Auction Preview: Photographs by Sally Mann, October 7, 2009 @Christie’s

The single owner, single artist auction is the event in the secondary markets that looks and feels most like a gallery or museum show. In fact, this upcoming sale at Christie’s bears a striking resemblance to a show of Sally Mann’s entire Immediate Family series held at Edwynn Houk Gallery (here) in New York in early 2008 (unfortunately, I no longer have the price list from that show for side by side comparisons of individual images then and now). In this case, a dedicated collector from Washington, D.C., has assembled a broad range of Mann’s work, and while most of the prints on offer here are from Immediate Family, there are a few others mixed in as well, some of which are unpublished. Overall, there are a total of 59 lots up for sale, with a total High estimate of $869000. (Catalog cover at right.)

In my experience, even after 20 years, these images still have a surprisingly polarizing effect on people: either they really like them (they are amazed by the quality of the prints, intrigued by the subtleties and vulnerabilities of youth etc.) or they find them very unsettling (the children are too young and exposed, too provocatively posed etc.). Perhaps this is the reason that a handful of images in this catalog have no online picture (“image not available”); while we might not call it censorship exactly, Christie’s seems to be exercising some discretion in the event these images are found too upsetting for some.
Here’s the breakdown:

Total Low Lots (high estimate up to and including $10000): 17
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): $133000

Total Mid Lots (high estimate between $10000 and $50000): 42
Total Mid Estimate: $736000

Total High Lots (high estimate above $50000): 0
Total High Estimate: NA
The top lot by High estimate is lot 307 Sally Mann, Candy Cigarette, 1989, at $30000-50000.
While Mann’s work is not a particularly good fit for our collecting genres, we have considered Night Blooming Cereus quite a few times over the years. The small 8×10 print in this sale is a terrific example of how size matters, as when this image gets printed larger, for some reason, it seems to take on a more Polynesian feel in our eyes, which we like quite a bit less. So our short list for this sale includes:
Lot 326 Sally Mann, Night Blooming Cereus, 1988 (at right)
Lot 350 Sally Mann, Gooseneck Loosestrife, 1985

The complete lot by lot catalog can be found here. The eCatalogue is located here.

20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020
UPDATE: After I published this preview, I got a nice note from the press folks at Christie’s with the following response to the online Mann images (or lack thereof): “Christie’s is being culturally sensitive to clients in all of the markets in which we operate.” Mystery solved.

Send this article to a friend

Read more about: Sally Mann, Christie's

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Pao Houa Her, My grandfather turned into a tiger … and other illusions

Pao Houa Her, My grandfather turned into a tiger … and other illusions

JTF (just the facts): Published by Aperture in 2024 (here). Softcover with dust jacket (17 x 22.5 cm), 124 pages, with 80 color and black-and-white reproductions. Includes a conversation between ... Read on.

Sign up for our weekly email newsletter