NEW YORK, NY.- Christies announced the sale of The Constantiner Collection of Photographs, which will be offered in three sessions on 16 and 17 December 2008 in New York. Assembled by Leon and Michaela Constantiner, this spectacular collection focuses on photography as a key shaping force within the media worlds that have, for over half a century, celebrated fashion, style, celebrity and desire, and features some of the most sought-after artists, including Andy Warhol, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, Robert Mapplethorpe and Peter Lindbergh. Glamorized figures represent the core theme of the Costantiner Collection, with photographs from the era of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn to the vibrant contemporary universe of icons such as Kate Moss, Stephanie Seymour, Monica Bellucci and Madonna. Comprising of 320 lots, the collection is expected to achieve $7.5 to 11 million.
According to Philippe Garner, International Director of Photographs at Christie's: The Constantiner Collection eloquently recognizes, that fashion, publishing and film industries have become profoundly influential in shaping the references of our world, creating the focal points of dream and aspiration, a visual image-bank peopled by the hyper-real beauty of gloriously styled and cosmeticized gods and goddesses.
Indeed, the first session presents a lively mix of subjects that reflect all the threads that make this collection so distinctive; the subsequent sessions are structured around key themes, starting with a series of lots dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, then following with sections that focus on Hollywood and the great stars, the world of high fashion and erotic subjects, closing with a mix of photographs that demonstrate the full range of the Contantiners curiosity with reportage, landscape and architectural images, unified by their underlying romanticism.
The work of Helmut Newton struck a profound chord with Leon Constantiner from the moment he was first confronted by his prints in 1990. The Constantiner Collection boasts the best selection in private hands of work by this towering figure in the story of photography of the last forty years. Newton came to prominence in the 70s for his distinctive mix of sophistication and style with shrewd and witty social observation and perverse eroticism. The Collection presents a comprehensive survey of the photographers rich career, with his most celebrated images as well as rare and stunning less wellknown works including early fashion work, archive prints from Playboy magazine, unique Polaroids, and a series of dramatic large-format prints from the Sex & Landscapes exhibition of 2002. Among the highlights are life-size prints of Big Nude III: Henrietta (estimate: $400,000-600,000) and the four-panel Sie Kommen Naked and Dressed (estimate: $400,000-600,000) and the Bellucci (estimate: $40,000-60,000).
A Golden Era of Elegance
A thoughtfully selected group of pictures illustrate the theme of high fashion elegance from the 30s through to the later years of the 20th century. The emphasis is on what one might call the golden age of couture elegance that reached a pinnacle in the 1950s in the images of Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, and on the emergence in the 60s and 70s of new trends in which style was allied to a more youthful or edgy approach and the language of classic fashion photography was extended with confrontational, erotic or autobiographical narratives, as evidenced in the work of William Klein, Guy Bourdin and of course Helmut Newton. The Collection boasts an impressive range of images by Irving Penn including Lisa in Mermaid Dress by Marcel Rochas (estimate: $250,000-350,000), Black and White Vogue Cover (estimate: $200,000-300,000) and the more recent Lacroix Dress (estimate $50,000-70,000). Among the works by Avedon are his Stephanie Seymour (estimate: $120,000-180,000) and his Paris portfolio, a suite of eleven of his greatest images of Paris couture from the period 1948-1957, and his Fashion portfolio, 1978 (estimate: $120,000-180,000). The Collection includes work by other influential figures including Horst, George Hoyningen-Huene, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Norman Parkinson, Frank Horvat and Arthur Elgort, with estimates starting at $1,500.
