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Paris photo auctions focus on single-owner sales

Led by a major Man Ray, auctions at Christie's, Sotheby's and Leclere play to sophisticated collectors in town for the Paris Photo fair

An early print of Man Ray's Noire et blanche (1926) will be offered at Christie's in Paris Courtesy of Christie's Images, 2017

Paris auction houses have saved some of their strongest photography offerings for sales this week, banking on sustained demand for historic and well-known images from collectors in town for the Paris Photo fair. Leading the pack is Man Ray’s Noire et Blanche (1926) in Stripped Bare: Photographs from the Thomas Koerfer Collection at Christie’s on 9 November. Estimated at €1m-€1.5m, the portrait of Kiki de Montparnasse, the artist’s muse and lover, resting her head on a tabletop, eyes closed and holding a tribal mask, recalls Constantin Brancusi’s bronze sculpture, La Muse Endormie (1920).

The print is one of the earliest of the 24 that were made. Past owners include the French fashion designer Jacques Doucet and milliner Suzanne Talbot, and according to Elodie Morel, director of Christie’s photography department in Paris, “the condition is exceptional. It’s a real jewel”. The last time an early print of Noire et Blanche came on the market was in 2007. That one sold for $396,000; however, values for Man Ray have risen “significantly” in 10 years, Morel says.

Koerfer’s collection was exhibited at C/O Berlin in 2007 and at Kunsthaus Zürich in 2015; the 73 lots are estimated to fetch between €1.9m-€2.9m. Christie’s began organising single-owner sales during Paris Photo in 2010. “Single-owner collections, or monographic sales, have always been successful here,” Morel says.

Irving Penn's Still Life with Watermelon (1947) Courtesy of the Irving Penn Foundation and Sotheby's

Sotheby’s counters on 10 November with a private European collection of 100 lots leaning toward fashion photography. Coinciding with the Irving Penn exhibition at the Grand Palais, the sale includes several shots by the late US photographer, the standout being Frozen Foods, New York (1977), a colour-block composition of frozen raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and peaches, revealing Penn’s passion for abstract art. Beyond other Penn high- lights, such as Still Life with Watermelon (1947), est €60,000-€80,000, and a portrait of Picasso (1957), est €60,000-€80,000, the sale includes images by Helmut Newton, Horst P. Horst and Robert Mapplethorpe.

“Paris Photo is still the driving force of our market. So, we focus on offer- ing our international clients the most exceptional and rare nds of the year in terms of 19th-century and international contemporary photographs,” says Jonas Tebib, the director of photography at Sotheby’s France, whose annual photography sale (also 10 on November) includes a daguerreotype (around 1840) of Notre Dame by Vincent Chevalier (est €100,000-150,000).

At Drouot, Leclere’s 10 November sale of the collection of art critic/historian Michel Seuphor (born Ferdinand Louis Berckelaers, 1901-99), includes a portrait of Piet Mondrian in his atelier by André Kertész (est €10,000-15,000).