New York Auction House Photography Sales – March 30 and 31, 2009

There are some noteworthy examples of photographs that feature Black subjects in the Monday, March 30th and Tuesday, March 31st sales of Photographs at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction house in New York.

At Sotheby’s Robert Mapplethorpe’s “Selected Images of Ajitto” feature two silver gelatin prints available for an auction estimate of $15,000 – $25,000. The property is from the art collection of the Bank of America. At Christie’s “Ajitto” 1981 offers four silver gelatin prints estimated for sale at $ 120,000 – $ 180,000.

ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE (1946 - 1989) Selected Images of Ajitto
ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE (1946 - 1989) Selected Images of Ajitto - for sale at Sotheby's, March 30, 2009
Sothbey’s also offers James Van Der Zee’s work in a portfolio of eighteen photographs focusing on various themes such as family, religion, education, and leisure time. The photographs are dated 1905-1938 and were printed in 1974 by Graphics International, Ltd. based in Washington, D.C. The portfolio is estimated to sell at $ 15,000 to $ 25,000.
Couple, Harlem, 1932
JAMES VAN DER ZEE ( 1886 - 1983) Couple, Harlem, 1932
At Christie’s, a Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) gelatin silver print of a young woman and child sitting on a bed, naked, from his “East 100th Street, New York, 1966-1968” book is estimated to sell at $ 7,000 – $ 9,000. It will be interesting to see whether Davidson’s work fetches within the estimate or exceeds it. “East 100th Street, New York” is a riveting portrayal of the black and latino community living in what is also known as “Spanish Harlem” or El Barrio.

Untitled (from "East 100th Street, New York, 1966-1968)
Untitled (from "East 100th Street, New York, 1966-1968)

State of the Black Photography Market — Questions and Reflections

When I shared that I had created this blog with a friend, mentor, and fellow photographer, he quickly asked that I explore with my readers the marketplace that black photographers engage in to sell their work. I told him: “I’m working on it.” I want to make sure I project the “correct voice” when tackling this sensitive topic. Truthfully, today, after engaging with this subject for over twenty years, I am more confused than ever about why black photographers’ work is so grossly undervalued in the international photography market. There, I’ve said it.

I would appreciate hearing your insights and response to my proposition.

“African Mosaics I”

I was pleased to find a collection called African Mosaics I posted on Flickr by photographer, Sulaiman Ellison. I worked with Sulaiman and other photographers on an exhibition called “Hidden Voices” in the mid-1990s at the 843 Studio Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. I was always impressed with his work on Africa.

The portfolio of forty-eight images offer a rich presentation of every day life in parts of Egypt, Ethiopia, Mali, among other locations on the continent. I am particularly impressed with architectural, cultural, and familial images. I believe this body of work covers a fifteen to twenty year period starting in the 1980s.

At friends house-Seydou playing his guitar for Musa. Djenne, Mali-1981.
At friends house-Seydou playing his guitar for Musa. Djenne, Mali-1981