Auction Results: Photographs, March 24-April 3, 2020 (online) @Sotheby’s

Given the unprecedented circumstances in which the Sotheby’s Photographs sale took place last Friday, it’s hard to declare the results anything but a success. While Christie’s and Phillips opted to reschedule their spring photography auctions, Sotheby’s soldiered on, converting the sale into an online only affair. This led to the unsurprising withdrawal of 28 lots, but the rest of the consignors held on, and the sale proceeded.

With world economies and stock markets in a jumble, the sale managed to bring in nearly $3M in Total Sale Proceeds, which has to have been something of a victory. For those collectors willing to wade into the chaos, there were clearly some buying opportunities and relative bargains to be had. The overall Buy-In rate was a respectable for the moment 38%, the top lot Moholy-Nagy photogram found a buyer, and there were even a couple of positive surprises (including a lovely Christian Marclay unspooled cassette tape cyanotype). Sure, the Total Sale Proceeds missed the low end of the aggregate pre-sale estimate range by a decent margin, but kudos to Sotheby’s for working to keep the market even partially liquid and for having the courage to publish the results regardless of the outcome.

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

Summary Statistics
Total Lots 199
Aggregate Pre Sale Low Estimate $3916500
Aggregate Pre Sale High Estimate $5979500
Total Lots Sold 122
Total Lots Bought In 77
Buy In % 38.69%
Total Sale Proceeds $2994875

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

Detailed Breakdown
Low Total Lots 56
Total Low Lots Sold 37
Total Low Lots Bought In 19
Low Buy In % 33.93%
Aggregate High Estimate of Low Lots $413500
Total Proceeds from Low Lots $252500
Mid Total Lots 127
Total Mid Lots Sold 76
Total Mid Lots Bought In 51
Mid Buy In % 10.16%
Aggregate High Estimate of Mid Lots $3286000
Total Proceeds from Mid Lots $1440875
Total High Lots 16
Total High Lots Sold 9
Total High Lots Bought In 7
High Buy In % 43.75%
Aggregate High Estimate of High Lots $2280000
Total Proceeds from High Lots $1301500

The top lot by High estimate was lot 62, László Moholy-Nagy, Photogram cover for the magazine Broom, 1922, estimated at $400000-600000; it was also the top outcome of the sale at $524000 (image above, via Sotheby’s).

72.13% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above the estimate range and there were a total of 2 positive surprises in the sale (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate) (images above via Sotheby’s):

Lot 3, Christian Marclay, Memento (UB40), 2008, estimated at $50000-70000, sold at $162500

Lot 201, Annie Leibovitz, Liberace and Scott Thorson, Las Vegas, 1981, estimated at $5000-7000, sold at $15000

The complete lot by lot results can be found here.

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Read more about: Annie Leibovitz, Christian Marclay, László Moholy-Nagy, Sotheby's

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