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March 17th, 2014

Photographers Could Get Royalties on Auction Sales Under Proposed Federal Bill

Few things are as frustrating to photographers as selling a print for a few thousand dollars–or less–then watching collectors reap huge profits by re-selling those same prints at auction years later for tens of thousands of dollars–or even more.

Two US Senators and a US Congressional representative have introduced a bill to cut visual artists in on that action with a 5 percent royalty on the price of visual works re-sold at auction. If it becomes law, the bill would apply only to works sold by auction houses–not by private individuals or dealers–and only when the auction price of a work exceeds $5,000, according to a report on the Art Law blog of Frankfurt, Kurnit, Klein & Selz (FKK&S), a New York law firm.

The auction royalty would be capped in 2014 at $35,000 for each sale. The cap would be subject to an inflation adjustment every year after that, according to the FKK&S report.  Auction houses would be obligated to collect the so-called auction royalty, and subject to civil claims from artists if they fail to collect and pay the royalty.

The bill, called the American Royalties Too Act (ART Act), was introduced last month in the Senate by Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ed Markey (D-MA), and in the House by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

“American artists are being treated unfairly,” said Nadler in a prepared statement. “The benefits derived from the appreciation in the price of a visual artists’ work typically accrues to collectors, auction houses, and galleries, not to the artist.”

He noted that visual artists in 70 other countries are compensated when their works are re-sold at auction.

Unable to collect royalties from the re-sale of existing prints that have increased significantly in value, US photographers sometimes respond by issuing new limited editions of their prints–in different sizes or using different printing processes from earlier editions.

That practice angers collectors. For instance, William Eggleston created limited-edition digital inkjet pigment prints of some of his most iconic images, and earned $5.9 million by selling them at a Christie’s auction in March, 2012. He was promptly sued by financier Jonathan Sobel, a long-time collector of Eggleston’s vintage dye-transfer prints. Sobel alleged that the new prints devalued Sobel’s dye transfer prints and amounted to a breach of contract on Eggleston’s part.

Sobel eventually lost the legal fight, although he had the sympathy of dealers and gallerists who worry that photographers could harm their reputations and the market for photographic prints if they anger collectors by issuing new editions.

The ART Act, if it becomes law, could help reduce incentive to issue new editions by giving photographers another way to profit from the dramatic rise in the value of their work.

But success of the bill is by no means assured.

Nadler introduced a similar bill in 2011 that died in committee. The US Copyright Office, which was opposed at the time to instituting resale royalties for visual artists, has since changed its position on the matter, according to the FKK&S report. But collectors and auction houses are certain to object to paying royalties to artists. And the ART Act seeks to change a long-entrenched principle of copyright law called the First Sale doctrine, which  allows buyers of copyrighted works to do with them as they please, with no obligation to the artists who made them.

Related:
Collector Sues Eggleston Over New Prints of Limited Edition Works

Q&A: Art Collector Jonathan Sobel Explains His Beef with William Eggleston

What Does Limited Edition Really Mean? (subscription required)

February 5th, 2014

Bill Diodato To Auction Collection of 20th Century Master Photo Books

Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Since the early Nineties, when commercial photographer Bill Diodato began collecting 20th century photographic literature, he has amassed a collection of 1500 volumes, including first editions and out-of-print books by Irving Penn, Brassai, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ed Ruscha, Andre Kertesz and other masters. On February 27, Swann Galleries in New York City will be auctioning 250 lots of books from Diodato’s collection. Diodato explains, “It’s a great time to say I got everything I needed out of them. It’s nice to share them with collectors and galleries and institutions.” While the Swann auction contains only the books most likely to fetch high prices, Diodato says, “I’m probably going to donate the other 1,000 books or so I have.”

Diodato says he began collecting photo books as a way to educate himself. He first bought books by the photographers who had the greatest influence on his own fashion and still life photography. “Penn was the biggest influence,” says Diodato. “Horst, Penn and Avedon are my earliest memories of purchasing photographic literature.” But he wanted to learn more and “cultivate my knowledge of photographic history.” He adds, “I set a personal goal to collect

Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

and know the most influential people in each genre.” While some collectors focus solely on photo books in one specialty or one country, Diodato collected photojournalism, portraiture, still life, conceptual photography.

