Art Market Italy: Photography from Vittorio Sella to Man Ray
On April 29, at 4 p.m. Italian time, Rome-based auction house Minerva Auctions will hold its Spring Sale of Photographs. The offering includes a broad scope of genres, attempting to appeal to different tastes. “As in other sectors of art, collectors tend to concentrate on just one genre,” Minerva’s photography expert Silvia Berselli explains us in an interview, “therefore it is difficult to individualize precise trends of the market. Every genre has its own passionate clientele.”
Already the first lot on sale is interesting: it is a landscape by Vittorio Sella, mountaineer and photographer, which has an estimate of €2,000 to 2,500. It is in an important work for its panoramic format, which is appreciated by collectors, but also for its subject, the Karakorum. “Vittorio Sella is mentioned by a great American photographer Ansel Adams as one of his masters. Still, prices for works by Adams are tremendously higher than those for Sella. It is a sign of the strength of the market for American photography, not only in comparison to the Italian one but also to the French and English one, because it is supported by museums and scientific publications. There is a much stronger photography culture than here,” said Berselli.
For sale from the same period are photographs by Wilhelm von Gloeden and Guglielmo Von Plüschow, two German cousins who settled in South Italy and became famous for their voyeuristic portraits of boys that carry a homosexual sensuality. These two photographers are very much in demand in France and Germany. Estimates range between €300 and €1,000 (lots 4-7 and 12-14).
In some cases the level of specialization of collectors is so high that they look at just one subject. It is the case of collectors of photographs picturing Josephine Baker. Minerva auctions offers some of them between €300-500 (lots 20-26). Also collectors of photographs related to cinema are very specialized. For them the auction has portraits of cinema stars like Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni (lots 119-142, estimate between €100-600).
Fashion photography, which is the strongest genre in photography if you discard those contemporary artists working with photography who set millionaire prices, is represented by Jeanloup Sieff and Frank Horvat, while Horst P. Horst is represented by a still life (lot 116), carrying an estimate of €3,500-4,000, and by a portrait of Elsa Schiapparelli (lot 117), estimated €2,500-3,000.
French photography is represented by Sabine Weiss and Henri Cartier Bresson. There are some portraits of Giacometti by Sabine Weiss, which are generally interesting for collectors of contemporary art (lots 34-35, estimate between €900-1,200).
Among the best-known names there is also Man Ray with a photograph carrying the highest estimate among those on offer: Mélancolie, from 1926, estimated between €5,000 and 8,000. The negative of the image is from 1926, while the print is from 1974, but is still contemporary to the artist, who died in 1976. A similar photograph was exhibited at Centre Pompidou.
Italian photography is represented by photographers of the first half of the century, both the portraitists and the most experimental ones. These are names that are not so well-known in Italy, but are well-marketed in the United States, like Mario Prandi, Giacinto Oriani, Elio Luxardo and Domenico Ricardo Peretti-Griva (lots 64-85). There is also Ghitta Carell, who was a Jew, but was also Mussolini’s photographer. Susan Sontag mentioned her as a photographer with an acute eye. Rome-based institution Pastificio Cerere is giving her a solo show starting on April 18.
There are also photographers from the 1940s and 1950s, those from the Neorealism, like Mario De Biasi and Pepi Merisio.
The auction includes a section dedicated to color photography, with an important abstract image by Luigi Veronesi (lot 148, estimate €2,800-3,500) and also to contemporary photography.
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