Auction Preview: Photographs, November 22, 2008 @Phillips London

Given the nature of the auction business, it is often the case that collections and groups of work are sold all at once, the result of death, divorce, or some other life changing event that requires the liquidation of one’s assets. Parsing through the catalog’s fine print, it is sometimes possible to reconstruct where the lots came from en masse, or where the original groupings were. The current London sale from Phillips has a very structured feel as a result of this kind of group selling, with distinct sections of work that are nearly unrelated, intermingled with various lots from other consignors. Let’s take a look at the underlying framework of this sale:

Lots 1-5 Oxfam benefit lots
Lots 6-23 Mixed/random (mostly pre 1975)
Lots 24-31 Mapplethorpe lots from Lisa Lyon
Lots 32-101 Mixed contemporary lots (Phillips’ bread and butter)
Lots 102-120 Arab/Iranian lots (new area of exploration, perhaps another area to separate themselves from the rest of the auction pack)
Lots 121-130 Contemporary Chinese/Korean lots (area of Phillips’ leadership, due to being the first to bring this type of work to the auction market)
Lots 131-175 Japanese lots from the Jacobsen/Ishimoto collection (mostly 1930s)
Lots 176-188 Other Japanese lots (mostly contemporary)

So depending on your interests, you can likely focus on certain parts of this catalog and browse through the others as background or general education. The sale has a total of 188 lots up for sale, with a total high estimate of 1623500 Pounds. Here’s the price breakdown:

Total Low Lots (high estimate below 5000 Pounds): 98
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): 296500 Pounds

Total Mid Lots (high estimate between 5000 and 25000 Pounds): 81
Total Mid Estimate: 807000 Pounds

Total High Lots (high estimate above 25000 Pounds): 9
Total High Estimate: 520000 Pounds

The heaviness at the Low end of this sale is due to the large number of low priced lots in the vintage Japanese collection. Otherwise, this is a generally strong Mid range sale.

For our collection, there are some interesting pieces among the Jacobsen/Ishimoto collection, many of which aren’t often readily available here in the US:

  • Lot 134 Ori Umesaka, Flower I, II, III, IV, c1930
  • Lot 156 Iwao Yamawaki, Bicycle rack, 1930-1932 (image at right)
  • Lot 173 Iwao Yamawaki, Abstraction (scissors and cardboard with shadow), 1932

Beyond these, we also like the following contemporary lots, even though they don’t fit into our collection as directly:

  • Lot 66 Desiree Dolron, Librario Escuela Julio Mela, 2002-2003
  • Lot 70 Ruud van Empel, Moon #1, 2005
  • Lot 82 Edward Burtynsky, Shipyard #22, Qili Port, Zheliang Province, China, 2005

While these Japanese lots may be of interest to those attending Paris Photo (where this year’s focus is on Japanese photography), we wonder about how broad an audience this work actually has. It will also be interesting to see how the Arab/Iranian work does, given that it is new to most collectors. All in all, a bit of a strange mix, but at least it isn’t a boring rehashing of the usual suspects.

November 22nd

Phillips De Pury & Company
Howick Place
London SW1P 1BB

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