Inaugural fine photography sale for Bonhams New York intrigues bidders in late October

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Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C., 1962 Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971). Gelatin silver print. 14 5/8 inches by 14 5/8 inches.

Bonhams’ first sale of fine photographs simulcast to its New York City salesroom brought nearly $600,000 on Oct. 28, with several lots inspiring competitive bidding and robust landscapes capturing collector interest. The San Francisco and New York City sale featured views of each city as well as familiar images from lauded photographers of the mid-1800s to the present.

The sale’s top lot was a work by the legendary Diane Arbus. Titled Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, the 1962 black and white image was printed by Neil Selkirk in 1972 and had been acquired by an agent direct from Doon Arbus who had numbered it 59 of 75. The photograph of the exasperated-looking boy sold for $54,000.

Also drawing much collector attention were beautiful prints from Ansel Adams and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Adams’ vividly contrasted Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico and Sugimoto’s stark and moody Irish Sea, Isle of Man II both fetched $24,000. Several large format murals of Ansel Adams works were commissioned in the mid-1950s by the American Trust Company (that firm later acquired by Wells Fargo Bank). Sold separately, the group brought more than $35,000. They were offered from the collection of Richard Lorenz who had removed the seven mammoth murals before the bank building was demolished and the Transamerica Pyramid constructed.

A collector paid $13,200 for a platinum print signed and dated by Laura Gilpin, Bryce Canyon, 1930. Laura Gilpin worked almost exclusively in platinum and silver bromide prints up until 1935. According to Bonhams specialists, she maintained a passion for platinum prints throughout her life.

Two works by the iconic Henri Cartier-Bresson performed well, his 1961 image of Siphnos, Greece, a signed gelatin silver print printed circa 1990, sold within estimate for $11,400, while his 1959 image Queen Charlotte’s Ball, London outperformed its estimate of $7,000-$9,000, as bidding danced to $11,100.

Another lot selling above estimate was a dreamy architectural view by Julius Shulman who photographed a Richard Neutra commission in Palm Springs in 1947. The gelatin silver print Kaufman House, shot from the backyard pool area, sold for $5,100. Several perspectives on New York City attracted bids: 1940s works depicting children on the streets of the Big Apple by Helen Levitt, a 1916 photogravure by Paul Strand (sold for $7,200) and 42nd Street as Viewed from Weehawken, 1942, by Andreas Feininger (brought $7,200). Windstorm in Greenwich Village, NYC, 1949, by Ruth Orkin sold within estimate for $3,300.

Of particular interest to bidders was a gelatin silver print from Iranian artist Shirin Neshat. Titled Guardians of Revolution, the piece is from her stunning and controversial “Women of Allah” series. Questioning issues related to fundamentalism, religion and the role of women in the Middle East, the acclaimed series intersects the merging position of culture and politics of the state. Touching off a very competitive round of bidding, the work sold for $20,400. Another work by the Iranian artist, in collaboration with Israeli artist Izhar Patkin, Untitled (Hands), 2005, sold for $7,200. This digital inkjet print was signed by both artists and numbered 78/100.

Portraiture offered and sold included a pair of Helmut Newton photographs, one depicting Mick Jagger while in Paris in 1977 (jumpin’ Jack cash – sold for $6,000), the other captured the image of film director John Huston playing poker in Los Angeles in 1984 (brought $3,000). An Edward Weston gelatin silver print depicted an attentive cat on a weathered wood stump. The work was a gift in the 1940s to the daughter of one of Weston’s best childhood friends; it brought $10,800, selling within estimate. The auction closed with an Annie Leibovitz chromogenic print Alpha List, Hollywood, 2003, with a baker’s dozen of Hollywood heartthrobs, including Tom and Tom (Cruise and Hanks), Brad, Matt, Hugh, Samuel L. Jackson, Harrison Ford and others, with only one A-lister donning his shades – Jack Nicholson.

The illustrated catalog remains online for review at www.bonhams.com/us.

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More Images:

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Guardians of Revolution, from Women of Allah series, 1994. Shirin Neshat (Iranian, born 1957). Gelatin silver print, calligraphic inscription by the photographer in ink on the image; signed, titled, dated, and annotated 'artist proof' in ink on verso. 8 1/4 inches by 7 1/2 inches.
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Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.

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