Over time he acquired—usually through private dealers, gallery owners and Swann Galleries—works by W. Eugene Smith, Alfred Stieglitz, Walker Evans, Aaron Siskind, Bill Brandt, Daido Moriyama, Nobuyoshi Araki, Ed Ruscha, as well as photographers who had influenced them or been inspired by them. “Every time I got into another genre, it opened another door to another genre,” he says.

His purchases included some rare collectibles. He has a first edition of Lewis W. Hine’s Men at Work (Swann set its estimate at $3,000 – $4,500), a first edition of Brassai’s Paris de Nuit (estimate: $3,000 – $4,5000), and a copy of Alexei Brodovich’s Ballet in its clamshell box (estimate: $7,000 – $10,000). He has a copy of Sally Mann’s Immediate Family, which the photographer and her kids, whose photos appear in the book, signed for him. (Diodato’s keeping that volume, he says.) He also acquired prints by many of the artists he admired; some of these will be sold in the Swann auction.

Diodato stopped looking for 20th century master works to buy a few years ago. In 2010 he published his own book, Care of Ward 81. Several fellow photographers bought copies. “It changed my philosophy about collecting books,” he says. “I got a lot of support from other artists. That’s when I got the bug to buy new books.” For example, he recently purchased the latest book by Edward Burtynsky, an artist he admires. Diodato explains, “I want to get back to supporting artists, not chasing elusive books.”

About the 20th century photobooks he’s acquired, Diodato says, “I’m just a custodian now.” Being their custodian means storing them away from light or moisture. “They’re expensive to insure,” he notes. “If there was a fire, it would be a disaster.” Diodato is also a father with young kids. “I started to think: How would I feel if one of the kids tore a page out of Robert Frank’s The Americans?”

Diodato has previously sold books on consignment through photo-eye in Santa Fe. When he decided to let go of the bulk of his collection, he contacted Swann. “We collaborated on assessing values and conditions, and [on] descriptions.”

When those are sold, he’ll have more room in his home, and derive another benefit, too. “I’ll be happy to share them, and they’ll be exposed to the world.”

All photos: Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.

April 10th, 2013

Spring Photography Auctions Total More Than $30.8 Million, Set Artist Records

© 2013 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Man Ray's "Untitled Rayograph, 1922" set an auction record for a work by the artist of $1.2 million at the Christie's photographs sale on April 4.

© 2013 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Man Ray’s “Untitled Rayograph, 1922″ set an auction record for a work by the artist of $1.2 million during a Christie’s photographs sale on April 4.

Six photography sales last week at the three major auction houses in New York City brought in more than $30.8 million dollars and included record sales for masters Man Ray and Diane Arbus, among others, as well as contemporary artists including Robert Frank, Richard Misrach, Alex Prager and Viviane Sassen.

Two sales at Christie’s on April 4 and 5 totaled nearly 15 million. “The strength of these results is indicative of the thriving market for photographs, which continues to gain momentum with every sale,” said Philippe Garner, one of the Christie’s directors, in a statement.

The April 4 sale of a private collection of modernist photographs totaled more than $7.5 million, including a $1.2 million, auction record sale of a unique gelatin silver photogram by Man Ray, “Untitled Rayograph,” made in 1922. Nine other world auction records for artists were set during the sale, according to Christie’s. (more…)

June 19th, 2012

Auction to Benefit Chris Hondros Fund to be Held June 21

A silent auction and cocktail reception will be held Thursday, June 21 in Manhattan  to benefit the grantmaking and fellowship programs of the Chris Hondros Fund. The fund, a non-profit organization, was established to honor the life and work of Chris Hondros, the award-winning Getty Images photographer killed in Libya in April 2011. It supports photojournalists through grants and a fellowship to the Eddie Adams Workshop, and it support organizations that educate the public about photojournalism.

At the reception, the inaugural Getty Images and Chris Hondros Fund Award will be given to the  winners, Andrea Bruce and  Dominic Bracco II.  Among the items being sold through the silent auction are a print by Robert Capa (donated by the International Center of Photography),  Murray Garrett’s signed 1953 portrait of Marilyn Monroe, prints by Todd Heisler, Lynn Johnson, Rick Loomis and other photographers, and the Super Bowl XLVI football, autographed by Eli Manning.

The event will be held at the James Burden Mansion from 6 to 9pm. Tickets are still available for $50.  Tickets can be bought online at www.chrishondrosfund/benefit.  Information on the Chris Hondros Fund can be found on the fund’s web site, www.chrishondrosfund.org.

