Artist Name : Andreas Gursky Artwork Title : Rhein II Auction House: Christie’s New york Auction Title : Post-War Contemporary Evening Sale Sale year : November 8, 2011 Price Estimates : $ 2,500,000 – 3,500,000 Price Realized : $ 4,338,500
Photography is the science and art of creating durable images, often used as a medium to document life. Photography has transformed how we see and capture images of the world. Photographic artists capture the moments, displaying the diversity of modern life and the natural world. Though a painting is a more-sought after and higher-priced segment at auctions, photography’s popularity in the art market is on the rise -- and demanding similar prices.
Works by Cindy Sherman, who is best known for her conceptual portraits, and by Andreas Gursky, who is known for his large-format architecture and landscape color photographs are by far the most sought-after photographers at auction. Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills,” a collection of 70 black-and-white photographs, and Gursky’s “Rhein II” are the most expensive photographs of all times.
Sotheby’s auction house introduced regular sales of photographs in London in 1971, and subsequently, many well-established auction houses began including works of American and European modern and contemporary photographers in auctions. Sotheby’s and Christie’s lead the market, with sturdy results for iconic works that span the entire history of the medium, from the 19th century. The g auction at Phillips, London on November 1, and the upcoming auctions at Christie’s Paris on November 8 and Sotheby’s Paris on November 9, are offering a collection of vintage, modern and contemporary photographs.
The standout works of prominent photographers like Sherman, Richard Avedon, Constantin Brancusi, Irving Penn, Shirin Neshat and many more, will be seen at these auctions.
Analytical Insights powered by BASI (Blouin Art Sales Index): This section includes: • Top 20 photographs by total sales of all time. • Top 20 photographers by total sales (in USD) in the period 2010 to 2017. • Market share of top 5 photographers (2010 to 2017). • Geographical share of the photography auction market (2010 to 2017- at public auctions). • Top auctions where the photographs sold (2010-2017). • Number of photographs sold in various estimated price bands (in USD).
* This analysis pertains to data on public auctions only.
1. Top 20 Photographs sold at Public Auctions of All – Time
Cindy Sherman has five works that were sold in the past auctions that were among the top 20 photographs, according to BASI. Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills” is a top-selling lot that consists of black-and-white photographs of the artist posed in the guises of various generic female film characters and stereotypical female roles inspired by 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, film noir and European art-house films. In 2014 at Christie’s New York Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Auction, the series sold for $6.8 million.
Andreas Gursky has the second top-selling work among these top 20 photographs. “Rhein II” sets a world record for a photograph. The image shows the Rhine River under gray skies, and it is sold for $4.3 million at a Christie's auction in New York 2011. Other top photographs by total sales are shown in the graph below.
2. Top 20 Photographers by Total Sales (in USD) in the Period 2010 to 2017.
The top 20 photographers in the period 2010 to 2017 are shown below, based on total sale values and number of lots sold. Cindy Sherman recorded the highest sale total of $96.5 million, but her total was against a sale of 495 artworks. Andreas Gursky stood at No. 2 with total sales of $83.4 million of 211 artworks. The other top photographers were Richard Prince, Irving Penn, Ansel Adams, Vik Muniz and Hiroshi Sugimoto.
3. Market Share of the Top Five Photographers in the Period 2010 to 2017
The market share of the top 5 photographers in the period of 2010 to 2017 is shown in the graph below. Cindy Sherman tops the list with a sale value of $96.5 million and her works account for 28.1 percent share of the photography market. Andreas Gursky had almost similar market share at 26.7 percent. Irving Penn has been the third in the photographs segment with a market share of 14.4 percent in the past years. Unsurprisingly, the most expensive photographs in the top 10 are by Sherman and Gursky.
4. Geographical Market Share of the Photography Auction Market (2010 to 2017- Public Auctions)
New York’s share of photographs sold at auction registered 51.4 percent and London’s share came in at 27.6 percent, while Paris registered 10.2 percent. The remainder accounted for 10.9 percent.
5. Top Auctions Where the Photographs Sold (2010-2017)
The top three photography auctions in the 8-year period all occurred in 2014 in New York, according to the data. The auction “175 Masterworks to Celebrate 175 Years Of Photography: Property from Joy of Giving Something Foundation” at Sotheby’s New York posted total sales of $21.5million for 160 lots; the “Contemporary Art Evening Sale” at Sotheby’s had five photographs that sold for a total $18.15 million; and the “Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale” at Christie’s New York posted sales of $16.06 million. The total sales and sale volume for each of these auctions also shown in the graph below.
6. Number of Photographs sold in various estimated low price bands (in USD).
In the past 8 years, most (53.82 percent) of the photographs have sold in the low estimated price range of $1,000 to $10,000. Only 86 photographs have sold for above $1 million in that period.