Tag Archives: Auction House

UPDATED: Robert Capa, Friend of Anton

Neil Harris

The first lot is auctioned off at the ‘Friends of Anton’ benefit.

UPDATE: In the first lot of the evening, the framed Robert Capa print pictured above sold for $4,500 to bidder #313, reports TIME’s Neil Harris, who was present at the event. He says that the evening was partly surprising—contemporary photojournalism at Christie’s is unprecedented—and partly somber, as Hammerl’s widow gave a speech and read a letter from their middle child to his father. Once the live auction began, “the mood became quite energized and people started bidding real money for serious pictures,” Harris says. “The first three lots together broke $10,000, which was exhilarating on all levels.”

On Tuesday evening, Christie’s will hold its first-ever auction of contemporary photojournalism prints at its New York City auction house. The event, which will be hosted by news anchor Christiane Amanpour, will benefit the family of the late Anton Hammerl. Hammerl, who had been a photographer and photo editor for outlets from the Associated Press to the The Sunday Star in Johannesburg, was killed in Libya last April. He had traveled to Libya as a freelancer to cover the conflict in that country. He was 41 years old and had three children, ages 11, 8 and 1. His remains have not yet been found.

The auction was the idea of a group of conflict journalists who originally got together, via Facebook, to sell prints to help their colleague’s loved ones. The transition from on-demand sales to planning an auction, under the banner “Friends of Anton,” happened about a month ago, and some of the most recognizable names in photojournalism have signed on to participate: João Silva, Platon, Bruce Davidson, Alec Soth, Susan Meiselas and many more.

The auction, says David Brabyn, one of the organizers, demonstrates the sense of community among photographers who put themselves at risk for their work. “It’s been quite highlighted recently,” he says, “after all the deaths of reporters, both photographers and print.”

But one of the most important prints up for bid was not a donation from someone in that community. Robert Capa’s photograph of American soldiers landing in France on D-Day is perhaps the most familiar picture in the bunch; Capa was killed by a land mine in 1954. The donation comes from the International Center of Photography, where his work is archived. (The winning bid will also include a personal tour of his archive.) ICP was founded by Capa’s brother, Cornell Capa, and the print comes from his personal collection.

Even though neither Capa brother is alive to bestow his friendship on Anton Hammerl, it’s a fitting donation, says Cynthia Young, curator of the Robert Capa Archive at ICP. Cornell Capa, she says, was generous with his prints during his lifetime—and this is a particularly poignant cause. “His brother and Anton both died while photographing overseas, doing a job they felt compassionately about. They were both committed to bringing back real stories about what was happening in the world and what they saw,” says Young. “Cornell founded ICP in part to educate people, not only about photography, but that through photography we can learn about political situations, and consequently make social and political change.”

And the picture, beyond its historical significance, has its own measure of poignancy, she adds: “It seemed like an appropriate image, one of great courage both on the part of the American soldiers and of the photographer.”

More information about the Friends of Anton auction—including ticketing and absentee bidding information—is available here.

Art News: Damien Hirst to exhibit his first museum retrospective in April 2012 at the Tate Modern for the London 2012 Olympics

Damien Hirst - dots - Tate Retrospective
Damien Hirst, Adrenochrome Semicarbazone Sulfonate via The Guardian

Ultra high-profile contemporary artist Damien Hirst will showcase his first retrospective at the Tate Modern during the 2012 Olympics, from April 5th to September 9th 2012. Throughout his career, Hirst has been known for generating wealth by defying the instituted system of art relationships, linking his gallery representation with White Cube and Gagosian to direct independent auctioning with Sotheby’s. In collaborating with the curatorial world, Hirst is reinstating himself in the inter-relational art market, even as he capitalizes on the mass sensationalism of the Olympics in London.

Although Hirst is represented by Gagosian (for whom his most recent showcase in Hong Kong will be on view through March 19th) and White Cube, he is arguably best known for his high grossing auction sales. Most notably, the £50 million 2008 sale beautiful inside my head forever marked a revolutionary means of selling art directly through the auction house.

more images and story after the jump…

Damien Hirst - Pharmacy - Tate Retrospective
Damien Hirst, Pharmacy installation 2002 (via the Tate)

One noted auction sale was the contents of Pharmacy a restaurant Hirst founded using one his popular recurring pharmaceutical motif. Pharmacy grossed £11 million.

The hyper-success of the auction was a climax in financial history, dually marking the peak and crash of the economic boom: investment bank Lehman Brothers went bankrupt the exact same day as Hirst’s auction at Sotheby’s. With the international economy instantaneously floundering, Damien Hirst’s auction success could never be fully duplicated.


Sotheby’s auctioneer at beautiful inside my head forever 2008 (via The New York Times)

Hirst’s peak in 2008 marked an evolutionary point for his commercial and aesthetic future. Many of his recognizable themes were alleged to discontinue shortly thereafter, and he confirmed the aesthetic departure with a series of poorly reviewed paintings, even as his previous iconography retained popularity.

Apart from the auction record, the notorious diamond skull for the love of god sold at White Cube for $100 million, with an investing strategy to sell shares once the value accrued in the future. The skull has shown internationally, at the Rijksmusuem in Amsterdam and Palazzio Vecchio in Venice.


Damien Hirst, for the love of god 2007 (via Art Observed)

Damien Hirst has been a recognizable and merited artist since he coordinated “Freeze” with fellow Goldsmiths student, the late Angus Fairhurst, in 1988. The exhibition caught the attention of noted collector Charles Saatchi, who codified the Young British Artists as foremost contemporary figures, including YBA artists Tracey EminMarc Quinn, Jake and Dinos  Chapman. Saatchi funded Hirst’s early works, notably formaldehyde shark the Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, which quickly gained popularity. The shark was ultimately purchased by American hedge fund manager Steve A. Cohen, and briefly displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Damien Hirst, the physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living 1991 (via the New York Times)

While Hirst is no stranger to either commercialism or exhibition, consistently selling posters, t-shirts, and jeans to propagate his notoriety in cohesion with exhibitions, the combination curatorial acclaim with Olympic publicity fuses the realms of art and business without implicating the fiscal art market.  Not only does the Tate Modern retrospective mark a return to the artist’s upscale recognition, but it solidifies his chronological evolution as historically worthwhile.

-A. Bregman

Related Links:
Damien Hirst to head Tate Modern’s Olympic programme [The Guardian]
AO Auction Preview: Two Years After Declaring Bankruptcy Lehman Brothers Hopes to Sell Hundreds of Artworks Worth Millions at 3 Auctions in UK & US [Art Observed]
Damien Hirst Artist Biography [Gagosian Gallery]
Hirst’s Art Auction Attracts Plenty of Financial Bidders, Despite Financial Turmoil [the New York Times]
Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy: The Business Decisions that Brought Lehman Down [Daily Finance]
Charles Saatchi: Damien Hirst is ‘rather off-form’ [The Telegraph]
Artist behind 1990s boom ‘commits suicide’ [the Independent]