The acceptance of photography as a fine art medium has a history extending back to the 1920s, but the market for contemporary photography among collectors and museums really gained establishment in the late 1990s. Photography, in all of its techniques and genres, is now considered to be one of the most important mediums for contemporary art, and one with great potential for increases in value. The future of photography in the art market is certain, and many artists are now graduating from the top art schools with a career focus on photography.
Contemporary Photography Market Ties to Washington, DC
Harry H. Lunn Jr., (1933-1998) Organizer of Paris Photo and photo dealer who was a pioneering force in the contemporary photography market. After a career as an intelligence operative, until he was outed in 1967, began dealing photography in the early ’70s in Washington, D.C. He handled everything from Berenice Abbott’s Eugene Atget archive to Robert Mapplethorpe’s “X Portfolio.”
Pre-1997 to present: Trends have included size increases in prints – high-gloss, wall-sized prints have replaced delicate prints in tiny frames. Frame and glass have been replaced by printing on blocked canvas and color photography has taken priority over black and white (Curator John Szarkowski aided this validation – Szarkowski-curated William Eggleston show at MoMA in 1976 and in England the early work of Gilbert & George). “Discovering” a ready-made has been replaced by careful staging (Cindy Sherman and Gregory Crewdson) and lighting of picture. Finely-printed limited-edition books of prints have become highly-collectible. These books have high production values, short print run and they are never reprinted.
1996: Paris Photo, the most important contemporary photography fair in the world, running in mid-November, launched.
1999: The Photography Market begins. The Marie-Thérèse and André Jammes sale of 19th Century French photographs (was supposed to be the Inaugural sale for Sotheby’s France) moved to London, fetched £7,430,693 or $14,682,472 (includes BP) 2002: The Marie-Thérèse and André Jammes second sale of 19th Century French photographs were sold at Sotheby’s
France fetching €6.2 million or $8,325,885 (includes BP) 2003: Gursky hits a rough patch, but rebounds in 2004 with a price index increase of 19%
2004: Drought – there were no exceptional public sales. Some, such as Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth or Bernd & Hilla Becher, saw their price indexes depreciate by between 24% and 44% that year – the number of photographs sold at auction has never been as low as it was in 2004 – 7,000 photographs went under the hammer last year compared with nearly 9,200 in 2000.
2005: Rebound for Vintage/Primitive – October, 12 2005 the portfolios of Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952): The North American Indian fetched $1.2 million at Christie´s (twice the high estimate). Records set in Contemporary Photography- November 8, 2005, Richard Prince, His Cowboy, a symbol of the Marlboro advertising campaigns, fetched $1.1 million at Christie’s Contemporary sale. May 2006, Andreas Gursky, 99 Cent, went for $2 million at Sotheby’s New York. In New York, at seven sales over the 6-12 October period, Sotheby’s, Christie´s and Phillips generated a combined turnover of $28.9 million, an unprecedented figure in the photography segment (with 80% sold to Americans)
2006: February 14, 2006, sales at Sotheby’s New York help the Vintage/Primitive Photography market. Edward Steichen, The Pond, Moonlight, $2.6 million, 2 Alfred Stieglitz prints: Georgia O´Keeffe (hands) and Georgia O´Keeffe (nude) sold $1.3 million & 1.2 million respectively.
2007: Single owners (Weston, Horst & Elfering) start selling – Sotheby’s realized $15.9 million in its three sales; Christie’s, $16.7 million in five sales; and Phillips $10.4 million in two sales and a very healthy second fair AIPAD [the April 12-15 annual show of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers]
Financier starts photo fund:Mehmet Dalman, the star of the German Commerzbank who in just three years as managing board member raised turnover from $25 million to $1.56 billion, now has his fund of 20th- and 21st-century photography. He has hired the
London dealer Zelda Cheatle to curate and build the collection, minimum investment is likely to be about $1 million.
99 Cent II (diptych), 2001
£1,700,000 (£1,771,653 BP) or $2,311,782 ($3,500,177 BP)
London – Feb. 7 2007
Richard Prince Untitled (Cowboy), 1989
New York – Nov. 8 2005