17th WestLicht Photo Auction

“Schönheit und Abgrund“ (beauty and the abyss) is the motto of this year’s celebrations of Modernism in Vienna. Gustav Klimt was one of the protagonists who shaped the intellectually vibrant, cosmopolitan city around 1900. He died a hundred years ago.

In the photograph taken by Moriz Nähr in 1912, Gustav Klimt poses very much alive and not the least bit abyssal in his studio, petting his cat and glancing at the camera with vivid and warm-hearted eyes. It is one of his most famous portraits (estimate: 24,000-28,000 Euro) and is now on offer at the upcoming 17th WestLicht Photo Auction, only one of the highlights among more than 200 photographs and complementary rare treasures from the medium of the photobook.

Klimt is accompanied by further Austrian masters of photography from the early 20th century like Rudolf Koppitz, Heinrich Kühn, Ferdinand Schmutzer, Madame d’Ora and Trude Fleischmann. The latter produced an enchanting portrait of the famous state opera dancer Tilly Losch, which is estimated at 2,500 to 3,000 Euro.

Like Klimt, Czech photographer František Drtikol was a master of the female nude. Two works by him, “Untitled (Nude with shadow)”, 1926 (estimate: 9,000-10,000 Euro) and “Untitled (Backlit nude)”, c. 1926 (estimate: 7,000-9,000 Euro), are up for auction. Both come from the holdings of German photographer Grete Leistikow and display a cubist and art déco influence in their geometric elements, the expressively dynamic poses and the dramatic lighting.

In 1927, Jaroslav Rössler, who made his first steps as a photographer in Drtikol’s studio, pictured a man with a hat in front of a geometric stage design by Karel Teige. Rössler, who often worked with black and white striped backgrounds in his own studio, used the stage setting to arrive at an equally constructivist composition (estimate: 18,000–22,000 Euro).

The avant-garde spirit is also palpable in the photographs of Theodore Lux Feininger. Born as the son of the famous artist and Bauhaus Master Lyonel Feininger, he himself studied at the Bauhaus in Dessau and Weimar with Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Oskar Schlemmer. Soon, he focussed increasingly on photography and in 1928 took the picture of dancer Gret Palucca at his father’s house (estimate: 5,000-6,000 Euro).

Several works by Alfred Eisenstaedt are among the classics from 20th century history of photography, for example his iconic “V-J Day Kiss in Times Square”, New York 1945, estimated at 10,000-12,000 Euro. Our image of the 20th century was just as much shaped by the members of Magnum Photos and pictures like Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “Transit Camp, Dessau, April 1945” (estimate: 5,000-7,000 Euro) or “Die Heimkehrer” (The homecomers) by Ernst Haas (estimate: 4,000-5,000 Euro), an emblem of the post-war years. In the heart-breaking scene depicted, a woman anxiously shows a photograph of a loved one to a homecoming soldier at Vienna’s Südbahnhof in 1947.
The selection also includes works by Magnum legends like Werner Bischof, Bruno Barbey, Mary Ellen Mark, Elliott Erwitt and Inge Morath, among them also René Burri’s Dead lotus flowers on the Kunming Lake, taken in Beijing in 1964, a poetic image beyond topical issues (estimate: 5,000-7,000 Euro).

Another highlight are three masterly executed black and white compositions (estimate: 4,000-5,000 Euro each) by Eikoh Hosoe. One of them, “Ba-Ra-Kei: Ordeal by Roses #6”, belongs to the photographs which Eikoh Hosoe used in the 1962 book by legendary Japanese poet Yukio Mishima, who committed hara-kiri in 1970.
Arguably the most famous milk drop of all times was captured by Harold Edgerton in 1957 in his “Milk-Drop Coronet” (estimate: 5,000-6,000 Euro), while William Klein’s “Bikini Moscow” (estimate: 4,000-5,000 Euro) is a humorous snapshot from his 1959 portrait of the soviet metropolis and Ansel Adams with his “Manly Beacon, Death Valley National Monument”, California 1952, proofs once again that he is the master of landscape. The signed photograph (39.5 x 49.4 cm) was printed in 1977 and is estimated at 25,000-30,000 Euro.

Women, not only in front, but also behind the camera are strongly represented in the Auction’s selection. Lisette Model, who had emigrated from Vienna in 1938 took the tender “Teenage Love” (estimate: 15,000-18,000 Euro) in 1942 New York. Diane Arbus pointed her lens at the possible outcome of such love, a crying toddler, on the occasion of a baby contest at a New Jersey amusement park. Her “Loser at a Diaper Party” from 1967 now managed to get into the Auction and is estimated at 14,000-16,000 Euro.
Finally, beauty and the abyss would also be a fitting title for Nan Goldin’s portfolio “James King: Supermodel” and its female scrutinizing view on fashion industry. The twelve piece portfolio is estimated at 25,000-28,000 Euro.

Preview of the lots: 3 to 9 March 2018, open daily from 2 to 6 pm and by appointment +43 1 522 66 36 66

Stefan Musil
T: +43 (0)676 931 66 65

WestLicht Photographica Auction
Westbahnstrasse 40
A-1070 Vienna Austria
T: +43 (0)1 523 56 59