Is photography immune to the economic crisis?

An interesting article found its way into my inbox this morning. Well…maybe it is less interesting and more optimistic. Either way, it is making my rainy morning just a little brighter.7102100041

Glasshouse Images / Image ID: 7102100041

Article from Art Price:

Has photography proven crisis-proof? [Nov 08]

Confronted with the crisis, the results achieved on the sale of the last photographs in the Jammes collection on 15 November at Christie’s were more measured than alarming. Prices on old negatives are proving resilient, with modern and contemporary photography being harder hit. Whatever the period or medium, the photography market enjoyed the strongest growth in the last decade. Between the last speculative bubble in the art market in 1990 and last summer, the photography price index posted an increase of +131%, compared with +55% for sculpture, the second most popular medium over the same period.

The dispersal of the Jammes collection belonging to Marie-Thérèse and André Jammes effectively put 20th century photography in the spotlight. This dispersal which began in 1999 at Sotheby’s, was to continue in 2002 with two more sales, before concluding in 2008 at the same auction house. In 1999, a number of spectacular sales generated a real shock wave and a +191% rise in prices in two years. The sale of Grande vague, Sète Gustave LE GRAY (1820-1884) is an abiding memory: the print achieved ten times its estimate, the hammer coming down at GBP 460,000, a peak it has never again reached. Since then, the record for an albumin print of this same Grande Vague has been GBP 85,000.

During the last phase of the Jammes sale on 15 November, Sotheby’s catalogue cover boasted a very rare Baron Jean-Baptiste GROS daguerreotype, on which the hammer came down at EUR 180,000. A price level certainly in line with expectation in that it did not surpass its estimate, but which nonetheless beat its previous record by some EUR 90,000. Supported by the quality of the work and a historic provenance, the results were pretty positive with only 27.4% remaining unsold, a rather reassuring level in view of the 42% of prints bought in at other photography sales, irrespective of period, in October and November 2008 (rate recorded on 12 November).

The October sales have seen modern and contemporary rather than historic photography achieve more than their due, with five-figure sale results far more frequent for 20th century photographs. Some stars of the contemporary scene have even propelled photography to million-ticket highs. We might mention the USD 3 million achieved by the Richard PRINCE Cowboy at Sotheby’s NY in November 2007.

At the New York sales dedicated to photography, the most sought-after names suffered the greatest setbacks. More than half the works which had been expected to achieve USD 100,000 remained unsold. At Christie’s, for example, 53% of the negatives being auctioned at Rockfeller Plaza on 14 October remained on their books…


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