In parallel with the unfolding of the story of high fashion, the Collection spotlights a succession of the most talented and glamorous stars of the cinema, from the period of Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner, Veronica Lake and Jane Russell through to a modern pantheon that includes Kim Basinger, Faye Dunaway, Michele Pfeiffer and Charlotte Rampling, and taking in such timeless beauties as Raquel Welch, Charlotte Rampling and Catherine Deneuve. Jane Russell is captured by celebrated Hollywood photographer George Hurrell in the 1941 film that showed her off to such advantage and made her famous, The Outlaw. A nude Charlotte Rampling features in studies by Helmut Newton (estimate: $10,000-15,000) and Jeanloup Sieff (estimate: $3,000-5,000). Michelle Pfeiffer is dressed in an Armani tuxedo playing the part of a male character from Private Lives by Noel Coward in a portrait by Herb Ritts (estimate: $5,000-7,000). Engaging male subjects include Irving Penns powerful portrait of Al Pacino (estimate: $20,000-30,000), David Bowie by Herb Ritts (estimate: $5,000-7,000) and studies of James Dean by Dennis Stock (estimate: $7,000-9,000 for two), and for a portfolio by Roy Schatt (estimate: $8,000-12,000).
The Constantiner Collection focuses in depth on the greatest female screen icon of them all Marilyn Monroe. Her glamorous public image is celebrated, while a range of informal and more intimate photographs build a powerful document of her personality and explore the fragile, vulnerable quality of her extraordinary appeal. The star is presented through the lens and artistry of an impressive roster, including Andy Warhol, André de Dienes, Tom Kelley, Elliott Erwitt, Eve Arnold, Gary Winogrand, Milton Greene and Bert Stern. Portraits by de Dienes dating from 1945-1949 show the teenage Norma Jeane Baker in the first blossoming of her beauty (estimates from $3,000); Tom Kelleys famous 1949 color nude of Monroe on a red background was featured in the premier issue of Playboy as the magazines first Sweetheart of the Month (estimate: $10,000-15,000); the celebrated scene of Monroe standing on a subway grating with her skirt billowing up is captured through several lenses including those of Erwitt, Winogrand(estimate: $5,000-7,000), and George Zimbel. Richard Avedons 1957 portrait captures a sad, touching, off-guard Monroe (estimate: $25,000-35,000), while a suite of 59 prints made as a dedicated exhibition for Le Mois de la Photo in Paris in 1992 includes all the key images from the extended shoot from 1962 by Bert Stern for American Vogue that became The Last Sitting. The planned September 1962 Vogue feature was just about to go to press when news came through of her tragic death. The text was changed and it ran as a memorial tribute (estimate: $100,000-150,000).
Elegantly styled and eroticized studies of the female nude are a key thread in the Collection, interweaving with the themes of fashion and film. Here are both iconic celebrities and anonymous subjects suggesting ideals of erotic beauty. While the Constantiner Collection tends, in this domain as in others, towards a classic concept of beauty, the selection of images is spiced by the occasional harder-edged subject, notably certain images by Helmut Newton that push taboos and conventions to the very limit, yet succeed through their dark humor and sheer self-confidence. A fine print of Movement Study I by Rudolph Koppitz, from 1925, is the earliest nude in the Collection. The image is a justly celebrated manifestation of the best in Austrian avant-garde art of its era. Robert Mapplethorpes abstracted study of a naked torso, Lydia, 1987, is an exceptional platinum print on linen (estimate: $100,000-150,000).
Neither Leon nor Michaela Constantiner is a native New Yorker. Both are of European origin and have made their home in Manhattan. They have nurtured romantic dreams in this city that has traditionally encouraged people to reach out for their ideals. Certain ideals have found form through the mediated codes of beauty the insistent imagery of magazine page and cinema screen that is at the very heart of the Constantiner Collection the city of New York itself emerges as a distinct and important theme. Through the eyes of such inspired photographers as Karl Struss, Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White or Hiroshi Sugimoto we discover New York as a city of dreams and aspirations. The city is also cleverly incorporated as a backdrop in a number of memorable fashion and figure studies. Karl Struss made a graphically powerful and emotionally resonant study, Cables, 1910-1912 (estimate: $80,000-120,000). The Collection includes two New York images from the series of studies made by Hiroshi Sugimoto of historic examples of great 20th century architecture, his Guggenheim Museum, 1997, in the rare large format (estimate: $150,000-200,000) and his United Nations Building, 1997 (estimate: $30,000-40,000).