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Sotheby's auction of Photographs totals $4 million in New York
Ansel Adams, Aspens, Northern New Mexico mural-sized, flush-mounted, framed, 1958, probably printed in the 1960s. 30½ by 39 in. (77.5 by 99.1 cm.) Estimate $150/250,000. Sold for $187,500. Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s annual spring auction of important Photographs concluded on Friday afternoon in New York with 100+ works selling for an overall total of $4 million.

Emily Bierman, Head of Sotheby’s Photographs Department in New York, commented: “We are delighted with the results from the sale, which saw demand for photographs spanning more than 150 years of this medium. There was tremendous interest for classic fashion photography, led by Irving Penn’s seminal Black and White Vogue Cover and Woman in Chicken Hat, as well as for works by Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon. El Lissitzky’s masterpiece Pelikan Tinte topped the sale at $462,500, and it was nothing short of a privilege to handle the sale of this photograph from one of the most renowned collectors in our field, Manfred Heiting.”

Friday’s auction was led by an extremely rare print of Pelikan Tinte by El Lissitzky, which realized $462,500 (estimate $300/500,000). Among the Russian-born artist’s most famous works, Pelikan Tinte combines photogram and typography to stunning visual effect, marking Lissitzky’s shift from painting to his focus on photography and architectural projects. The rare work was further distinguished by its provenance, coming to auction after being in the personal collection of Manfred Heiting for nearly 30 years.

Fashion photography performed strongly throughout the sale, as bidders clamored for iconic images of the 20th and 21st centuries, including works by Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and Irving Penn. The genre was led by Penn’s platinum print of Black and White Vogue Cover which fetched $187,500 (estimate $150/250,000). The image was first published on the cover of the April 1950 issue of American Vogue, as the lead illustration for its feature article, ‘The Black and White Idea’. With its simple yet potent use of clean lines, symmetry, and positive and negative space, Black and White Vogue Cover was not only Penn’s first monochromatic cover, but also the first non-color Vogue cover in nearly 20 years.

Nickolas Muray’s never-before-seen images of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Miguel Covarrubias sold for $35,000 – establishing a new world auction record for the artist. The group of 78 photographs represents the most significant offering of work by the photographer to appear at auction. A prolific photographer for Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar, it was during his trips to Mexico visiting Covarrubias that Muray met Frida Kahlo, with whom he had a decade-long affair beginning in 1931. With sitters ranging from writer Carl van Vechten, composer Carlos Chavez, and illustrator John Held, Jr., to social realist artist Marian Greenwood, muralist Roberto Montenegro and actress Margo Albert, the photographs offer fascinating insight into the cultural landscape of Mexico in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s.

Three impressive mural-sized prints by Ansel Adams sold on Friday, including the horizontal version of Aspens, Northern New Mexico, which realized $187,500. American Modernism was represented further by Imogen Cunningham’s Orchid Cactus (Cactus Blossom), which fetched $150,000 (estimate $120/180,000). This masterfully-rendered enlargement, with the blossom’s anatomy filling the frame, is the only known print of this image.

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