Auctions | October 27, 2016

Record Price for Karsh's "Fifteen Portraits" Portfolio at Swann Galleries

196-Yousuf-Karsh copy.jpgNew York— On Tuesday, October 25, Swann Auction Galleries’ sale of Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks earned nearly $2 million. Bidders filled the room, competing with other collectors over the phone and online and driving many prices above their estimates.

The top lot of the sale was Julia Margaret Cameron’s Portrait of Kate Keown, 1866, one of the first in her series of life-sized heads. The circular albumen print sold for $106,250*. A set of 14 first editions by Ed Ruscha, some signed, sold well above their estimate, finally realizing $45,000.

The sale broke several auction records, including that of Karsh—Fifteen Portraits, a portfolio by Yousuf Karsh which sold to a collector for $87,500, an auction record for the set. The portfolio includes portraits of such luminaries as Muhammad Ali, Marc Chagall, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller and Georgia O’Keeffe.

An artist record was set for Martin Chambi, whose fifty photographs of Peru from the 1920s sold to a collector for $50,000. At the Time of the Louisville Flood, Kentucky, by Margaret Bourke-White, broke the record for a modern printing of the well-known, and still resonant, image. It sold for $65,000.

Alfred Stieglitz was well represented in the sale, not only by individual photographs such as The Steerage ($20,000), but also by his magazines, 291 and Camera Work. The complete series of 291, 1914-15, sold well above its estimate to a private collector for $52,500, while issues of Camera Work, which Stieglitz edited, were divided into smaller lots. The most notable of these was Number 49/50, the final issue of the magazine, which went for $26,250.

              Swann Galleries Vice President and Director of Photographs & Photobooks Daile Kaplan said, “the sale realized impressive results for a range of remarkable objects. The stellar prices demonstrate how collectors are reexamining photography from the perspective of ‘art and storytelling,’ and discovering treasures of the medium.”

              The next photography sale at Swann Galleries will be held in February 2017. To consign quality materials, contact Daile Kaplan at

Image: Lot 196 Yousuf Karsh, Karsh-Fifteen Portraits, portfolio with 15 silver prints, 1941-70, printed 1983. Sold October 25, 2015 for $87,500, an auction record for the portfolio.