The Constantiner Collection of Photographs sets a record at Christie’s New York
By Renée Harrison Drake
The 2008 auction season at Christie’s ended on a high note with a spectacular sale of photographs from the Constantiner Collection. The treasure trove of 318 photographs focusing on the interconnecting relationships between media, fashion, and celebrity was the result of years of astute collecting by Leon and Michaela Constantiner. As noted by Phillippe Garner, international head of photographs, “The superb results achieved for this collection demonstrate the potential of works bought with passion and considerable connoisseurship to perform magnificently, even in the present uncertain economic climate.”
Photographs by Helmut Newton, a giant in the annals of 20th century photography, led the Dec. 16-17 single-owner sale, which by the fall of the last gavel had achieved $7,721,875, a record for a single-owner sale of photography at Christie’s. Newton’s “Sie Kommen (Naked and Dressed),” 1981, was estimated to fetch between $400-$600,000 but ended up shattering the world auction record for the photographer when a private buyer purchased it for $662,500. Newton’s signature combination of shrewd and witty social observations with perverse eroticism ensures that his works command top prices from serious collectors, and the Constantiners were known to possess the largest and best examples of his oeuvre. The photograph that achieved the second highest price was also by Newton, “Big Nude III: Henrietta,” 1980, which achieved $482,500. The Helmut Newton photographs in the collection achieved a staggering $3,946,625 of the total proceeds. Of the top ten highest prices achieved in the sale, half were works by Newton. Iconic photographs by Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, Peter Lindbergh and Andy Warhol were avidly collected by the Constantiners as well, and they also fared well in the sale.