The 20 Most Expensive Photographs Sold at Auction [November 2017]

Since publishing the series of posts detailing the most expensive photographs sold at auction, several more expensive photographs have been sold for record prices, and have been added to the list. Here is a brief rundown:

Andreas Gursky is by far the most successful photographer when it comes to selling the most expensive photographs at auction (with 9 prints selling for over $1 million), followed by Cindy Sherman, who is the most successful female photographer to sell at auction (with 7 lots selling for more than $1 million). The overwhelming majority of these photographs were created via analogue cameras, suggesting that film photography is considered far more valuable than digital. The most recent image to have been captured in the list is Tobolsk Kremlin, a digital print from Dmitry Medvedev, taken in 2009, and the oldest is Joseph Philibert Girault de Prangey’s Daguerreotype 113 Athenes, Temple de Jupiter captured in 1842. These photographs were taken 167 years apart. Some photographs feature several times on the list, such as Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still 48 and Untitled 96, and Richard Prince’s Untitled (cowboy) with different editions of these prints selling in different years and, sometimes, different auction houses.

2017:

One of the most recent additions to the ultimate list was the 2017 sale of Orphaned Cheetah Cubs, Mweiga, near Nyeri, Kenya, March 1968 by Peter Beard which sold for over $672,000 at Christie’s New York on 10th October 2017 in the ‘Photographs Including Property from the Museum of Modern Art’ auction. Though it did not break into the top 20, it was by far one of the most expensive photographs to sell this year.

As well as a print from Edward Weston at Christie’s New York – back in April, other prints to be added to the ultimate list this year included Freischwimmer 84 by Wolfgang Tillmans ($800,000, Phillips London), May Day IV by Andreas Gursky (£758,750, Christie’s London) and Red Morning (Hell) by Gilbert & George (£848,750, Christie’s London).

But there were two stand-out sales this year, both of which came for Man Ray, who not only entered the list for the first time but entered the top 20 with 2 sales. In May, Man Ray’s Portrait of a tearful woman became the first photograph to enter the top 20 since 2015, selling for $2.1 million (Christie’s New York). This was a world record for the artist, which was broken 6 months later with Noire et Blanche, which became the 14th most expensive photograph to ever sell at auction (2.6 million euros, Christie’s Paris), making it the most expensive photograph to sell this year.

Here is the revised list of the 20 most expensive photographs sold at auction (in ascending order):

20

Cindy Sherman Untitled 92 1981

Cindy Sherman Untitled 92 1981. Chromogenic colour print. Sold at Christie’s New York in November 2013: $2,045,000

19

Man Ray Portrait of a Tearful Woman 1936

Man Ray Portrait of a Tearful Woman 1936. Hand-coloured Gelatin Silver print. Sold at Christie’s New York in May 2017: $2,167,500 

18

Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still 48

Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still 48 1979. Chromogenic colour print. Sold at Sotheby’s New York in November 2014: $2,225,000

17

Unknown “Billy the Kid” (Fort Sumner, New Mexico) 1879

Unknown “Billy the Kid” (Fort Sumner, New Mexico) 1879. Tin-type. Sold at Brian Lebel’s Old West Show & Auction in June 2011: $2,300,000

16

Andreas Gursky Paris, Montparnasse 1993

Andreas Gursky Paris, Montparnasse 1993. Chromogenic colour print. Sold at Sotheby’s London in October 2013: $2,416,475

15

Andreas Gursky Chicago Board of Trade 1997

Andreas Gursky Chicago Board of Trade 1997. Chromogenic colour print. Sold at Sotheby’s London in June 2013: $2,507,755

14

Man Ray Noire et Blanche, 1926

Man Ray Noire et Blanche 1926. Silver print. Sold at Christie’s Paris in November 2017: EUR 2,688,750 

13

Cindy Sherman Untitled 153 1985

Cindy Sherman Untitled 153 1985. Chromogenic colour print. Sold at Phillips New York in November 2010: $2,770,500

12

Cindy Sherman Untitled 96 1981

Cindy Sherman Untitled 96 1981. Chromogenic colour print. Sold at Christie’s New York in May 2012: $2,882,500

11

Andreas Gursky Los Angeles 1998

Andreas Gursky Los Angeles 1998. Chromogenic colour print. Sold at Sotheby’s London in February 2008: $2,900,000

10

Edward Steichen The Pond - Moonlight 1904

Edward Steichen The Pond – Moonlight 1904. Gum Bichromate print over Platinum. Sold at Sotheby’s New York in February 2006: $2,928,000

9

Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still 48

Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still 48 1979. Chromogenic colour print. Sold at Christie’s New York in May 2015: $2,965,000

8

Richard Prince Untitled (cowboy)

Richard Prince Untitled (cowboy) 2000. Ektacolour Print. Sotheby’s New York May 2014: $3,077,000

7

Andreas Gursky Chicago Board of Trade 1997

Andreas Gursky Chicago Board of Trade III 1999. Chromogenic colour print. Sold at Sotheby’s London in June 2013: $3,298,755

6

Andreas Gursky 99 Cent II Diptychon 2001

Andreas Gursky 99 Cent II Diptychon 2001. Chromogenic colour print. Sold at Sotheby’s London in February 2007: $3,346,456

5

Jeff Wall Dead Troops Talk 1992

Jeff Wall Dead Troops Talk 1992. Transparency in Lightbox. Sold at Christie’s New York in May 2012: $3,666,500

4

Gilbert & George To Her Majesty 1973

Gilbert & George To Her Majesty 1973. Gelatin Silver print. Sold at Christie’s London in June 2008: $3,765,276

3

Cindy Sherman Untitled 96 1981

Cindy Sherman Untitled 96 1981. Chromogenic colour print. Sold at Christie’s New York in May 2011: $3,890,500

2

Black Space Photography At Auction Blank Image

*Richard Prince Spiritual America 1981. Ektacolor print. Sold at Christie’s New York in May 2014: $3,973,000 

1

Andreas Gursky Rhein II 1999

Andreas Gursky Rhein II 1999. Chromogenic colour print. Sold at Christie’s New York in November 2011: $4,338,500

This image features an undressed child, if you wish to see the photograph you must follow this link to Christie’s

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