Upcoming Phillips Auction Highlights 20th-Century Photographs

Shreeya Maskey
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The upcoming Photographs auction, presented by Phillips, examines the craftsmanship of contemporary photography. Held on October 14th, 2020 starting at 10:00 AM EDT, the sale will include works from fashion, portrait, and fine art photographers. Leading the lots are works from the 20th century.

Dorian Leigh, Schiaparelli Rhinestones, Pré-Catelan, Paris, August by Richard Avedon. Photo courtesy of Phillips.
Dorian Leigh, Schiaparelli Rhinestones, Pré-Catelan, Paris, August by Richard Avedon. Photo courtesy of Phillips.

Photographs captured by Richard Avedon’s lens will be available in the live auction. Avedon’s work flourished in the 1940s, shortly after he took to photography as a profession. With time, he developed a more sophisticated style and began to create black-and-white contrasting imagery. In most of his photos, Avedon examined the free movement of his subjects within his empty studio. This sale includes a 1949 Avedon gelatin silver print taken in Paris (estimate: USD 4,000 – $6,000).

Charles James Dress, Carmen, New York, Harper's Bazaar by Lillian Bassman. Photo courtesy of Phillips.
Charles James Dress, Carmen, New York, Harper’s Bazaar by Lillian Bassman. Photo courtesy of Phillips.

In an interview with The New York Times, Lillian Bassman explained that she sought to “take the hardness out of the photography.” In this pursuit, Bassman’s work experimented with the darkroom, using techniques involving bleaching, cropping, dodging and burning, and selective focus. The artist controlled the environment of the photograph, producing a dream-like look in each of her works. Three photographs from Bassman will be available in this October auction, includinga fashion shot that the artist took for Harper’s Bazaar (estimate: $5,000 – $7,000).

Self-Portrait in Drag by Andy Warhol. Photo courtesy of Phillips.
Self-Portrait in Drag by Andy Warhol. Photo courtesy of Phillips.

A prominent Pop Art painter, Andy Warhol gradually drifted away from painting canvases to capturing the beauty of reality. He did not consider photography a mere medium of documentation but rather a visual diary. His interest in photography would help him become one of the most celebrated photographers of the 20th century. 

Warhol’s Self-Portrait in Drag will be offered in the event (estimate: $15,000 – $25,000). Warhol was fascinated with role-playing, drag queens, and the construction of identity. He admired “the boys who spend their lives trying to be complete girls.” In the early 1980s, Warhol collaborated with photographer Christopher Makos on a series of photoshoots showing Warhol in drag. The available Polaroid print was produced around that time.

Pour la Fille by Robert Frank. Photo courtesy of Phillips.
Pour la Fille by Robert Frank. Photo courtesy of Phillips.

Born in Zurich in 1924, Robert Frank’s affinity to photography would take him across America on a Guggenheim fellowship. During his travel, the everyday life of Americans was a recurring subject of his work. Frank’s photos pushed the limits of traditional methods. He introduced a new style of photography that often explored subjectivity and emotion. A 1980 silver print from Frank will be offered in the sale (estimate: $12,000 – $18,000).

The live auction will begin at 10:00 AM EDT on October 14th, 2020. Find continued coverage of this event on Auction Daily. For the complete listings, visit Phillips.