Photography as art is gaining momentum slowly, slowly in New Zealand

Rhein_II_2052673bRhein 11 fetched US$4,338,500 in 2011

Photography as art is gaining momentum in New Zealand , albeit slowly  –  however there is still a huge gap between our top earning photographers and the rest of the world.  Scroll down for the latest auction prices from Art + Object. Our top-selling Photographer is Fiona Partington with a suite of work that sold for  $64.728. Whereas Peter Lik from Australia’s top priced work is  $1,000,000.  I notice too that some of the  names that were on the top of this list several years ago have dropped off of it as newer artists such as the afore-mentioned photographer Peter Lik gain recognition. These photographers that reach the heady heights all have agents, most have studied fine art  and  more importantly perhaps they have stuck with their craft and believed in themselves, success comes from hard work and good luck. I firmly believe you make your own luck to a large extent!! Create what the public perceive as collectible and unique, sometimes its the mundane, sometimes it is pure genius.

How many of you buy photography or even consider it? Cartier Bresson’s  work has sky rocketed in price since he died in 2004, New Zealand’s Brian Brake work has seen a big jump in value as have several other prominent NZ photographers. Ming Temple editioned print  might set you back 2-4 thousand but a print from the Te Papa gift store is perhaps $30-40 52475752

Ming Temple by Brian Brake

World rankings

Rank Artist Work Price Date Seller/Auction
1 Andreas Gursky Rhein II (1999) $4,338,500 November 8, 2011 Christie’s New York.[1]
2 Cindy Sherman Untitled #96 (1981) $3,890,500 May 2011 Christie’s New York.[2] A seventh print of Untitled #96 sold for $2.88 million at Christie’s in May 2012.[3]
3 Jeff Wall Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986) (1992) $3,666,500 May 8, 2012 Christie’s New York.[4]
4 Andreas Gursky 99 Cent II Diptychon (2001) $3,346,456 February 2007 Sotheby‘s London auction.[5] A second print of 99 Cent II Diptychon sold for $2.48 million in November 2006 at a New York gallery, and a third print sold for $2.25 million at Sotheby’s in May 2006.[5]
5 Edward Steichen The Pond-Moonlight (1904) $2,928,000 February 2006 Sotheby’s New York auction.[6]
6 Cindy Sherman Untitled #153 (1985) $2,700,000 November 2010 Phillips de Pury & Co. New York.[2]
7 unknown Billy the Kid (1879–80) tintype portrait $2,300,000 June 2011 Brian Lebel’s Old West Show & Auction.[7]
8 Dmitry Medvedev Tobolsk Kremlin (2009) $1,750,000 January 2010 Christmas Yarmarka, Saint Petersburg.[8][9][10]
9 Edward Weston Nude (1925) $1,609,000 April 2008 Sotheby‘s New York auction.[11]
10 Alfred Stieglitz Georgia O’Keeffe (Hands) (1919) $1,470,000 February 2006 Sotheby’s New York auction.[6]
11 Alfred Stieglitz Georgia O’Keeffe Nude (1919) $1,360,000 February 2006 Sotheby’s New York auction.[6]
12 Richard Prince Untitled (Cowboy) (1989)[12] $1,248,000 November 2005 Christie’s New York auction.[13]
13 Richard Avedon Dovima with elephants (1955) $1,151,976 November 2010 Christie’s Paris auction.[14]
14 Edward Weston Nautilus (1927) $1,082,500 April 2010 Sotheby‘s New York auction.[15]
15 Peter Lik One (2010) $1,000,000 December 2010 Anonymous collector[16][17][18][19]This purported sale was a private sale and not verifiable. All other sales on this list are public auction records.
16 Jeff Wall Untangling (1994) $1,000,000 AUD 2006 [20]
17 Eugène Atget Joueur d’Orgue (1898–1899) $686,500 April 2010 Christie’s New York auction.[21]
18 Robert Mapplethorpe Andy Warhol (1987) $643,200 October 17, 2006 Christie’s New York auction.[22]
19 Ansel Adams Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1948)[23] $609,600 October 2006 Sotheby’s New York auction.[24]


N.Z. photos at auction

Thankyou to Ben Plumbly  ( Art + Object) for this review on the  ten highest N.Z. photography sales in the period 2007–2014

Fiona Pardington
Ake Ake Huia1
Edition of 3, 2004
1210 x 930mm

Realised $30,385

2010 represented a remarkable year for Fiona Pardington. Her breath-taking Ake Ake Huia realised $30,385 to become the highest selling photograph at auction, and then, when the Quai Branly Suite achieved $64.728. This was the first time in this country that a contemporary photographer realised prices comparable to their peers working in more traditional media.


Gavin Hipkins
The Next Cabin

20 C-type prints, each in an edition of 8, dated 2002
600 x 400mm each

Realised $46,900 June 2011

Gavin Hipkins is another photographer to have garnered a significant international following. The Next Cabin which set a new benchmark for his market at auction. Offered with an estimate of $25,000 – $35,000, it sailed past this to realise $46,900 and become the second highest selling photographic work on the New Zealand auction market. 

