Auction Results: Photographer Unknown: Pier 24 Photography from the Pilara Family Foundation, October 3, 2023 @Sotheby’s (online)

The piecemeal liquidation of the holdings of the Pier 24 Photography museum continued earlier this week at Sotheby’s with a no reserve sale of works by anonymous photographers. While two other sales last May brought in a combined tally of more that $10.6M (here and here), this smaller sale fared quite a bit less well, perhaps telling us something about the broader demand for even high quality collections of vernacular photography. While all the lots found buyers, nearly 90% of the lots did so below their estimate ranges, in some cases significantly below, so there were definitely some bargains to be had. With just one positive surprise (a selection of mugshots from the 1930s, including those of various famous gangsters) to help prop up the numbers, the Total Sale Proceeds (of roughly $85K) fell well below the low end of the aggregate pre-sale estimate range.

The summary statistics are below (all results include the buyer’s premium):

Summary Statistics
Total Lots 44
Aggregate Pre Sale Low Estimate $186400
Aggregate Pre Sale High Estimate $296000
Total Lots Sold 44
Total Lots Bought In 0
Buy In % 0.00%
Total Sale Proceeds $86679

Here is the breakdown (using our typical Low, Mid, and High definitions):

Detailed Breakdown
Low Total Lots 37
Total Low Lots Sold 37
Total Low Lots Bought In 0
Low Buy In % 0.00%
Aggregate High Estimate of Low Lots $141000
Total Proceeds from Low Lots $63692
Mid Total Lots 7
Total Mid Lots Sold 7
Total Mid Lots Bought In 0
Mid Buy In % 0.00%
Aggregate High Estimate of Mid Lots $155000
Total Proceeds from Mid Lots $22987
Total High Lots 0
Total High Lots Sold NA
Total High Lots Bought In NA
High Buy In % NA
Aggregate High Estimate of High Lots $0
Total Proceeds from High Lots $0

The top lot by High estimate was lot 14, Photographer Unknown, Selected Retratos Pintados, Brazil (Painted Portraits), c1950, estimated at $20000-30000; it sold at $6096. The top outcome of the sale was lot 3, Photographer Unknown, Mugshots and Crime Scene Photographs Related to the National Crime Syndicate, 1930-1940, estimated at $5000-7000, sold at $27940 (image above via Sotheby’s).

A dismal 11.36% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above the estimate range and there was just 1 positive surprise in the sale (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate) (images above via Sotheby’s):

Lot 3, Photographer Unknown, Mugshots and Crime Scene Photographs Related to the National Crime Syndicate, 1930-1940, estimated at $5000-7000, sold at $27940

The complete lot by lot results can be found here.

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