art & design
Sotheby’s: 10 Tips for Collecting Photography
Photography is an engaging and accessible collecting category. But before making a purchase, savvy collectors need to consider a few key points. Sotheby’s Photographs Department shares their top tips.
Stay Current The photographs market is robust and diverse, and there’s a lot to see. And seeing – at every possible opportunity – is the best way to refine your eye. Come to Sotheby’s auctions, visit local galleries and look out for important exhibitions, like Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium opening at The Getty on 15 March.
The Classics Never Go Out of Style Photographs auctions offer collectors the chance to own the iconic images that can be found in art history books and even museum collections. An ever-popular favourite is this image by Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Examine Condition Spend time understanding the condition of a photograph and how it compares to other works by the same photographer and made in the same medium. This William Garnett gelatin silver print has remained in the same excellent condition since it was exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art in 1956.
Know the Medium Understanding medium is important, because like condition, it can help guide you in understanding what criteria your photograph should meet. There are gelatin silver prints, albumen prints, chromogenic prints, dye-transfer prints and digital prints, to name a few. On matte surface paper, with very lush charcoal blacks, this Irving Penn photograph exemplifies the photographer’s mastery of the platinum-palladium process.
Pay Attention to Scale Like all art, photographs come in a range of sizes, so pay close attention to dimensions in a catalogue or online. Better yet, try to make it to the presale exhibition where you can see the photographs hanging on a wall.
Provenance Counts Be sure to inquire about provenance (the history of an object). Property that comes from a descendant or associate of the photographer is an extra bonus. This Robert Frank photograph originally comes from the collection of curator, editor and Scalo publisher Walter Keller.
Read Up Catalogues contain a wealth of interesting, useful – and often surprising – information about the works up for auction. In some cases, you might even learn that the photograph you admire has historical importance. Take this example of Dieter Appelt’s Forth Bridge—Cinema. Metric Space; it’s a phenomenal grid of 312 photographs that was commissioned by the Centre Canadien d’Architecture.
Meet the Specialists What’s better than a catalogue? Getting to know the specialists who write them. Sotheby’s Photographs specialists are here to answer your questions and assist you in building your collection. If you’re looking to learn more about the market in general or if there is a particular artist or photograph you’re drawn to, stop by, call or email.
Respect Your Investment Photographs are an investment and should be treated with care. Always keep your art away from direct sunlight and humid environments and frame responsibly with archival materials and UV-protective plexiglas.
Buy What You Love Ultimately, it is most important that you love your new photograph, whether it’s fashion photography, a classic image by a modernist master or an iconic portrait. This arresting contemporary photograph is a favourite of the department this season.
Seven Decades of Fashion Photography
Sotheby’s April 3rd Photographs auction includes work by many masters of the medium, and features a range of material from the 19th to 21st centuries. Leading the sale is Man Ray’s Rayograph, a striking unique photogram from 1924. Classic American photographs include an impressive mural-sized print of Ansel Adams’s Yosemite Valley from Inspiration Point. Iconic fashion and portraiture are well-represented in works by Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and Robert Mapplethorpe. Significant contemporary offerings include works by Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Désirée Dolron, Vera Lutter, and Hiroshi Sugimoto, among others. These photographs, as well as ones by Robert Adams, Robert Frank, and Diane Arbus, will be on view during our pre-auction exhibition in New York beginning March 29th.
On Sunday April 3rd, Session One will begin at 12:00 PM, immediately following the conclusion of the presale exhibition. Session Two will begin at 2:00 PM.
Unless otherwise stated in the lot description, the photograph is a gelatin silver print and is not offered as one of a limited edition.
03 April 2016 | New York