In its series of art market rankings designed to highlight some of its key trends, this week, artprice take a look at the photography market at auction.
thierry Ehrmann: “The photography market represents just 1.7% of global Fine Art auction turnover, and 3% of the total number of Fine Art lots sold. But it has very interesting specificities that distinguish it from other Fine Art segments, starting with the fact that it is strongly dominated by Contemporary Art. Somewhat unusually, the figurehead of this market is, this year again, a woman, and an artist at the height of her art… Cindy Sherman”.
1. Cindy Sherman (1954) – United States
With 18 lots already auctioned above the $1 million threshold, Cindy Sherman is one of the three unmissable artists in today’s photography market. The prices of her photos have been gradually rising since 2012 and her market is particularly liquid with more than 60 photographs selling at auction per year and an unsold rate of just 20%.
2. Richard Prince (1949) – US
3. Andreas Gursky (1955) – Germany
4. Wolfgang Tillmans (1968) – Germany
Single edition photographs from Tillmans’ series Freischwimmer Einzelganger and Greifber have been hugely successful over the last two years in auction rooms and now fetch over $600,000. Yet more than 60% of his photos still sell for under $50,000 at auction. Wolfgang Tillmans was discovered by the general public in 2000 after winning the Turner Prize. In 2017, he was offered a retrospective at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel.
5. Irving Penn (1917-2009) – United States
6. Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) – United States
7. Hiroshi Sugimoto (1948) – Japan
While the United States largely dominates the photography market, Germany, Japan and France are still very attached to this medium. Hiroshi Sugimoto has been the most successful Japanese photographer on the secondary market for the last 15 years. His maritime horizons – photographed all over the planet – form his most accomplished works and the works most appreciated by collectors. His major photos, in five editions, today fetch over $300,000.
8. Richard Avedon (1923-2004) – United States
9. Ansel Easton Adams (1902-1984) – United States
10. Diane Arbus (1923-1971) – United States
11. Helmut Newton (1920-2004) – Germany
Newton is one of the rare major photographers to have hammered an auction record in 2018. The only known print of Panoramic Nude with Gun, Villa d’Este Como (1989) far exceeded Phillips’ estimates in London on 18 May, fetching nearly a million dollars.
12. Peter Beard (1938) – United States
13. Thomas Ruff (1958) – Germany
14. Barbara Kruger (1945) – United States
15. Gerhard Richter (1932) – Germany
16. Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884) – France
In 2018 no less than 77 photographs by Gustave Le Gray were auctioned, with a peak price of $225,000. This performance makes Le Gray the most successful 19th century photographer – or, put another way – the photography market’s leading historical figure. However, the prices of his works seem to be contracting. Boats leaving the port of Le Havre (1856-57), which had set a record $1,264,000 on 18 June 2011 at Rouillac (France), was resold for $965,000 on 17 February 2016 at Christie’s in New York.
17. Man Ray (1890-1976) – United States
The year 2017 gave a substantial boost to Man Ray’s market, notably by setting two successive records for his photographs. First Portrait of a tearful woman (1936) on 17 May 2017 in New York, and then Black and White (1926) on 9 November 2017 in Paris, acquired for $2.2 million and $3.1 million respectively. Although his best works were much rarer in 2018, Man Ray remains a pillar of the photography market.
18. Edward Henry Weston (1886-1958) – United States
19. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) – Hungary
20. Robert Frank (1924) – Switzerland
After experiencing strong price growth just before the 2008 crisis, the value of Robert Franck’s works has slowly stabilized. The price of his photos are still 2.5 times higher on average than 20 years ago, with results regularly exceeding $100,000.
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