C – type print, edition of 8, 2001
1500 x 1200mm

Realised $24,035 November 2013


Anne Noble
In the Presence of Angels

Portfolio of twelve selenium toned gelatin silver prints in an edition of ten
each print signed and dated 1989
187 x 352mm: each print

Realised $18,000  August 2013

Anne Noble is one of New Zealand’s  most widely respected photographers and was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to photography in 2003. In 2001 she was honoured with a retrospective exhibition and a major book about her work spanning 20 years. Initiated by the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, the exhibition toured from 2001–2003. In the presence of angels – photographs of the contemplative life (1988 – ’90), a beautiful boxed portfolio of 12 exquisitely printed selenium-toned photographs together with the original cover sheet, came from an extended study of a silent order of Benedictine nuns in a London convent. Many of the defining indexes of Noble’s oeuvre – her interest in darkness and light, tactility, dignity and quietude – play out strongly in this series. One particular photograph in the series A Place Setting in the Refectory, shows the photographer’s name at a setting at the dining table and thus provides the viewer with valuable insight into the privileged position she obtained in having access to the community and capturing their daily rituals and lives.


Laurence Aberhart
Taranaki (the Heavens Declare the Glory of God)

gold and selenium toned gelatin silver print
title inscribed, signed and dated 14 May, 1986
195 x 245mm

Realised $12,000  August 2012

Aberhart has always been, one of our most important artists. Perhaps there is little less fashionable way to work in the twenty first century than with a nineteenth century plate camera. Here, the spherical roof of the observatory recalls Colin McCahon’s Waterfall series, whilst the auratic glow of light and the miniaturised mountain in the rear combine to create an immensely powerful, art-historically informed and beautiful tableau.

Brian Brake

Offerings to the Unknown Dead – Kyoto, 1964
colour photograph printed from Kodak transparency on Ektacolour paper
original Brian Brake: Dowse Art Gallery exhibition label affixed verso
460 x 665mm

Realised $12 600 December 2010

Brian Brake is our most renowned photographer due principally to his vocation as a photo-journalist and his membership of the prestigious Magnum agency alongside such luminaries as Henri Carier-Bresson and Ernst Haas. His photo-essays such as Monsoon and Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau at a Bullfight were seen by millions through magazines like Life and were even exhibited in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In 2010 A+O presented over 60 photographs from the artist’s estate for a book, exhibition and auction timed to coincide with renewed interest in the photographer’s work brought about by the large-scale retrospective and monograph put together by Athol McCredie at Te Papa. The highest selling lot of the evening went to the complete set of twenty prints from the Bullfight essay which made $43 968. Yet it was the beautiful image Offering to the Unknown Dead, Kyoto, 1964, heavily utilised by Te Papa in their promotion of the Brian Brake retrospective exhibition, which captured the hearts and minds of collectors on the auction night realizing $12 600.

Yvonne Todd

Lightjet print 2/3
title inscribed, signed and dated 2006 verso
1360 x 1065mm

Realised $11 725 March 2012

Jae Hoon Lee

type C print, edition of 10
1900 x 1485mm

Realised $11,725  November 2011

Jae Hoon Lee is one of the key proponents in this country of a new generation of photo-media artists who is ‘making’ rather than ‘taking’ photographs, in the traditional sense. That is to say the emphasis of the creative process has shifted from his taking a photograph in the field to constructing the image on computer programmes such as photoshop.

Peter Peryer
gelatin silver print
title inscribed, signed and dated 1987 verso
460 x 302mm

Realised $10,405      June 2009

Peter Peryer is one of our most respected and distinguished photographers. The thought processes behind the photographs are the defining trope of his practice. Peryer has remarked that he actually spends very little time taking photographs but sometimes months leading up to the actual taking of the image thinking about the particular photograph he wants to takeLike Anne Noble, Peryer has seamlessly entered the digital age and embraced technological change, he now almost exclusively produces digital images often shot on his iphone.

Ans Westra
gelatin silver print
260 x 265mm

Realised $9,025.00  August 2014

The audience for Westra’s black and white photographs from the late 1950s through to the 1980s has been steadily increasing in recent times. This Untitled image realised $9025 in April of this year and in doing so set a new benchmark for the photographer’s prices at auction. Born in the Netherlands, Westra came to New Zealand in 1957. Working as a freelance photo-journalist in her twenties, Westra was attracted to Ma¯ori as she felt they were the most open and interesting subject available to her. Without question one of our finest social commentators and documentary photographers her great skill for me is the obvious trust she engenders from her subjects, her photographs always appear ‘un-posed’, as if she and her camera are invisible to the people and scenes she portrays. Thus, the distance between the subject and viewer is perhaps closer and less mediated than in any other photographs you will encounter in New Zealand.

Michael Parekowhai

Boulogne from the Consolations of Philosophy – Piko nei te matenga


C – type print, edition of 8, 2001
1500 x 1200mm

Realised $24,035 November 2013

(The end of Art + Objects’ report.)

So I am closing this blog with a little request to you all , attend photography exhibitions and consider purchasing work. Buy work that you couldn’t create on your own camera, moments in time, work that cannot be re photographed tomorrow. Not everyone will agree with me but that is my main guiding thought when purchasing photography. I have a very small collection of photography, Xie Hailong and  an original Cartier Bresson but mostly NZ photographers. They give me great pleasure and I change them around. Some photographers whom I would like to buy if I win lotto are Marti Friedlander, Bill Henson, Tony Hewitt, Annie Liebovitz and Fan Ho none of whom appear on these lists.

[As a minor player, not in any of these folks league, if I  sell a work for 7-8 hundred I am very happy.  I’m pleased to say I do sell a few works but I couldn’t feed a family on it!]  I sold a  copy of “The Parnell Pool” limited edition print after I blogged it recently 🙂 and then a small print from my Broken Dreams blog 🙂