Phillips to Showcase Works by Master Photographers in October Auctions, featuring The Collection of Ruth Ansel

Phillips is pleased to announce its first Photographs sales of the fall season, taking place over the course of three sessions in October. Comprised of 257 lots in total, the Evening Sale will be held on 5 October at 6pm EST, followed by the Day Sale on 6 October at 11am and 3pm EST. Two private collections will figure prominently, including An Influential Vision: The Collection of Ruth Ansel, as well as Property of a Corporate Collection, New York.    Among the sale highlights of the Evening Sale are Richard Avedon’s luscious Brigitte Bardot, hair by Alexandre, Paris, January 27, 1959 (illustrated above), Gilbert & George’s exceptionally rare, Day, 1978, an early print of Robert Frank’s City Fathers, Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955-1956, the portfolio Americans in Kodochrome, which charmingly captures the aesthetic of early snapshot photography, and an edition of Hans Bellmer’s Les jeux de la poupée (The Games of the Doll), 1949 in superb condition.

Sarah Krueger, Phillips’ Head of Sale, Photographs, said, “After our successful spring sales earlier this year, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring works of such a high caliber to collectors in October. Strong examples by leading photographers will be on offer, including an impressive selection of works that showcase the legacies of Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus.”

Richard Avedon’s Brigitte Bardot, hair by Alexandre, Paris, January 27, 1959,  is the cover lot of the catalogue and is expected to bring $220,000- 280,000 in the Evening Sale.  Taken in January 1959 for inclusion in the March issue of Harper’s Bazaar, this portrait captured a time when Bardot was quickly escalating to a new peak with her career, after catapulting into the public sphere in 1956.  Avedon meanwhile, was approaching a 15-year anniversary at the magazine and was in the process of creating his first book, Observations.  His tightly cropped and straight-on portrait emphasizes the intensity of Bardot’s sensuality and was selected by Avedon for Observations, forever marking the print as one of his early masterworks.

Leading the Evening Sale is Gilbert & George’s Day, 1978, estimated at $600,000- 800,000.  Composed of sixteen panels portraying the duo, contrasted with an image taken from the streets near their East End apartment, Day is a stunning example of Gilbert & George’s highly sought-after work produced in the late-1970s. From their series 1978, Day is one of the last works by Gilbert & George to feature the singular color palette that defined their early work—a cool black and white, set against a vibrant red. The upper, black and white panels in Day depict four possibly transient men on the street, their backs to the camera concealing any identifying characteristics.  Juxtaposed with this is the duo’s hallmark enlarged self-portrait in red; the very opposite of anonymous, their faces and identities irrefutable.  Combined, the gridded composition creates a work of intrigue that is both striking in subject and monumental in size.

An early print of Robert Frank’s City Fathers, Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955-1956, is among the most iconic images in the artist’s oeuvre and is expected to bring $200,000- 300,000 in the Evening Sale. Upon receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1955, Frank travelled across the country with the intention of observing and recording the infrastructure upholding American society. City Fathers, along with 82 other images, was carefully sequenced in Frank’s seminal book Les Américains, printed by French publisher, Delpire in 1958. The following year, The Americans was published in the United States.  Based on the social and political climate of the time, the book was met with resistance and was strongly criticized for being “Anti-American.” The New Yorker, however, recognizing Frank’s astute observations, called the work a “beautiful social comment” that exposed “the special quality of American life with brutal sensitivity.” Sixty years later, The Americans remains one of the most influential bodies of work in the history of the medium.

Examples of work by American photographers can be found in offerings by Diane Arbus in the Evening Sale including her iconic Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C., 1962 which has a pre-sale estimate of $70,000- 90,000 and Garry Winogrand’s whimsical portrayal of two dogs walking each other through a New York City park in the Day Sale, estimated at $8,000-12,000. Additional works by Arbus include Seated female impersonator with arms crossed on her bare chest, N.Y.C., 1960. Estimated at $25,000- 35,000 in the Evening Sale this image is one from a series of photographs of female impersonators that Arbus started taking in 1959. Another print of the image is in included in the current major retrospective at the Met Breuer, diane arbus: in the beginning, which focuses on her fundamental early work from the years 1956-1962.

Two works from Irving Penn’s Small Trades series are also included in the auction. Porter, New York, 1951, and Patissiers, Paris, 1950. Estimated at $40,000- 60,000 each, they are iconic examples from the series, which lasted two years, stretching over London, New York and Paris. Penn asked everyday tradesmen to appear at his studio and, in lieu of direction, he asked his subjects to occupy the space as they wished, allowing their personalities to slowly emerge under his patient eye.

Never before offered at auction, a portfolio of 93 dye transfer prints titled Americans in Kodachrome is expected to bring $100,000- 150,000 and represents just a sample of the thousands of images taken between 1945 and 1965 from across the United States that were submitted to professional printer Guy Stricherz at the end of the twentieth century.  Kodak’s release of Kodachrome film marked the beginning of accessible and popular color photography. The process—easy, affordable, and remarkably stable—was a marvel, forever changing the face of picture making. The images that comprise Americans in Kodachrome showcase a wide array of relationships between the photographs and those captured within them. Incredibly rare, only two complete sets of the portfolio exist, including the present lot.

Edward Steichen’s George Washington Bridge, New York, 1931 (illustrated page 5) is among the earlier prints that will be on offer. When asked to submit a mural for the opening exhibition of the Museum of Modern Art’s new location at 11 West 53rd Street, Edward Steichen chose an image of the George Washington Bridge. At the time, he was the chief photographer for Condé Nast Publications and the most recognized, highest paid photographer in the world. For this project, he chose an image of steel, enlarged to the immense size of 10’ high by 8’ wide. Though taken from a slightly different vantage point than the photograph used for Steichen’s mural, the present lot is an equally modern vision of man’s advancement through the technological achievement of industry.

An Influential Vision: The Collection of Ruth Ansel will highlight Phillips’ Day Sale of Photographs on 6 October.  Over the course of a vibrant and long-standing career, Ruth Ansel has come to define visual culture. Starting at Harper’s Bazaar in 1962, she collaborated with industry greats such as Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Bill Brandt, amongst others, to create leading content and design. Following her departure in 1971, she has continued to work with illustrious publications such as The New York Times Magazine and Vanity Fair, where she reshaped the magazine’s visual identity. Comprised of thirty-five lots, many of these images are fresh to the market, including those that were produced under her art direction. Highlights from her collection include Diane Arbus’ Toddler being held in garden, N.J., 1968 on offer for $25,000- 35,000, and Annie Leibovitz’s Muhammad Ali, New York, 1996 (illustrated below, left), estimated at $12,000- 18,000.  

Ten impressive photographs from a New York corporate collection will also span the Evening and Day sales.  Included in this selection are two works by Robert Misrach from 2003 – Untitled #451-03  and Untitled #114-03, each estimated for $40,000- 60,000.  The works, from a series entitled On the Beach, depict the sand and sea (respectively) and are embedded with deep introspection on the state of humanity and its vulnerability.  The level of detail in these works is masterful, with every footprint and wave resonating with the viewer standing before them.

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