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Christie's December Photographs Sale Offers Exceptional Array of Works
David Bailey (b. 1938), "Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski", 1969. Gelatin silver print, printed, 1988. Unique print this size. Estimate: $10,000-15,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2009.

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announced the sale of Photographs on December 7, which will conclude the Fall 2009 season for the category. With viewings open to the public from December 3-6, the sale presents a distinct array of themes varying from the examination of the human form, the western frontier, to decadent and glamorous fashion photography. The 190 lots included in the sale are expected to realize in the region of $950,000-$1.4 million.

Important highlights from the sale include a unique oversized print by David Bailey of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, (estimate: $8,000-12,000) made for a 1989 traveling exhibition, The Art of Photography: 150 years, 1839-1989. This defining image of the couple was taken the year Sharon Tate fell victim to the murder spree of the Charles Manson-led cult, and represents one of the last images of Tate with her husband, film director Roman Polanski. This oversized version was not printed until 1988. One of the creative forces during the 1960s cultural explosion known as ‘Swinging London,’ Bailey set out to capture some of the most iconic figures of the moment and his publication Goodbye Baby and Amen, to which this photograph belongs, is a fascinating tribute to that era.

The sale’s cover lot is a captivating work by Thomas Struth, Grab von Lu Xun, Shanghai Express, 1997, (estimate: $20,000-30,000). This large format, decidedly detailed and meditative image is emblematic of Struth's work during the mid to late 1990s. The present lot bridges the gap between his smaller format Shanghai street scenes and later large scale Paradise series works, all nearly void of human presence. Another auction highlight, Richard Avedon’s portrait of the legendary New York socialite Babe Paley, 1960 (estimate: $10,000-15,000), is accompanied by an original glassine sleeve dedicated ‘For the Babe! xxx Dick’.

The sale will feature a fascinating range of fashion photography. The haunting and spell-binding imagery of Japanese photographer, Izima Kaoru, is well represented; Hasegawa Kyoko wears Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche (estimate: $6,000-8,000) embodies the eerie sensation of ultimate beauty turned to horrific nightmare, and simultaneously forces the viewer to consider the serenity of death itself. Through stark contrasts of light and dark, William Klein’s Anouk Aimee, Paris, for Vogue, 1962, (estimate: $4,000-6,000) personifies the glamorous, luxurious, and classical beauty of old Hollywood. The essence of film noire is encapsulated in Horst P. Horst’s iconic Mainbocher Corset, 1939 (estimate $7,000-9,000), which beautifully contrasts the natural curves of the human figure with the inflexible lines of fashion.

An important compilation of Ansel Adam’s photographs captures the vastness of the barren Western landscape. An oversized print of Moonrise, Hernandez, Northern New Mexico, 1941 (estimate: $25,000-35,000) and a Special Edition of Fine Prints: Photographs of Yosemite, 1960s (estimate: $20,000-30,000) contains some of Adam’s most classic, beloved images.

Among the notable highlights is a quintessential group of Edward S. Curtis photographs of Native Americans that illustrate their character and strength even in the face of increasing obsolescence. The platinum print, Zuni Governor, 1905 (estimate: $5,000-7,000) brings attention to the hard lines and shapes of the Governor’s face and captures his intensity and resolve. The earthy tonalities of An Oasis in the Badlands, 1905 (estimate: $4,000-6,000), an image of a lone chief on horseback, embodies the sorrow of a vanishing culture.

The sale will contain a fine selection of Edward Weston nudes, several of the late Charis Wilson, his muse and model for over a decade. The gentle, gray tones and bend of the body of Torso, 1925, from Desnudos (estimate: $5,000-7,000), transform the figure into a sublime image of porcelain-like perfection. The black background of Nude, 1934 (estimate: $4,000-6,000) highlights the soft and fragile nature of the body, while the position reminds the viewer of the ways in which the body can shield and protect. The absence of the face in Weston’s nudes further focuses attention on the exquisite, abstract beauty and resilience of the human form.

Following the recent record-breaking success for a work by Marcus Aurelius Root this October at Christie's Miller-Plummer Collection auction, this sale will offer Root’s Boy with Cat, 10 July, 1855, (estimate: $4,000-6,000). The half-plate daguerreotype with hand-coloring depicts a young boy holding a small cat. Another daguerreotype depicting Two Children by Jeremiah Gurney (estimate: $3,000-5,000) will also be offered.

Rounding out the sale will be works by great masters of the medium Irving Penn, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Joel-Peter Witkin, Harry Callahan, Peter Beard, Alfred Stieglitz, and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Auction: Photographs, 7 December at 2pm
Viewing: 3-6 December at Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries

Christie's | Sale of Photographs | David Bailey | Roman Polanski |

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