The second major Gerard Levy catalogue sale in Paris on Friday, June 16th was a mixed bag. The auction house Millon--or at least the estate--had big expectations for three of the Nadar lots, but they failed to sell. However, most of the rest of the auction sold as expected, and very well in some cases. The total for a French photo auction wasn't bad, just over $750,000 or 660,000 euros, including buyer's premium. That was on top of the haul from the non-catalogue auction on the previous Wednesday of smaller items, which did very well.
I had told the experts that I thought the Nadar lots were mostly a bit overpriced, but they put on a brave face and told me they had lots of institutional and collector interest. The fact that the Nadar lots were rumored to be national treasured and the reserves were at the low estimate probably didn't help, but it didn't prevent the Pierson lot, also rumored to have national treasure designation, from going well over its estimates.
I was bidding for a client on lot 29, the Pierson images of the Prince Imperial on horseback (plus other images and ephemera), at 5,000 euro (estimate 6,000-8,000 euros), when a jump bid went to 33,000 euros (41,600 with buyer's premium)! The shock tactic worked in this instance, especially since my client had told me that they would go up to about that amount. Perhaps the bidder felt that this high a bid would eliminate the interest to have it national treasured or to knock out other bidders. It's been done before.
But no one was interested in pursuing this strategy with the bigger Nadar lots. Lot 30, a salt print of his son Paul was estimated at 50,000-60,000 euros. It opened at 49,000 euros and got no bidder to go higher, and was bought in. The Nadar of a brooding Eugene Pelleton was estimated at 18,000-20,000 euros (plus premium, of course), but the print didn't do anything for me. It too was bought in, as was lot 32. The next lot of Nadar, lot 33, which was a large group of portraits that was more reasonably priced, did indeed sell very well, going to a phone bidder for 11,440 euros.
Lot 51 was a very strong group of Baldus images. Estimated at 8,000-10,000 euros, it was battled out on the phones, ending up at 24,700 euros—still considerably less than half its retail value.
A decent and large group of Charles Aubry plant studies, lot 62, sold to the phone for just a shade under 20,000 euros.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the auction was lot 75, the group of 175 lantern slides of psychological images, which had been estimated at 1,200-1,500 euros, that hammered down for 21,000 euros (plus 30% premium, or 27,300 euros). Apparently two Internet bidders got into a digital war over the lot.
The next lot, a group of autochromes of tattoos, sold for 11,050 euros, but then was promptly pre-empted by the Bibliotheque Nationale.
I bid on lot 105, a decent half-plate daguerreotype of Algers (estimate 3,000-4,000), for a client, but eventually we dropped out and it sold for a still reasonable 10,400 euros.
My client had better luck on lot 120, the best of the J. B. Greene lots, which we scooped up for 16,900 euros. Lot 122 of the Greene's also sold for 11,440 euros. The Greene lots this time around weren't as good as in the first Levy sale in December.
The most expensive lot in the sale was a wonderful Felice Beato Japanese album, which was estimated at a mere 8,000-10,000 euros, but sold for 49,400 euros.
I underbid lot 166, the lovely Charles Weed of Yosemite Valley. Estimated at only 8,000-10,000 euros, it finally sold to another phone for 24,700 euros.
The nude stereo daguerreotypes were even a poorer group than last December. But the first three lots (168-170) still did pretty well, bringing 7,150, 8,450 and 10,660 euros respectively. Also lot 172 made 6,240 euros and lot 175, 9,360 euros. Certainly a hefty price tag for pieces not in prime condition for the most part. These stereo nudes have been going up for some time now, especially in Europe, and especially for ones that aren't cleaned, scratched or wiped, like some of these were.
While things tended to go way above the estimates, there were still some great bargains to be had. My clients were mostly happy with the results.