On June 19th, Christies
will offer photographs assembled by New York collector Léon Constantiner that celebrate glamour, elegance and idealised beauty. The first sale, at Christies New York in 2008, presenting works from his collection was a landmark event in the photography auction market, underscoring the importance of the great editorial photographers who captured so memorably our ideals of beauty in the inspirational post-war decades of fashion and style magazines. The works now on sale the treasures that Constantiner had kept back to enjoy just a little longer focus again on such emblematic figures as Helmut Newton, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts and Peter Lindberg, whose reputations were made through the printed page, but whose work is today so highly prized by collectors in the form of spectacular prints. The Photographs department is pleased to present some of the 20th centurys most celebrated, truly iconic images of glamour and style that should attract global interest from collectors. In 2010, during the sale dedicated to photographer Richard Avedon, a print of Dovima with Elephants, achieved an outstanding price of 841.000, a world record for the artist. A major part of the Constantiner collection will be exhibited from 11th to 16th May, in London, Christies King Street.
The collection is a very personal one, articulated around refrains dear to Leon Constantiner. He has followed his instinct and acquired only the work of photographers who have touched him emotionally and who have evoked a singular vision of our society, and with a particular fascination with the eternal, enigmatic theme of female beauty. More recently, he has been drawn to emotive landscapes by a corpus of young Israeli artists.
Elodie Morel, Director of the Photographs department, Europe : It is a great honour to present The Leon Constantiner Collection in Paris Paris, the international capital of photography, and also the city of fashion and elegance. For the first time in Paris, we propose an exceptional collection of images that have become icons, works of art that reflect the creativity of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, who achieved prominence through the greatly increased diffusion of sophisticated magazines.
Helmut Newton: Leon Constantiner discovered Newtons work in 1991; this year was the starting point for Constantiners passion for photography. The sale will offer a strong selection of Newtons signature images, well representing his unique vision, led by one of his most radical and famous works: the diptych Sie Kommen, naked and dressed, Paris, 1981 (150,000-250,000). Philippe Garner, International Consultant, notes: Helmut Newton saw himself as a documentary photographer. Always intrigued by a certain type of womans lifestyle, he based his carefully structured images on his shrewd observations of gestures and social protocols. He usually set his models in evocative locations rather than in the studio, and spiced the images with mischievous elements of provocation. His pictures imply intriguing narratives and backstories and he was ever-inventive in giving a twist to any commission, such as we see in the 1995 Polaroid Poster project for Wolford (8,000-12,000).
A golden age of style
The Constantiner collection will allow collectors to rediscover images that define the elegance of the late 1940s and 1950s, highlighted by a fine selection of photographs by the fabled Vogue photographer Irving Penn, including Harlequin Dress (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), 1950, (200,000-300,000) and Woman in Moroccan Palace, Marrakech, 1951 (200,000-300,000). The legendary fashion photographer Richard Avedon is represented by his masterpiece, Dovima with Elephants, Evening Dress by Dior, Cirque dHiver, Paris, 1955 (250,000-350,000).
The collection offers insights into the various trends that shaped fashion and beauty photography from the 1960s to the 1980s. Among the highlights are stunning large-format works by Herb Ritts and Peter Lindbergh, notably Rittss graphically dramatic, natural-light composition Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage, 1990 (80,000-120,000), his Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood, 1989 (80,000-120,000), or Lindberghs celebrated image made as a cover for American Vogue, a line-up of the Supermodels of the day, Biker Girls, Brooklyn (70,000-100,000, ill. left). The famous 1975 diptych of Jerry Hall by Norman Parkinson (8,000 -12,000) is one of several works in the collection by this eccentric British master.
Among the icons dear to Leon Constantiner, Marilyn Monroe holds a special place. The collector acquired numerous portraits of the actress in her intimacy, sometimes in her vulnerability, but always in her incredible power of attraction. These portraits were made by notable photographers who include Gordon Parks (Marilyn Monroe, c. 1959 3,000-5,000), André de Dienes and Bert Stern.
The autobiographical aspect of the collection becomes evident through a selection of pictures dedicated to New York. Leon Constantiner discovered the city at the age of 7. New York was enchanting to him; everything seemed possible. Andy Warhols composite piece, Statue of Liberty, 1976-1986 (40,000-60,000), or Burt Glinns shot depicting the artist, his muse Edie Sedgwick and Chuck Wein embodying the myth and lure of the city (3,000-5,000). The architecture of New York, its authority and its powerful symbolism are well expressed in the mysterious soft focus of Seagram Building, captured by the eloquent eye of Hiroshi Sugimoto, (15,000-35,000).