As one of the more “recent” art forms, photography’s popularity in the art market has grown and grown. Check out the list of the most expensive photographs ever sold updated in December 2014.
1 - Peter Lik: Phantom
The most expensive photo in history as of December 2014 is $6.5 million! The work of Australian landscape photographer Peter Lik, Phantom is a black-and-white shot of Arizona's Antelope Canyon, a piercing beam of sunlight appearing like a ghostly figure in a cavernous space. It was bought on November by a private collector but this sale raises some concern. Is it really worth it? If you have visited Antelope Canyon, you would know that your guide makes every tourist stop at the exact same spot every step of the visit so that everyone has exactly the same photo! The guide throws sand to get phantom shapes. If each photographer that visited Antelope Canyon sells his work will it reach also this price? How much will be worth the Grand Canyon?
2 - Andreas Gursky: Rhein II (1999)
On November 8, 2011 this photograph by Andreas Gursky was sold for $4,338,500 at Christie's in New York City. Francis Outred, Head of Christie's Post War and Contemporary Art Department in Europe, said it was because of the size and techniquebut also because there are only 6 (Three are in public museums (Moma, Tate, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich), one is with a private museum (Glenstone, Potomac) and only two are left in private collections including this one. Yes, it is not a museum but a private collector who paid more than 4 million dollars for this photograph!
3 - Richard Prince: Spiritual America (1983)
The most recent photograph to beat a record and to be in our Top 10 is called Spiritual America by Richard Prince. The Ektacolor print was executed in 1983 and it was sold at Christies in New York $3,973,000 on May 12, 2014. It is a "rephotograph" from Garry Gross's photo of Brooke Shields at the age of ten which is at the center of many controversies.
4 - Cindy Sherman: Untitled #96 (1981)
In May 2011, at Christie's in New York, this photograph by Cindy Sherman (a self-portrait as always) was sold for $3,890,500! This image was taken when she was 27 for the magazine Artforum which in fact never published it! A seventh print of the same image was also sold in May 2012 for $2.88 million. Cindy Sherman had a major solo exhibition at MOMA and SFMOMA in 2012 which probably helped.
5 - For Her Majesty, by Gilbert & George (1973)
On June 30, 2008 this photograph by Gilbert & George was sold for $3,767,960 at Christie's in London, UK. Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore and their "Art for All" are very popular in Great Britain and work in several medias.
6 - Richard Prince: Untitled (cowboys)
On May 12, 2014 another photograph by Richard Prince Untitled (Cowboy) was bought was $3,749,000. When you know that he also sold one of his painting over $8.5M we can say it was a good day for him...
7 - Jeff Wall: Dead Troops Talk (1992)
(A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986) The photograph's great attention to detail, the large scale and the direct allusion to 19th century historical painting are probably some of the reasons why it was sold for $3,666,500 in May 2012 at Christie's in New York.
8 - Richard Prince: Untitled (2001-2002)
This image, Untitled (Cowboy), a "rephotograph" of a photograph taken originally by Sam Abell and appropriated from a cigarette advertisement, was the first "rephotograph" to raise more than $1 million at auction when it was sold at Christie's New York in 2005. But in November of 2007 this Ektachrome print was sold for 3,401,000 at Sotheby's in New York
9 - Andreas Gursky: 99 Cent II, Diptych, 2001
Andreas Gursky was well inspired when he took this picture. It was sold $2.25 million at Sotheby's in May 2006, $2.48 million in November 2006 at a New York gallery and $3,338,750 in February 2007 at Sotheby's in London! We don't know at price it will be sold next time!
10 - Edward Steichen: The Pond-Moonlight (1904)
The photograph was made in 1904 in Mamaroneck, New York, near the home of his friend, art critic Charles Caffin. It is an early color photograph and was created by manually applying light-sensitive gums which makes it a unique image. It was sold for $2,928,000 in February 2006 at Sotheby's in New York. At the time it was the most expensive photograph ever sold.