Auction Preview: Christie’s First Open Post-War and Contemporary Art, September 9, 2008

This post about Christie’s upcoming First Open Post-War and Contemporary Art sale can be considered a companion piece to last week’s post about Sotheby’s upcoming Contemporary Art sale, as they both contain the same type of slightly lower end work, and are scheduled to follow each other next week. More importantly, this sale also raises the same questions about the nature of “photography” in the context of Contemporary Art.

Of the 238 lots up for sale at Christie’s, I think 29 qualify as “photography” (broadly defined), as listed below:

Marina Abramovic, Rhythm 10, 1973/1994
John Baldessari, One and Three Fans (with Triadic Emotional Spread), 1993
Vanessa Beecroft, VBGDW, 2000
Sharon Core, Around the Cake, 2003
Lynn Davis, Jonas Salk Institute, 2000
Dan Graham, Ziggaurut, Skyscraper 1967 and Two Way Mirror, 1976
Dan Graham, Tract Housing, 1978 and New Housing Development, 1966
Roni Horn, Untitled (Fox), 2000
Alfredo Jaar, Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner, 1988
Anselm Kiefer, Snow, 1980
Louise Lawler, Objects, 1985
Vera Lutter, Pepsi Rooftop, Vent and Logo, August 8, 2000, 2000
Yasumasa Morimura, Self-Portrait (Actress) after Liza Minelli 1, 1996
Shirin Neshat, Rapture Series, 1999
Shirin Neshat, I am its Secret, 1993
Thomas Ruff, Substrat 7III, 2002
Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #13, 1978
Laurie Simmons, Lying Fountain, 1991
Laurie Simmons, The Music of Regret X, 1994
Lorna Simpson, Untitled (cabin in the sky), 2001
Mike and Doug Starn, X, 1989
Thomas Struth, Tokyo, Tokyo Fair, 1999
Ruud van Empel, World #9, 2005
John Waters, Three Sirk Mirrors, 1998
Wang Qingsong, Another Battle #7, 2001
Carrie Mae Weems, Sea Island Series, 1992
Weng Fen, Staring at the Lake 2, 2005
Zhang Huan, To Raise The Water Level In A Fish Pond (Waterchild), 1997
Zhang Huan, Foam, 1998

If we take this list of artists and merge it with the one from the Sotheby’s sale, I think we would have the beginnings of a solid list of the key crossover artists at work today.

To our eyes, the standout lot in this sale, by a very large margin, is the cover image, Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #13, 1978. This image is one of the best of the film stills and is a unique print; it could easily have gone in the high end VIP only evening sale given the interest in her work, which begs the question why it is here. For our collection, the Vera Lutter (one of our favorites) and the two diptychs by Dan Graham would be the best fits.

A few other random thoughts triggered by this catalog:

  • Contemporary Chinese photography has clearly established itself in the mainstream. And yet it doesn’t seem that from a scholarly point of view that this work has been assimilated into the entire narrative of the history of photography. I’d like to have this work placed in context a bit more to understand it better.
  • Even though the Photography sales coming in October will have some of the same artists (if not the same exact images), none of the pages in the back used for promoting future sales are used for photography. This was true as well in the Sotheby’s catalog. This is a puzzler to me.
  • The Christie’s Buyer’s Premium thresholds have been raised in tandem with those at Sotheby’s. This catalog has the step down thresholds at $50,000 and $1,000,000 versus $20,000 and $500,000 (where they were in the spring sales).

First Open Post-War and Contemporary Art
September 9, 2008

20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020

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