New York City is a great place for the visual arts. Museums like the Met, MoMA, Brooklyn, the ICP, the Guggenheim and the Whitney. Then there’s the multitude of commercial art galleries where work from ancient to modern can be seen. There are quite a few art schools here, too.
However, another type of venue one may not think of immediately as a place to view art are the auction houses here. New York has the big ones like Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips de Pury, plus specialist auction houses like Swann. Lots of beautiful things are auctioned off every week, and before each auction is held, there’s normally a preview period of several days during which time the public can come in to see the works to be sold off – even if they have no intention to buy anything.
So, during the two times a year when the big houses get together to hold their photography auctions – normally April and October – I try to make an effort to go and see the previews. In a way, it’s like going to a museum of photography where works by the biggest names are on display – people like Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, Helmut Newton, Edward Weston, Irving Penn, etc.- and it’s all for free. (Well, looking is free, at least.)
This week is the week for the photography auctions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Philips, so my plan was to get into Manhattan early this past Saturday so I’d have enough time to get to all three. Well, I did get in Manhattan early from my home in Brooklyn, all right – but I did so to put in a few hours of overtime at my office first. I could have stayed a full day and gotten a full day’s OT pay, but money isn’t everything, so I left the office at one o’clock to head uptown.
First off, I knew that I wouldn’t have time to get to Sotheby’s, which is way over on the east side at York Avenue and East 72 Street, so my plan was to first go to Christie’s in Rockefeller Center and then over to Phillips on Park Avenue. This I was able to do.
I won’t bore you with the details of what I saw, but I’ll just post a few images (taken from the web) of some of the prints that I liked. There was a wide variety of styles to be seen, but I’m sticking to nude and fashion work. In addition to the general photography auction on Friday, there’s also going to be the sale on Thursday of a private collection, called The Feminine Ideal, specializing in these genres, and that’s where most of these images were seen. To see the full collections on Christie’s website, please click here, here and here.
After Christie’s, I walked on over to Phillips. I had been to their space on West 15 Street in West Chelsea before, but this was my first visit to their location on Park Avenue near 57 Street. Much to my surprise, there was a private party just beginning on there in the ground floor retail and second floor galleries. I thought I’d have to leave as my name wasn’t on the list, but I was warmly welcomed and told to enjoy myself with food and drink.
As at Christie’s, the photos on display were a mix of styles and eras, but a lot of the photos here were simply huge – big enough to cover a whole wall, it seemed. Again, I will let the photos, which I made with my pocket digital camera, speak for themselves.
You can view all of the photos on the Phillips de Pury website here. The auction will be held on Saturday.
Overall, the auction previews provided an opportunity to see some great photography. If you live in New York or plan to be here during April or October, consider stopping by if you can.