Right after I complain about the selection modern photography at Sotheby's 12 November sale (and of Vik Muniz and Nan Goldin in particular) Phillips de Pury has a contemporary art sale that has an excellent selection of modern photography.
Most of the photography is in Part II, with an excellent Muniz piece (Mass from the Pictures of Chocolate series) I think the chocolate is some of his best work, both from a technical standpoint and as beautiful and interesting pieces. There's also Muniz's VJ Day, but from the on-line illustration, it is hard to tell what series it's from (possibly Drawn from Memory). A lot cheaper (USD15K versus USD60K at the high end), but no where near as nice. And, to continue the Muniz / Goldin theme, there's two stand-out Goldin prints: Nan and Dickie in the York Motel and Simon in the Snow. The "Nan and Dickie" is a vintage cibachrome, and a nice example of her early work. (Although, given where she is in the picture, the question arises of who actually took the picture. This may explain the relatively reasonable high estimate of USD7K). The "Simon in the Snow" is also a nice piece, although it is much more typical of late Goldin. The contrast of the overall blue tint with the warm colors of the face make it a very intimate piece for me. (I'm thinking about bidding on it; the high estimate is USD6K)
There seems to be a lot of Asian artists in this sale, and I'll be the first to admit, I know very little about modern Asian art. Two pieces by Bien-U Bae (Pine Tree and Sea, both USD60K on the high); Wang Qingsong's Three Graces (USD15K on the high); and two examples of Zhang Huang's To Raise the Water Level in a Fishpond series (Untitled (USD45K) and Waterchild (USD20K) really stood out for me. Check back in a year or so, and I'll have a better sense of both what I like in Asian photography, and what's important.
And speaking of the difference between what I like and what's important, that brings up Ryan McGinley (Stairs and Tim and Dakota (both USD6K)), and Wolfgang Tillmans (Lutz and Alex (USD35K)). I mean, it's not that I don't like naked boys. I do. With a six pack, I could even like naked girls. But all of these leave me a little cold. Stairs is definitely the best of the lot. Again, give me another year to get used to both of them, and I might have a different impression.
Wrapping up this sale, there were a few other pieces that caught my eye, in particular, Crewdson's Hover (USD12K); Taylor-Wood's Pieta (USD40K); and Delvoye's Garbage (USD9K). I'm slowly warming up to Crewdson, and I think Fireflies was an important part of it. But the staged pictures are also quite good. Both the Taylor-Wood and the Delvoye were just nice pieces. Nothing more, nothing less. Which is what I want, long-term, from art.
Tomorrow, I'll try to tackle Phillip's Photography sale. Surprisingly, this wasn't one.