Sothebys set the highest ever price recorded for Victorian photography in its recent auction to celebrate its photographic department's 50th birthday. The collection of images by British photographer William Henry Fox Talbot raised $1,956,000, four times its pre-sale estimate.
The collection contained almost 200 items, including 71 photographs, had been gifted to Fox Talbot's sister Henrietta in the 1840s. It comprises of some of the earliest images ever taken by the man who invented the first negative process, and who was only just pipped by Frenchman Louis Daguerre to inventing photography itself.
The collection is comprised of loose photographs, personal albums, fascicles of The Pencil of Nature, and a complete Sun Pictures in Scotland. It is arguably the most important lot of 19th century photographs to have ever come to market.
Many of the lots in the online auction remained unsold however. An early print of Ansel Adams' Moonrise, estimated at $500,00-700,000, was amongst the photographs failing to meet its reserve.
Emily Bierman, Sotheby’s Head of Photographs in New York, commented, “This record-shattering sale is a true celebration of the birth of photography – the most inventive and beautiful artistic medium of our time. The fierce competition between bidders in Europe, America, and Asia demonstrates the enormous appetite among a broad base of collectors. After 50 years of traditional auctions of Photographs at Sotheby’s, bidding on this landmark collection of 19th century photographs was conducted entirely online – a resounding confirmation that we are indeed in a new, exciting, digital era.”
Original story: 14 April 2021 Renown auction house Sotheby's is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its photographic department this week by holding an online auction which will sell off some of the most famous photographs from the first two centuries of photography.
The online auction which is being simultaneously hosted by both the New York and London branches of Sotheby's is now opeen for bidding and will run for 10 days.
The 50 items on sale stretch the full history of photography, from some of the earliest works by the British pioneer Henry Fox Talbot, through to the distinctively-modern portraiture of Chris Levine and Zanele Muholi. Other prominent photographers whose work is available to purchase include Lee Miller, Imogen Cunningham, Sebastiao Salgado, Robert Frank, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Richard Avedon.
The image predicted to cost the most at the sale is a 15x18in early print of Ansel Adams’ iconic 1941 landscape image Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (estimate $500,00-700,000).
“For 50 years Sotheby’s has been at the vanguard of Photographs auctions, continually redefining the criteria against which our market is judged," Emily Bierman, Sotheby’s Head of Photographs in New York . We are thrilled to present this transatlantic sale – the first of its kind within the Photographs market – as a celebration of the most beautiful and inventive artistic medium of our time."
Brandei Estes, Sotheby’s Head of Photographs in London, adds: “As the first international auction house to hold dedicated sales of Photography, it is remarkable to see how this medium has grown into one of the most dynamic, active markets in the art world. Once considered ephemera that were often lumped into books or prints sales, we’ve seen incredible strides in how the category has developed, from the rise of fashion photography to the emergence of Instagram as the dominant social media platform that has only reinforced the mass appeal of photography and opened a new generation of collectors to the possibilities of the medium".
Full details of the 50 Masterworks to Celebrate 50 Years of Sotheby’s Photographs sale can be seen in the auction catalogues.