The most expensive photographs in history
• Fine art photography is a strange and volatile market that can change very quickly. While most photographs sell for reasonable amounts, some of them inflate to numbers that most photographers can only dream about.
• For example, in February, a group of 10 investors paid $1 million for a cryptographic photograph called The Forever Rose taken by Kevin Ebosch. Forever Rose is not a physical photograph, but the most expensive virtual image in the world. And each investor received a "token" that he can keep or sell.
However, even $ 1 million is a trifle compared to the amounts paid for most expensive photographs ever.
10 Moonlight Lake by Edward Steichen
• The list of the most expensive photos in history opens with a picture taken back in 1904 and sold in 2006.
• Steichen was one of the first photographers (if not the first) to use autochrome. To colorize the photo, he applied potato starch granules filled with paints of different colors to the film. And there are two copies of this photograph: one sold at Sotheby's, and the second is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
9. Chicago Stock Exchange III by Andreas Gursky
• The first, but not the last work of Gursky in the selection of the most expensive photographs in the world. The picture shows the trading floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange. To express the feeling of movement, the author exposed several parts of the image twice.
• As with the other photos of him on this list, Gursky also changed the colors to make them more vibrant.
8. “99 cents. Diptych, Andreas Gursky
• This is a chromogenic color print stylized as a diptych and consisting of two photographs. It is very large – 2,07 x 3,37 meters. The action takes place in a store in Los Angeles, where goods are sold for 99 cents.
• Gursky uses semi-symmetrical lines and colorful shelf packaging to create a high-contrast image that is sure to grab attention.
7. "Untitled (Cowboy)" by Richard Prince
• Richard Prince began his foray into artistry at Time-Life, Inc., where his job consisted of clipping articles from magazines for staff writers. As an aspiring photographer, Prince studied what was left of magazines after cutting out articles – advertising pages.
• "Cowboy" represents the height of Prince's fascination with American archetypes, and the shot is actually a photograph from a Time magazine ad featuring a Marlboro cowboy. This work is "in the broadest sense, a reflection on the constant attraction of the whole culture to spectacles, and not to life experience."
• It's funny that the photographer who took the first publicity photo did not appreciate the high art and sued Prince for using a copyrighted image. But the court ruled in favor of Prince.
6. Dead Soldier Talk by Jeff Wall
• This image was taken by Canadian photographer Jeff Wall in 1992 and depicts a fictional resurrection scene of a Red Army patrol ambushed near Mokor, Afghanistan, in the winter of 1986. The revived fighters talk to each other, not paying attention to severe wounds and severed limbs.
• At the same time, Wall has never been to Afghanistan, and the shooting of the actors portraying soldiers took place in the studio.
• “I made dead soldiers speak not to comment on the Afghan war. I did this because I wanted to photograph the talking dead. It was a theme, or an image, or both, spontaneously, I don't know why. So, the painting had a personal or internal starting point,” the photographer said in an interview with Photoworks.
5. "For Her Majesty" by Gilbert Prosh and George Passmore
• Gilbert and George are life and work partners in performance photography, but the pair are adamant that they are "two people but one artist," as George told Reuters.
• And as one artist, they created a whole collage of black and white photographs, which is dedicated to the memory of the duet's period of alcoholic libations in the early 70s of the last century. Thus Gilbert and George are both subjects and objects, art and creators of their paintings, as they prefer to call them.
4. Untitled #96 by Cindy Sherman
• Known for her provocative self-portraits, Sherman's work is exceptionally popular with collectors. She once made $13,7 million from just one auction, according to Bloomberg.
• Sherman was responsible for all aspects of her photography, including makeup, hair, lighting, staging, and photography.
• When creating "Untitled No. 96", the photographer was inspired by spreads of men's erotic magazines. At the same time, in the picture she looks like the complete opposite of the models who usually pose for such publications. Many people claim that Sherman's facial expressions and body language show vulnerability and fear.
3. Spiritual America by Richard Prince
• In one of the most controversial photographs in history, 10-year-old Brooke Shields posed for the photographer. Her naked childlike body contrasts sharply with her seductive and mature expression, which is covered with bright make-up.
• The title "Spiritual America" is taken from another work: Alfred Stieglitz's photograph of a neutered working horse in 1923. The image and title contrast with each other, comparing hard, honest work with the fact that people these days easily achieve fame and glory.
2. Rhine II, Andreas Gursky
• The most expensive work of the German photographer Andreas Gursky is "Rhine II", auctioned by Christie's in November. It depicts the River Rhine flowing between green grassy fields and under an overcast sky. This photo is the first in a series of six shots and shows a stretch of the Rhine River near Düsseldorf.
• Until the 1990s, Gursky did not digitally alter his images, but Rhine II was an exception. Wanting to create a desert landscape, Gursky removed distracting elements, including a factory building, pedestrians, and cyclists.
1. "Phantom", Peter Lik
• On December 9, a black and white image of Antelope Canyon in Arizona, USA, made by the famous Australian landscape painter Peter Leak, allegedly broke all existing price records. We say "allegedly" because the deal was private, and only known from Peter himself and from the lawyers who accompanied the deal. Therefore, the place of "Phantom" as the most expensive photograph in the world is still hotly debated.
• “The goal of all my photographs is to capture the power of nature and convey it in a way that inspires someone to feel excited and connected to the image,” Peter said of his work.
• A private collector purchased not only the monochrome "Phantom" but also two more works by Lick – "Illusion" for $2.4 million and "Eternal Moods" for $1.1 million. The total amount of the deal was $10 million.