Phillips Announces Highlights Ahead of the London Photographs Sale
Rare 19th Century Gustave Le Gray Album Featuring in ULTIMATE to Lead the Sale on 25 May
Phillips has announced highlights ahead of the upcoming London Photographs auction on 25 May. The Spring auction brings together a selection of artists from an impressive array of contemporary image makers, 20th Century masters, and 19th Century luminaries. The sale will feature ULTIMATE, Phillips’ bespoke selection of classic and contemporary rarities, and also includes a carefully curated selection of unique works by Peter Beard alongside contemporary highlights from Vik Muniz, Gregory Crewdson, and Wolfgang Tillmans. The auction is online now and on view to the public from 19 May at Phillips London galleries on Berkeley Square until the auction on 25 May at 2pm.
Yuka Yamaji, Head of Photographs, Europe, and Rachel Peart, Head of Department, London, said, “We are thrilled to present the 15th edition of ULTIMATE this spring which will feature 12 exceptional works available for sale only at Phillips. Led by Gustave Le Gray’s recently rediscovered Camp de Châlons album, this sale highlights an extraordinary breadth of work from photography’s formative years to the vanguard of contemporary practice, including the auction debuts of Rafael Pavarotti, Lina Scheynius, Mark Clennon, and Namsa Leuba. Our auction this May celebrates the art of photography in its many and varied forms. We look forward to welcoming visitors to view the sale in person in our London galleries from 19 May.”
The exceptionally rare Gustave Le Gray album comprises 66 albumen prints, of which 44 are scenes of camp life. Le Gray was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III to photograph his military camp and to create albums for his generals. The present work was gifted by Napoleon III to his highest-ranking officer, Comte Regnaud de Saint-Jean d'Angély (1794-1870), Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Guard and Marshal of France in 1857. An incredibly rare find in excellent condition, the album had remained hidden in Regnaud’s family home in Northern France for over 160 years until it was recently rediscovered.
A further highlight of the sale is Edward Steichen’s iconic image of Gloria Swanson. Taken in New York in 1924, this image is one of the most celebrated portraits of the 20th Century. Vanity Fair published this image in its February 1928 issue to coincide with the release of the film Sadie Thompson, starring and produced by Swanson, which had generated a fair amount of notoriety for its depiction of a jazz-age fallen woman attempting to find redemption on a tropical island. Swanson received an Academy Award nomination for the role, and Steichen’s portrait became the definitive image of the star. A rare find, early prints of this image appear infrequently on the market. In the past 25 years, only five other early prints have appeared at auction.
Another highlight of the sale is a selection of 13 works by Peter Beard which come to auction this May from a Private European Collection that has been assembled over a span of 15 years. Included is Beard’s Giraffes in mirage on the Taru desert which was photographed during Beard’s early years in Kenya. Here, the artist has captured three giraffes walking in a single line, the high temperature of the desert delicately blurring the horizon line. The large scale of the work allows us to contemplate the scene in minute detail. Framing the image is a border finely painted by Beard in pink, black, blue, and gold ink.
Rafael Pavarotti grew up in a small village near the Amazon rainforest before moving to metropolises later in his life. His identity as Afro-Indigenous and his nomadic trajectory have profoundly impacted Pavarotti’s visual narrative and personal engagement. This is reflected in his fashion photography, which he uses as a means to address socio-political issues. Featuring in ULTIMATE, the present work R€I$, the title of which is formed by the Portuguese word for ‘king’ and multi-national currency symbols, was originally published in Vogue Hommes. Debuting at auction, Pavarotti has printed the image on offer in the largest size that it will ever be released, exclusively for ULTIMATE.
Swedish artist Lina Scheynius is known for her diaristic, unapologetically honest photographs, featuring herself, lovers and friends. Untitled (Diary), included in the auction this May and highlighting in ULTIMATE, is from her earliest series Love, a photographic journey through her personal life. For nearly 20 years, Scheynius has continuously recorded her closest surroundings and questioned her place within, planting the female gaze at the forefront of the narrative. Her work has been exhibited internationally – notably at the House of Photography, Hamburg; Foam, Amsterdam; and Photo Vogue Festival, Milan – and is appearing at auction for the first time.
Another artist making their auction debut at Phillips this May in ULTIMATE is Mark Clennon. On 30 May 2020, Clennon set out to document a peaceful protest in Manhattan. What he captured within Untitled (Today) instantly became an emblem of the moment, coinciding with a strong feeling of uncertainty and frustration after months of quarantine and the uprising against racial oppression worldwide. This picture of a man raising his fist and challenging institutional white power, here symbolised by the American flag protected behind the luxurious Trump façade, soon became an iconic depiction of the Black Lives Matter protest. With over 38 million impressions on Twitter alone, Untitled (Today) has been featured in TIME Magazine and Netflix’s Strong Black Lens.