Related Article
Andrea Bruce Wins Getty Images & Chris Hondros Fund Award

May 9th, 2012

Jeff Wall Photograph Fetches Artist Record $3.6 Million at Auction

"Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986," © Jeff Wall.

A 1992 photograph by Jeff Wall sold for $3,666,500 yesterday evening during a Post-War and Contemporary art auction at Christie’s in New York City. The previous record sale for a work by Jeff Wall was $1.1 million.

The work “Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986″ depicts a grisly scene in which Soviet Red Army soldiers killed by the Afghan mujahideen have come back to life and are conversing with one another.

The photograph, framed in a light box, was the first in an edition of two, with one artist’s print. The photograph has been in the collection of David and Geraldine Pincus, who acquired it from Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. The Pincus’s substantial collection formed a major part of the sale, which set a record for a Post-War and Contemporary art sale at $388.5 million, according to Christie’s.

The high lot in the sale was Mark Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow,” which sold for $86.9 million, another record for a work from the Post-War period.

Three other photographs were included in the sale. A Richard Prince work that appropriated a Marlboro advertisement, “Untitled (Cowboys),” sold for $602,500. Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled #122″ sold for $206,500. And Nan Goldin’s “Ballad Triptych” sold for $218,500.

Related: Eggleston’s First-Ever Large Pigment Prints Earn 5.9 Million at Auction

April 6th, 2012

Print Auction to Benefit Children of Anton Hammerl to be Held May 15 at Christie’s (Update)

On May 15, 2012, Christie’s will hold an auction of photojournalism prints to benefit the children of Anton Hammerl. The South African-born photojournalist was killed while covering the conflict in Libya in April last year by forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi.

Hammerl was survived by his wife and three young children.

Photographers who have donated prints for the auction include Sebastiao Salgado, Alec Soth, Christopher Anderson, Jane Evelyn Atwood, Yuri Kozyrev, Larry Fink, Lynsey Addario, Susan Meiselas, Ron Haviv, David Burnett, Joao Silva, Samuel Aranda, Marcus Bleasdale, David Hume Kennerly, Roger Ballen and Vincent Laforet.
Update: Christiane Amanpour, the ABC News global correspondent, has agreed to host the May 15 benefit. Tickets to the event are now available for a suggested donation is $75.
Photographers Danny Clinch, Platon, Giles Duley, Jason Florio, Anastasia Taylor-Lind and the estate of Tim Hetherington have recently given images to the auction.

Those interested in bidding on prints can do so in person or online. More information can be found on the Friends of Anton Hammerl site, which was created by his friends to benefit Hammerl’s children.

http://www.friendsofanton.org/

Related article:

PDN Photo of the Day: Friends of a Friend (7 Photos)

April 5th, 2012

Eggleston Sued by Collector for Offering New Prints, Devaluing Limited Editions

A major collector of William Eggleston’s work filed suit against the photographer yesterday in a U.S. District Court, accusing him of devaluing his vintage dye transfer prints by selling new, large-scale pigment prints of many of his iconic works. The suit by Jonathan Sobel, a collector of 192 of Eggleston’s works, was prompted by a March 12, 2012, auction of Eggleston’s new pigment prints at Christie’s, which brought in more than $5.9 million.

Sobel, who estimates the value of his Eggleston collection at $3 million-$5 million, is suing the photographer, his two sons and the Eggleston Artistic Trust for unspecified damages, and has asked the court to bar Eggleston from making or selling any more prints of the photographs he has printed and sold previously as limited editions. Sobel says in his claim that he has eight dye transfer prints that were devalued by the sale of new digital versions at the March 12 auction.

According to gallerist Robert Mann, who sold Eggleston’s work in the late 1970s while working with one of the photographer’s original dealers, Harry Lunn Jr., Sobel is not the only person upset by Eggleston’s decision to offer a new edition of previously sold, limited edition work.

“I understand there are a lot of people out there who are pissed, and I don’t blame them,” Mann told PDN. “I’ve heard that other people are concerned, upset, wondering how this is possible, and what’s stopping it from happening again. It’s a credibility factor. I would be mortified if I was working with his collection.”

This story is developing. Check PDNOnline later this afternoon for more information on the case and what it means for the Eggleston market.

