Art Photography Market
By Miguel Bermudez
One of the most exciting new elements entering the art market is photography. This medium essentially captures subject matter that is by nature ephemeral and un-reproducible and it is elevating the category of art filming to a different level. We only need to examine the growing number of attendees at the latest Art Basel Miami event to demonstrate this.
That being said, the Photographic market has some challenges. First, there is a reticence by collectors to reward it with the same level of funds and attention as the one given to paintings or sculptures. One of the factors impeding its development into a comparable category in the art world is the presence of an oversupply of offers and the difficulty in creating a fully trustworthy system to limit production to a low number of editions.
- Elina Brotherus © Copyrighted. All Rights Reserved. Der Wanderer 5, 2004, 105x136cm, ed.6, chromogenic color print, from the series The New Painting.
ArtPrice reports that at auction, “Nearly two thirds of the lots offered remain unsold”. The photography market is nascent and has only come into its own as of the 1990s, and therefore one so one can argue that photography as an art form has been developing rapidly. By comparison, the more conventional art market has been dealing with paintings, sculptures and decorative arts for hundreds of years. The London Gazette started reporting on the auctioning of artwork at the coffeehouses and taverns of London in the late 17th Century. The first
Photography department at a major auction house was established in 1971.
very interesting element that photography brings to serious collectors, which resembles the level of discovery, learning and the possession of a trained eye that is needed in the Antiques & Fine Arts market. Many of the old master photographers, such as Ansel Adams, Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, among others, never really cared about the number of copies of their works that were printed. Therefore, collectors must turn to other details when collecting photography such as: the time between negative and print, whether the artist was living while the work was printed, the number and existence of additional copies of the print and elements that make a particular piece’s condition unique. This research is necessary if the collector wants to acquire one of the oldest master photographer’s pieces, and it makes collecting complex and exciting at the same time.
- Andreas Gursky “Rhein II” (1999) $4,338,500
In comparison with what we’ve referred to as master photographers, contemporary photographers have begun commanding higher prices and the contemporary photography market is becoming more serious. The establishment of databases that track the number of prints in existence and limiting the amount of printed material will eventually transform the entire world of photography, and will give this wonderfully exciting art form the respect it deserves.
By 2015, ten contemporary artists achieved over $1 million-dollar figures for their work and the photography price index grew forty eight percent from 2000-2015. As with all other categories of the art market that are not in the Contemporary and Post War Art category, collecting photographs is for those that love the medium, want to put energy into patient learning and research, and finally and importantly, are not collecting simply to seek prestige, quick returns and large profits.
Contemporary photography should be included in Contemporary and Post War Auction Categories. The best contemporary photographers’ pieces, with their beauty and interest, can easily be compared to paintings from Richter, Dubuffet, Basquiat, Bacon and others whose names we see commanding so much attention. Once one of the major auction houses takes the bold step of putting contemporary avant-garde photography in an auction catalogue at this level, we will then see this wonderful medium finally occupy its rightful place of artists and collectors.
- Adi Nes. Leonardo DA Vinci’s The Last Supper, * Replacing the characters with young male Israeli soldiers.
A print sold at auction in Sotheby’s for $102,000 in 2005, and another for $264,000 in 2007.