) – entitled respectively “The Gert Elfering Collection,” “Robert Mapplethorpe Flowers” and “Photographs” – Christie's generated USD 14.5 million. Of the total 409 lots on offer, 85% found buyers. The following major artists set new auction records at the Christie's sales: Richard Avedon (USD 464,000 with buyer premium), Irving Penn (USD 307,200), Robert Mapplethorpe (USD 352,000), Peter Beard (USD 192,000), Horst P. Horst (USD 216,000), as well as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn and Brassaï.
These results illustrate the exceptional growth of the modern photography market. According to Artprice data, this segment's price index has risen 88% since October 2001.
Sotheby’s also did very well indeed. The star lot of Sotheby's two photography sessions was a print entitled “The Breath” by Edward Weston (1886-1958) which on 10 October fetched USD 720,000, the highest price ever obtained by a modern photograph at auction. Edward Weston's previous record was set at Sotheby's on 17 October 2003 when his 1927 print entitled “Two Shells” fetched USD 410,000. On 11 October, the same auction house managed to equal its record of the previous day by selling “White Angel Bread Line” by Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) for USD 720,000. Prior to this sale, Lange's auction record had been USD 120,000 for her “Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California”. Sotheby's also generated a number of other notable records including USD 400,000 for “Chez Mondrian” by André Kertész (1894-1985), USD 140,000 for “Eleanor” by Harry Callahan (1912-1999), and USD 180,000 for “The First Round” by Pierre Dubreuil (1872-1944).
Phillips, for its part, had mainly focused its catalogue on contemporary photography. Its best result was generated by Andreas Gursky's (born 1955), “EM, Arena I”, 2000, which on 6 October fetched USD 264,000 excluding fees, or USD 291,520 including fees. The very same photograph was on offer on the Artprice market place last April for USD 250,000.