Auction Results: The American Scene including Important Photographs from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, May 24, 2022 @Sotheby’s

Given the broad appeal of the work of Ansel Adams, even beyond the boundaries of the world of photography, it seemed liked a plausible experiment to include a selection of Adams prints in a sale of American paintings from roughly the same period. A version of this trial balloon was lofted skyward last week at Sotheby’s, where 10 prints by Adams, all from New Mexico, including a vintage Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico print, were mixed in with works by Winslow Homer, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole, George Inness, and others, in a sale titled “The American Scene including Important Photographs from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation”.

Sadly, this experiment largely failed. Not only did the Moonrise print fail to sell, so did most of the photographs on offer. The Buy-In rate for photography came in at 60.00%, and with no positive surprises, the Total Sale Proceeds for photography tallied up at a paltry $42K, well below the low end of the aggregate pre-sale estimate. And while the effort wasn’t successful this time, I expect we’ll see this kind of broaden-the-market crossover approach again soon.

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

Summary Statistics
Total Lots 10
Aggregate Pre Sale Low Estimate $287000
Aggregate Pre Sale High Estimate $462000
Total Lots Sold 4
Total Lots Bought In 6
Buy In % 60.00%
Total Sale Proceeds $42462

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

Detailed Breakdown
Low Total Lots 2
Total Low Lots Sold 2
Total Low Lots Bought In 0
Low Buy In % 0.00%
Aggregate High Estimate of Low Lots $17000
Total Proceeds from Low Lots $12222
Mid Total Lots 7
Total Mid Lots Sold 2
Total Mid Lots Bought In 5
Mid Buy In % 71.43%
Aggregate High Estimate of Mid Lots $195000
Total Proceeds from Mid Lots $30240
Total High Lots 1
Total High Lots Sold 0
Total High Lots Bought In 1
High Buy In % 100.00%
Aggregate High Estimate of High Lots $250000
Total Proceeds from High Lots $0

The top photography lot by High estimate was lot 1029, Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941/early 1940s, estimated at $150000-250000; it did not sell. The top photography outcome of the sale was lot 1057, Ansel Adams, The Rio Grande, Below Taos, 1941/early 1940s, estimated at $20000-30000, sold at $20160 (image above via Sotheby’s).

75.00% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above the estimate range and there were n0 positive surprises in the sale (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate).

The complete lot by lot results can be found here.

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