Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Photographies & Lothar Schirmer’s Glamour Collection – Christie’s

Paris – From 26 October to 9 November, Christie’s presents its Photographies Online Sale, featuring more than 130 prints by the 20th and 21st century’s major artists, such as Helmut Newton, Robert Mapplethorpe, Irving Penn, Peter Beard, William Klein, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Man Ray, and Constantin Brancusi. The auction is expected to bring in between 1.7 and 2.3 million euros in total. Its first section, Lothar Schirmer’s Glamour Collection (82 lots), is dedicated to the famed art publisher. 

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After publishing more than 1,500 books dedicated to art and photography (including 386 editions still available), Schirmer/Mosel needs no introduction. Behind the name is a founder infusing the famous publishing house with boundless life and passion. His recently-published Glamour Collection, Lothar Schirmer is dedicated to a portion of his personal collection. On the eve of Schirmer/Mosel’s 50th anniversary (in April 2024) and as his own 80th birthday draws close, Lothar Schirmer is becoming aware that his collection – the one that depicts the spirit of the times in his youth – has now reached completion.

The common thread in his collection – assembled with passion over the last fifty years – is glamour. Schirmer divides the latter into three categories: celebrity portraits, erotic nudes, and fashion advertisements. The collection also includes photographic performances and the “film stills” made popular by Cindy Sherman.

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This sale will celebrate the spirit of the collection which puts the spotlight on portraits – where art styles meet artistic methods. A highlight among the portraits is Madonna by Peter Lindbergh (estimate: €12,000 – 18,000), taken during a photoshoot for Harper’s Bazaar fashion magazine in 1994. On the contrary of certain images in fashion photography, Peter Lindbergh celebrates the natural and authentic side of his models. Brigitte Lacombe partakes in the same intimate and natural style in her pared-down portrait of Isabella Rossellini (estimate: €2,000 – 3,000)

Nudes are also a recurring theme in the Lothar Schirmer collection, as seen in the timeless, transgressive, and famous photograph of Yves Saint Laurent by Jeanloup Sieff (estimate: €10,000 – 15,000) Sitting naked before the camera lens, Yves Saint Laurent puts forward a different idea of masculinity. Contemporary photographers like Jean-Baptiste MondinoSteven KleinAnton Corbijn, and Nick Knight are also showcased in the collection.

The sale’s second section will feature an ensemble of iconic photographs, led by the Helmut Newton portfolios Private Property, Suites I, II & III (1975-1983), estimated at €300,000 – 500,000. Newton put together an anthology of 45 images from his previous ten years of creations, presenting them in three suites of fifteen shots each. The iconic photos included in every suite epitomise how this brilliant photographer managed to combine/combined the disciplines of fashion photography, portraiture and eroticism into works like Portrait of Elsa Peretti as a Bunny, Woman into ManTied-up torso, and Sie Kommen, among others.

Another sale highlight, Man in Polyester Suit by Robert Mapplethorpe (1980; estimate: €200,000 – 300,000), is one of the photographer’s best-known and most controversial shots. The photo is a very powerful depiction of the erotic affinity Mapplethorpe had with the anatomy of the model – his lover. Above all, it aimed to shock and provoke. According to Randy Kennedy from The New York Times, it became the photographer’s “most slyly powerful work, a deadpan commentary on race, class, sexual stereotypes and the slippery nature of photography itself that continues to jangle nerves”.

At the crossroads of still life and fashion photography, Man Lighting Girl’s Cigarette by Irving Penn (1949; estimate: €70,000 – 90,000) shines a light on the elegant, graceful American model Jean Patchett. The interplay between transparency and contrasts creates a sublime conversation between foreground and background. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art notably keeps a print in its own collections.

Christie’s will also present two photographs by Constantin BrancusiLa Négresse blanche de trois-quarts vue de nuit and Le poisson, (estimates: €30,000 – 50,000 and €20,000 – 30,000 respectively), embodying the artist’s own perspective on his work. Brancusi – widely considered as one of the founders of modern sculpture – devoted himself to photography after meeting Man Ray in 1914, using cameras as a way to observe his own works. Lighting, framing, each piece’s position in his atelier… Brancusi conferred immense significance to every element of his shots, which the odd reflection would sometimes betray his visions. In Le Poisson, for example, the artist’s tripod and camera appear in the polished bronze of the fish statue, reduced here to a simple elliptical shape.

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Among new and emerging artists, special mention must be made of Vision Ahead by Ghanaian artist Sarfo Emmanual Annor (estimate: €5,000 – 7,000). Taken on his smartphone, his shots of a contemporary Africa are rooted in the tradition of portrait photography and use colours to tell stories and dreams of the younger generations in Koforidua, Ghana.

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