Round-up on Spring Photography Auctions

The March and April photography auctions have drawn to a close.  Here’s a quick round-up of noteworthy sales.

Christie’s, First Open Post-War and Contemporary Art, New York, Rockefeller Plaza ( SALE 2421, March 10, 2011)

LOT 0035

Lorna Simpson (b. 1960), Nervous Conditions (see right)

Color Polaroid prints with engraved Plexiglas
48 7/8 x 20 1/8 in. (124.1 x 51.1 cm.)
Executed in 1992. This work is number four from an edition of five.

Estimate: $6,000 – $8,000  Price Realized: $ 10,625

SALE TOTAL: 10,278,275 (USD) (Prices include buyer’s premium)

Christie’s, Crossing America: Photographs from the Consolidated Freightways Collection, Part I
New York, Rockefeller Plaza (Sale 2522, 7 April 2011)

Lot 235

P.H. POLK (1898-1984), The Boss, 1932

Gelatin silver print, 9¼ x 7½in. (23.5 x 19.3cm.)

Estimate $2,500 – $3,500 Price realized: $1,750.  First time Christie’s sold a Polk image.

Three (3) Lots

(Lot 237) He’s too tired to change, c 1954

Estimate $4,000 – $6,000  Price realized:$2,750

(Lot 239) Three Men Standing on a Corner, Morning, 1950,
Estimate $4,000 – $6,000  Price realized: $6,875

(Lot 240) Untitled, c 1959,
Estimate $4,000 – $6,000 Price realized: $6,875

All gelatin silver prints.

SALE TOTAL: 1,838,437 (USD) (Prices include buyer’s premium)


Roy DeCarava Photographs to Auction at Sotheby’s

Lots 79 through 82 of Sotheby’s April 13th Photography Auction include works by Roy DeCarava. The images were originally included in the library of entertainer and social activist, Harry Belafonte.

Catalogue notes indicate that the images were used as part of the production of Belafonte: New York 19, a CBS television special broadcasted on Sunday, 20 November 1960. Along with DeCarava’s well-known work on jazz musicians and Harlem, he collaborated on album photography for Belafonte.

Roy DeCarava (1919-2009) Dancers' Legs, New York 19, ca. 1956, printed ca. 1960. Estimate: 10,000-15,000 USD. Lot 81.

Roy De Carava (1919-2009)

One of the world’s greatest photographers passed on Tuesday, October 27, 2009: Roy De Carava. His contributions to the world of photography are insurmountable. He was a skilled practitioner of the medium, teacher and mentor, activist, and role model for countless photographers, particularly black photographers living and working in the United States and abroad.

If you are not familiar with Mr. De Carava’s work I encourage you to read The Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955), co-produced with Langston Hughes and work your way forward to the catalog representing his retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1996).

Several media outlets have written on Mr. De Carava’s passing:

The New York Times


The Los Angeles Times

Mr. De Carava was the first African-American photographer to receive a Guggenheim fellowship (1952).  See his interview on Charlie Rose in 1996, the year he received the National Medal of Arts.

Graduation, 1949
Graduation, 1949


Swann Auction Galleries will be selling 403 lots of photographic literature and fine photographs on Thursday, May 14th at 10:30am and 2:30pm.

Among the lots are African diaspora photographs by W. Eugene Smith, Roy De Carava, Moneta Sleet, Jr., Mario Cravo Neto, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. The photographs are largely 20th century images of black life in urban centers (see lots 300/302/318) and black civil rights leadership (see lots 277/323/324 ). There is a moving “portrait” by Mario Cravo Neto, Ode, (estimate $ 3,000 to $4, 500) and a nineteenth-century carte-des-visite of Sojourner Truth “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance.”

Roy De Carava’s work is represented by the sale of his book, co-authored with Langston Hughes, The Sweet Flypaper of Life (estimate $500 to $700), and a portfolio of 12 dust-grain photogravures entitled “Roy De Carava” estimated at $ 50, 000 to $70,000.

I encourage you to review the online catalogue.