Auction Preview: Constantiner Collection, Part II, February 12th @Christie’s

While the snow keeps coming down, there is no surer sign of Spring than the arrival of the first major photography auction catalogues. The 2009 Spring auction season begins with Part II of the Constantiner Collection, a lower-end sibling of the sale that set the record for a single owner photography sale at Christie’s (over $7.7M) last December (original posts for preview here and results here), despite coming to market in the worst of times. (Catalogue cover at right.)

As a reminder, the Constantiner Collection focuses on fashion and glamour images, with a heavy dose of Helmut Newton and Marilyn Monroe. This second part of the sale follows this same pattern, with 26 pictures by Newton (including an enlarged pair of contact prints from Sie Kommen which probably belonged in the first part of the sale) and 39 more lots of Monroe imagery. Here are the statistics for the auction:
Total Lots: 155
Total Low Estimate: $1143000
Total High Estimate: $1734500
Total Low Lots (high estimate below $10000): 113
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): $523500
Total Mid Lots (high estimate between $10000 and $50000): 38
Total Mid Estimate: $771000
Total High Lots (high estimate above $50000): 4
Total High Estimate: $440000

While there isn’t much to tempt us in this particular bunch of pictures, I think this second selection helps to tell a more rounded story of this collection. While Part I was filled with iconic pictures, scarce portfolios and trophy lots, this sale shows the hallmarks of the passion of the collectors. There are plenty of lesser known photographers and outlier images. This is evidence that these collectors were consistently looking at the images themselves, and not just the names and the prices. They had a certain eye for what they found of interest, and were willing to pursue unheralded pictures (by unfamiliar artists) and add them to their collection over time, even if they weren’t recognized masterpieces. And they continued to add depth to the collection, long after they had achieved critical mass. This kind of amazing collection is only built with single minded, relentless pursuit over many years.

Since the economic climate is perhaps even gloomier than when the first sale occurred, it is extremely difficult to predict how this sale might fare. The first sale was proof that the demand for fashion and glamour imagery is broader and deeper than many had imagined. This sale will test the edges of that demand a bit, and might give us some clues as to the evolving nature of the overall market for photography this year.

February 12th
20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020

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