Season’s Greetings

Wishing you and yours a mindful holiday celebration.

Black Men with Christmas Trees

Donna and the ATFA Appraisals team.

USPAP compliant appraisals of paintings, photography, prints and sculpture.



Recent Photography Sales at Auction

It’s October and a number of photography auctions are taking place across the country and around the world.  Here is the first installment of some noteworthy results in our field of study.

Swann Auction Galleries – October 5, 2017
At the recent auction of African-American Fine Art at Swann Auction Galleries, nine photographs by artists such as Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Louis Draper, P.H. Polk, Roy DeCarava, and James VanDerZee were offered for sale.  The top three lots included:

  • Four panels from Carrie Mae Weems’ Sea Island Series produced in 1992, Estimate: 30,000-50,000 USD, sold for 45,000 USD with buyer’s premium;
  • Dancers (1956) by Roy DeCarava, silver gelatin photograph, printed in 1981, Estimate: 15,000 – 25,000 USD, sold for 23,750 USD with buyer’s premium; and
  • C-Ration (1991) by Lorna Simpson, silver print (diptych), Estimate 3,000 –  5,000 USD, sold for 8,750 USD with buyer’s premium.
LORNA SIMPSON (1960 – )  C-Ration.

Sotheby’s – October 5, 2017

Noteworthy at the Sotheby’s Photographs auction is Charleston, S.C. by Robert Frank.  Estimated to sell between 300,000 – 500,000 USD, the oversized print, signed, titled and dated in 1955, printed in 1967-68, sold for 348,500 USD including buyer’s premium.

Sotheby’s – September 28, 2017

PostWar and Contemporary Photographs featured works by Kudzanai Chiurai and Yinka Shonibare MBE.

Kudzanai Chiurai



Some Photography/Art Response and Recovery Resources

For collectors of photographs, whether individuals or institutions, there are several good resources on disaster recovery.

Smithsonian’s Cultural Rescue Initiative

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works

*Field Guide to Emergency Response videos

salvage photos
Water Segment video, AICHA

CERF+ The Artists Safety Net video

As Hurricanes Descend, Top Conservators Set Up an Emergency Hotline—and App—to Rescue Waterlogged Art – Artnews 9/8/17

Clock is ticking to dry out and salvage flood-damaged possessions left in wake of Hurricane Harvey – Houston Chronicle 9/4/17


Top Selling Photographs at Swann African-American Art Auction, April 6, 2017

The top selling photographs at Swann’s recent auction of African-American Art included James Van Der Zee’s Eighteen Photographs, and Carrie Mae Weems’ Chocolate Colored Man.

In Chocolate Colored Man, a three-toned gelatin silver print triptych produced in 1989-90, one views three profiles of a man labeled individually by three different terms: Chocolate Colored Man.  The 16 x 18 inches framed work was produced in an edition of three (3), and is part of the Colored People series.  The work sold for 68, 750 USD (with buyer’s premium),  and had an auction estimate of 35,000-50,000 USD.

The April 6th sale at Swann’s was the fourth time that James Van Der Zee’s Eighteen Photographs were sold at the auction house.  The portfolio was produced in an edition of 75.  It contains eighteen (18) mounted silver and sepia-toned silver prints produced between 1905 and 1938.  As written in the online catalogue about the 32/75 edition:

A handsome portfolio, published by Harry Lunn, Jr., with iconic images from VanDerZee’s photographic career. It includes various subjects of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as studies of Marcus Garvey, Daddy Grace, and formal family portraits.

In this sale, the portfolio sold for 87,500 USD (with buyer’s premium), and had an auction estimate of 40,000-60,000 USD.  On October 15, 2007, edition 36/75 of the portfolio was unsold at Swann’s 19th and 20th Century Photographs and Photobooks auction, with an estimate of 10,000-15,000 USD.   A few months later it sold for 26,400 USD in the February 19, 2008 sale of African-American Art.  The auction estimate was 15,000-20,000 USD.  Later that year, edition 8/75 sold for 40,800 USD, with auction estimate of 15,000-20,000 USD.

VanDerZee Weems

Recent Photography Sales at Auction

End of September and October generated a small listing of photographs by black photographers at auction with Swann Auction Galleries and Phillips.  Here’s a quick round-up of the results.

Swann’s October 6th African-American Art Auction
Photographs by James Van Der Zee (1886-1983) were featured at Swann Auction Galleries, October 6th sale of African-American Art.  Portraits of the Barefoot Prophet (Lot 9) and Hazel Scott (Lot 10) were sold at auction estimates, $2,860 and $ 3,250.  And a portfolio of eighteen (18) silver gelatin and sepia prints (Lot 11) sold for $ 87,500, surpassing the auction estimate of $30,000 – 50,000.  From the online catalogue: A handsome portfolio, published by Harry Lunn, Jr., with iconic images from VanDerZee’s photographic career. It includes various subjects of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as studies of Marcus Garvey, Daddy Grace, and formal family portraits.

Prentice Herman Polk (1898-1985), Lot 14, a portfolio of eleven (11) prints featuring such commonly published images as The Boss (1932), and The Pipe Smoker (1932) sold for $ 13,750.  From the online catalogue: Edition of 60 numbered copies. Each signed in ink, lower right. Signed and numbered 18/60 on the title page of the introduction. Published by South Light, Gladewater, Texas in 1981.

Lot 67, Boy and H, Harlem (Stickball) by Louis Draper (1935-2002) sold for $3,000 its low estimate.  Draper was a founding member of Kamoinge, a New York-based black photographers collective, active 1963 to the present.

M33797-1 002

Carrie Mae Weems’ (1953-) work represented in Lots 142, Mirror, Mirror, and Lot 165, Tell me, I beseech you, when I casted my vote to you, did I cast it to the wind?, sold for $ 25,000 and $2,000 respectively.  Each realized the low estimate.

Phillips’ Photographs Evening & Day Sale, October 5 & 6 featured Roy DeCarava’s Arnette, NY, Lot 103, which sold for $ 16,250, the auction estimate.


Recent Sales of Work by Black Photographers

Just a quick round-up of recent sales of works by black photographers that came to auction.

At the April 7, 2016 Swann Galleries auction of African-American Fine Art, Carrie Mae Weem’s Blue Black Boy was sold for $40,000 (hammer price), the low estimate for this lot.  From the Colored People series, the work consists of a triptych of three toned gelatin silver prints with text and frame, dated 1987-88.  This work is part of an edition of 3.  The artist printed a single image of this work in an edition of 5 in 1997, an example of which sold at Sotheby’s April 1, 2015 for $25,000.


I like to see examples of artist portraits of other artists.  This portrait photograph of Maya Angelou is particularly striking and fetched an impressive sale price of $ 14,000 (hammer price), 14 times the low estimate.  The work was sold at the September 15, 2015 sale of The Art Collection of Maya Angelou at Swann Galleries.  Photographed by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, the 1993 silver print is hand colored measuring 10 x 10 1/2 inches.

Maya Angelou

American Gothic, one of Gordon Park’s most famous images, sold at Be-Hold, October 22, 2015 for $ 2,600.  The 1942 image was printed in 1991 and measures 10 x 7 1/8 inches on a 13 x 11 inch sheet.  The photograph sold above its high estimate.

American Gothic.png