NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than 60 photographs by Richard Avedon, some rare and unpublished, will be auctioned next month by Christie’s in Paris to create the Richard Avedon Foundation endowment fund.
The November 20 sale, the largest auction ever of Avedon’s work, is expected to fetch up to $6 million or more for the fund designed to help teach a generation flooded with technology to harness the power of photography.
“We want to help organizations that use photography to tell the truth about things,” said Paul Roth, executive director of the Richard Avedon Foundation in New York.
“We want to help young people learn how to use cameras and therefore have the power of controlling visual information in their own lives.”
The sale is also expected to confirm the resurrection of the photography market, which swooned with the economy before finding its footing. Avedon’s early images, made over a half century ago, aimed for similar results in his beloved Paris.
“Avedon as much as anyone is really responsible for recreating the image of a vibrant Paris after World War Two when the economy was really in its doldrums and there was widespread poverty,” Roth explained.
One of Avedon’s iconic fashion photographs of that era, “Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, August 1955,” is estimated to sell for $500,000 to $700,000. It is the largest Avedon exhibition print in existence, and hung in Avedon’s New York office for a quarter century.
Avedon’s celebrity photographs for sale include a vintage print of Marilyn Monroe, with an estimated price of $100,000 to $150,000 and another of Malcolm X which could sell for between $60,000 and $90,000.
The image of a bare-chested Andy Warhol torso, face unseen, is riddled with scars and the bullet hole from his near-fatal shooting in the 1960s.
Avedon’s rarely available Beatles set of four psychedelic portraits of John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are also being sold. These were last sold for a record $464,000 by Christie’s five years ago.
There are several pieces from “In the American West,” photos of anonymous people like a coal miner covered in soot.
“Portrait photographers had a job to do and the job was to idealize their subjects, and Avedon didn’t do that,” said Roth.
Avedon’s photographs were “precise and unerring,” he added.
The endowment, www.avedonfoundation.org, aims to support groups that teach photography as well as to support the works of the artist who died in 2004.
“He’s best known for photographing famous people like Andy Warhol, but in a lot of ways he’s most valuable for having shown us people who are known, who are appreciated, but whose faces we didn’t know,” like writer Samuel Beckett, Roth said.
Joshua Holdeman, international director of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s in New York, expects aggressive bidding. Christie’s photography sales have bounced from $2.46 million in spring 2009 to $6.7 million in the fall of 2009 to $9.4 million in April 2010, he said.
“Everybody just got really freaked out,” he said referring to the recession, “a lot of the confidence in the people who collect these kinds of things has been restored.”
Reporting by Lynn Adler; Editing by Patricia Reaney