November 17, 2011 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography


The market for fine photography has had a pretty spectacular week in France. Last Friday night at Christie's 100 photographs by the legendary Henri Cartier-Bresson hit the auction block, sold by the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation and netting a hefty €2 million ($2.8 million). Ninety-one lots sold, and a 1946 silver print of "Derrière la Gare Saint-Lazare" ("Behind the Saint-Lazare Train Station") achieved an artist's record when it soared to €433,000 ($590,455), more than doubling its high estimate of €180,000. This sale was followed the very next day by a sale of 51 Irving Penn photographs from a private French collection, which achieved a rare 100 percent sell-through rate and totaled €2.1 million ($2.9 million).

During the Cartier-Bresson sale, an anonymous telephone bidder won a five-way bidding war for "Derrière la Gare Saint-Lazare," which was one of the photographer's first silver prints. A 1999 print of "Alberto Giacometti à la Galerie Maeght, 1961" fetched the impressive price of €75,400 ($102,818), five times its low estimate of €15,000. An anonymous European collector purchased the photo, which shows the sculptor in blurred movement, looking very much like his "Walking Man" sculpture, which is in the foreground. A 1957 print of "Coronation of George VI, Trafalgar Square, London, 12 May 1937" sold for €70,600 ($96,273), and "Sringar, Kashmir, India, 1948" achieved the same price. Most of the buyers were European collectors, though an Asian buyer snapped up "Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, 1949" for €63,400 ($86,455). (The proceeds of the sale are go towards the Cartier-Bresson Foundation's move to a larger space in the Marais near the Pompidou Center.)

As for the Irving Penn sale, it may not have set any records, but it did mark the second-highest price ever for a Penn photo. The 1951 print, "Woman in Moroccan Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn)," sold for €361,000 ($492,273), surpassing its high estimate of €300,000. (Penn's auction record was set at Christie's New York in April 2008, when his 1948 photo "Cuzco Children" fetched $529,000. ) While all the Cartier-Bresson images except for the top lot sold for less than €100,000, two other Penn photographs reached six figures. A 1979 print of "Harlequin Dress (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn") sold for €265,000 ($361,364) and "Poppy, Glowing Embers, New York, 1968" achieved a price of €193,000 ($263,182).

Tags: Paris auctions. photography auctions auction records Henri Cartier-Bresson