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Thursday, November 30, 2006

2.5 Million Dollars for a Photograph!!!!!!!!

Prints by photographer Andreas Gursky are a favorite of deep-pocketed art collectors, and on two recent occasions have sold at auctions for in excess of $2 million.

Most recently, an anonymous bidder paid $2.48 million – with a sense of irony, one hopes – for Gursky's "99 Cent II Diptychon" (2001), which shows the cluttered interior of a discount store.

The sale, made at a Nov. 16 auction at Phillips de Pury & Company in New York, set an auction record for a work by a living photographer. It fell short of the record for the highest price ever paid for a photo at auction, which was set in February when a 1904 Edward Steichen print sold for $2,928,000.

The work sold at Phillips consists of two chromogenic color prints displayed as a diptych that measures over 22 feet wide. The work is one of an edition of six.

It was the second time a print of Gursky's "99 Cent" sold for more than $2 million. A single image from the series sold at Sotheby's in New York on May 10 for $2,256,000.

The "99 Cent" images feature oversaturated colors and enough detail to overwhelm the viewer. As is typical for Gursky, the image has been digitally distorted, almost eliminating perspective. Familiar products like Reynold's Wrap and Fiddle Faddle appear jammed into a solid wall of commerce.

The Phillips auction catalogue compares Gursky's study of commercial presentation to Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup cans and Brillo boxes. "Gursky provides viewers with a new visual vocabulary in which to comprehend the massive changes that have been brought on through globalization and commercialism," the catalogue states.

A representative from Matthew Marks Gallery in New York, which represents Gursky, declined to comment on the history of the print sold at Phillips, but said the gallery was not the seller.

Gursky, a German photographer born in 1955, is known for his objective, documentary-like studies of the everyday. His large-format photos have captured scenes like apartment buildings, concert crowds and the floor of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. He was the subject of a 2001 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where 43 of his prints were on display.