March 8th, 2012

Photographers Commemorate One-Year Anniversary of Tsunami

This Sunday, March 11, is the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Photographers who have extensively covered the devastation and the environmental and nuclear consequences around the affected region are marking the anniversary in variety of ways. Here are a few of the events:

Black Tsunami
FotoEvidence, the organization that supports photography books on social justice issues, is releasing a new digital book featuring Tokyo-based photographer James Whitlow Delano’s documentation of Year Zero, taken in Miyagi prefecture. His somber black-and-white photos convey the epic scale of the damage in a personal, almost poetic way. Black Tsunami is now available in the Apple iTunes store as an iPad app.  A preview can be seen on Vimeo.

Dispatch from Tohoku: A Group Slide Show
Sunday March 11, from 7:30 to 9:30, photographer Jake Price’s SeenUnseen will be presenting “Dispatch From Tohoku: Documenting the Aftermath,” a slide show of work by several photographers who documented the aftermath of the disaster.  Tickets are $15, and the proceeds will benefit Art in a Box, which brings supplies to children affected by the tsunami. Curated by Elissa Curtis, Dana Kien and Jamie Wellford, and produced by Price and Emmanuelle Chiche, the slide show includes images by James Whitlow Delano, David Guttenfelder, Kyoko Hamada, Dominic Nahr, Kosuke Okahara, Q. Sakamaki, Munemasa Takahashi and Price, and artwork by Midori Curtis.  It will be held at The Bubble Lounge, 228 West Broadway, New York City.

Wa Project Photo Auction
In April 2011, Wa Project held a photo auction in New York City that raised over $16,000 for rebuilding efforts in Japan. Now Wa Project is holding an auction and exhibition in Tokyo at the 72 Gallery of the Tokyo Institute of Photography, featuring photos by Kenro Izu, Venetia Dearden, Jake Price, Gilles Bensimon, Jamel Shabazz and others. The images all exemplify the theme of “wa,” loosely translated to mean “harmony.” All funds raised through print sales will be donated to Archi+Aid, which works with architects, students and communities rebuilding from disaster and preparing for the future. The show ends on March 11. For more information see waphotographyauction.com

February 16th, 2012

Sale of Forged Photos Embarrasses French Auction House

French police have opened an investigation into the sale at auction of 153 vintage photographs that are suspected of being forgeries, according to a report in The Art Newspaper.

The sale took place last March at Artcurial Deauville, an auction house in the city of Deauville near Le Havre on the English Channel. The auction house said prior to the sale that the photographs in question were made in 1848, and that they were from a collection alleged to have come from the family of a minor artist, Charles Edouard de Crespy Le Prince, who died in 1850.

The sale totaled €554,200, but some of the collectors who purchased lots have refused to pay or asked for the sales to be canceled and their money refunded after inspecting the works.

The investigation was initiated when Grégory Leroy, the independent expert who presided over the sale and initially verified the authenticity of the photographs, made a complaint to French police in December.

“This seems to have been a carefully prepared swindle,” Leroy told The Art Newspaper. “We were all taken in.”

The consignors, who are said to have bought the works in the 1990s believing they were authentic, sued the auction house unsuccessfully in December for the money owed to them from the sale.

Police have not commented on who, if anyone, they suspect in the forgery of the works.

January 26th, 2012

Photogs Hold Fundraiser for Art Buyer Heather Morton Feb. 5

Andrew Hetherington, Andy Anderson, Chris Buck, Mark Zibert, George Simhoni and Derek Shapton are among the more than 40 photographers who have contributed to the silent print auction to be held February 5 to raise money for Heather Morton, the freelance art buyer and popular blogger. In the fall, Morton began two years of chemotherapy for fibromatosis, an aggressive, non-malignant sarcoma.

The event will take place at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, Morton’s home town, on February 5 at 7pm. Photographers Naomi Harris, Daniel Ehrenworth and Brett Gundlock will be showing images from recent projects, and there will also be a raffle for dozens of prizes. Sponsors include Pikto, Agency Access, Westside Studio, Katarina Marinic and others (a full list of sponsors, a look at some of the images for sale and more information can be found on Morton’s blog, where friends and colleagues have been helping with postings).

Tickets are $10, and available via PayPal on Morton’s site to anyone who wants to attend (or just support this effort from afar).