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Dance Insider editor and publisher Paul Ben-Itzak, who has also written for Reuters, the New York Times, and many others and also publishes Art Investment News, is looking for work in France, where he lived and worked for 10 years. He is ready to include his magazines in any deal. Interested parties can e-mail Paul.


Art Investment News Gallery, 11-16: Through the pinhole
At Christie's Paris, a Moveable Feast through 20th Century Photography

From Christie's Paris Photography Sale November 16-17: Left: Lot 172. Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), "Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1952." Gelatin silver print ; printed circa 1980; signed in ink lower right in the margin. Estimated at 10,000 - 15,000 Euros ($12,839 - $19,258). Right: Lot 173. Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), "Alberto Giacometti a la Galerie Maeght, 1961." Gelatin silver print; printed 1999; signed in ink lower right in the margin. Estimated at 20,000 - 30,000 Euros ($25,678 - $38,516). Both images ©Christie's Images Ltd. 2012.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2012 Paul Ben-Itzak

If like me you're skeptical about whether photographs are rare enough to fetch five and even six-figure prices at auction (greased perhaps by major museums adding photography curators to underline the increased esteem for the art?), as they've been doing lately, you might want to take a look at what Christie's Paris is billing as its largest photo auction ever, November 16 and 17. Underpinning my own hesitation about whether this medium is over-valued at auction is that photos simply are not as unique as paintings, as long as there's a negative out there from which more copies can be made. But this particular sale has taught me that *unlike* a painting, a photograph can have multiple values -- for example, as both reliable documentation and a work of art. And when you add a signature, it can even be classified as an artifact. This is before one gets to the subject, which can add layers of historical value.


Eugene Atget (1857-1927), "Au Tambour: 63 quai de Tournelle, 1908." Epreuve sur papier albuminé, montée sur support cartonné. Image 21.5 x 16.8 cm. Estimated at 40,000 - 60,000 ($51,355 - $77,033). ©Christie's Images Ltd. 2012.


This Christie's Paris sale offers a mind-blowing epreuve on albumin paper of Eugene Atget's "Au Tambour: 63 quai de Tournelle, 1908." The particular situation of this Left Bank address, as well as where the photographer has situated himself and his vantage point, give this photo the following: what is likely the photographer himself reflected in a doorway that has effectively become its own pinhole, throwing back at the photographer his own conceit; a play of light trickery and illusion that explains why Atget was a model for Man Ray (also featured in this sale), the first to recognize the oeuvre of Atget while he was alive, publishing his photographs in 1926 in the Révolution Surréaliste; and a bonus picture-view: the Seine and, across its gulf, the Ile de la Cité, which 63 quai de Tournelle faces, revealing it in this epoch as almost pastoral. Add that the collection from which this comes was compiled by Berenice Abbott, who with Julien Levy acquired it directly from the artist, and suddenly Christie's pre-sale estimate of 40,000 - 60,000 Euros ($51,355 - $77,033) does not seem out of hand.


Maxime du Camp (1798-1872). Gustave Flaubert, Le Caire, Maison et jardin dans le quartier Frank, 1850. Planche No. 3 de Egypte, Nubie, Palestine et Syrie : dessins photographiques recueillis pendant les années 1849, 1850 et 1851 (Paris, 1852). Epreuve sur papier salé a partir d’un négatif papier, procédé Blanquart –Evrard monté sur carton imprimé de l'éditeur. Estimated at 20,000 - 30,000 Euros ($25,678 - $38,516). ©Christie's Images Ltd. 2012.


Maxime du Camp's photograph on sale here is not particularly remarkable as a photograph, until you're told that the small figure in the photo (which dates from 1850), dwarfed by the house and garden in Cairo's Frank district, is none other than Gustave Flaubert, and that this is the only photograph of the author of "Madame Bovary" taken when the writer accompanied du Camp on a mission for the French education ministry to Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, and one of the rare photographic images of Flaubert period. Would it be worth the Christie's pre-sale estimate of 20,000 - 30,000 Euros ($25,678 - $38,516) to me? No. Would the man in search of Flaubert's Parrot be tempted? Probably.


Lot 125. Jacques-Henri Lartique (1894-1986), "Go-cart run, Rouzat, été 1910." Gelatin silver print; printed 1910; signed with initials and dated with ink lower right on the image; dated twice; signed and inscribed by Florette on the verso. Estimated at 15,000 - 20,000 Euros ($19,258 - $25,678). ©Christie's Images Ltd. 2012.


Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) is here too, and I suppose that for a modest price, it's worth it to get a signed copy of archetypal images like "Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1952" or "Alberto Giacometti a la Galerie Maeght, 1961," with Giacometti, inclining forward like his statue, seeming to be rescuing one of his own works from confinement in a gallery (see top of this page); and there's that famous picnic on the banks of the Marne. But for my money, the clever theatricality of Cartier-Bresson can't hold a candle to the naive sincerity of Jacques-Henri Lartique (1894-1986).


Left: Lot 128. Man Ray (1890-1976), "Electricité," 1931. Highly important advertising campaign, commissioned by the French electricity company; 10 photogravures of rayographs by Man Ray ; each signed in plate ; introductory text by Pierre Bost ; number 491 from an edition of 500 with Man Ray signature ; plates are individually framed. Estimated at 30,000 - 50,000 Euros ($38,516 - $64,194). Right: Lot 127. Jacques-Henri Lartique (1894-1986), "Florette," 1944. Gelatin silver print; printed 1944; dated in ink and pencil, titled in ink and inscribed in pencil on the verso. Estimated at 5,000 - 7,000 Euros ($6,419 - $8,987). Both images ©Christie's Images Ltd. 2012.


While C-B has a famous knack for being in the right place at the right time with his camera and knowing exactly when to snap it for the money moment, his adroitness lacks the amateur's gourmandise that Lartique consistently maintained over -- wait for it -- nearly 80 years. When newly elected French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing commissioned Lartique to shoot his official presidential portrait in 1974, Lartigue had already been at it for 70 years, and even teenage Lartigue brought allure: Check "Go-cart run, Rouzat, été 1910," taken when he was about 16. It's available here in a gelatin silver print made in 1910, signed with initials and dated with ink on the image; and signed and inscribed by Florette, Lartigue's cover girl wife, making it well worth the estimated 15,000 - 20,000 Euros ($19,258 - $25,678) price tag, because here you're also buying the debuts of the history of the photographer. Lartigue marries love to craft in a famous photo of Florette herself, available here in a gelatin silver print printed in 1944, inscribed in pencil on the verso, and priced at just 5,000 - 7,000 Euros ($6,419 - $8,987).


Lot 117. Man Ray (1890-1976), "The Primacy of matter over thought /Primat de la matiere sur la pensée," 1929. 29 x 23 cm. Solarized gelatin silver print; printed 1929; signed in pencil on verso. Estimated at 180,000 - 220,000 Euros ($231,099 - $282,454). ©Christie's Images Ltd. 2012.


Man Ray is clearly being presented as the marquee brand in this auction, but to my mind this has more to do with the the recent Man Ray vogue at American museums than inherent value -- at least at these six-figure prices. Still, we've dutifully included a couple of his lots in our gallery. And to make the case for photographs that jolt because they are sublime and not because their makers are famous, we've offered a couple of these here as well.


Lot 115. Elfried Stegmeyer (1908-1988), Untitled (Girl In Clouds), 1936. Epreuve sur papier albuminé, montée sur support cartonné. Estimated at 4,000 - 6,000 Euros ($5,136 - $7,703). ©Christie's Images Ltd. 2012.


Left: Lot 133. Heinz Hajek-Halke (1898- 1983), Sans titre (Akt in Gestein - Nu dans la roche), 1928-1932. Gelatin silver print ; printed circa 1928-1932 ; inventory stamp with annotation in pencil on the verso. Estimated at 4,000 - 6,000 Euros ($5,136 - $7,703). Right: Lot 137. Alexander Michailowitsch Rodtchenko (1891-1956), Robeter-Tiere (Samozveri), 1926. Gelatin silver print; printed 1926; inscribed in Cyrillic in pencil on verso ; collector stamp on the verso. Estimated at 10,000 - 15,000 Euros ($12,839 - $19,258). Images ©Christie's Images Ltd. 2012.


Left: Lot 174. Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 - 2004), "Jean-Paul Sartre, Paris, 1946." Gelatin silver print; printed 1946; signed, inscribed and dedicated with ink on the verso. Estimated at 50,000 - 70,000 Euros ($64,194 - $89,872). Right: Lot 176. Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), "Derriere la gare Saint-Lazare, Paris, 1932." Gelatin silver print, printed circa 1980; signed in ink lower right in the margin. Estimated at 8,000 - 12,000 Euros ($10,271 - $15,407).


Lot 177. Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), "Dimanche sur les bords de Marne, France, 1938." Gelatin silver print; printed circa 1970; signed in ink lower right in the margin. Estimated at 8,000 - 12,000 Euros ($10,271 - $15,407). ©Christie's Images Ltd. 2012.



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