Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles and Picasso star in amazing photography auction

Christie's Paris is set to offer an extraordinary group of works by Richard Avedon (1923-2004) in Avedon: Photographs from The Richard Avedon Foundation.

One of the most important artists of the 20th century, Avedon's work covered the most prominent figures of his time, including icons of political and social significance, and groundbreaking fashion.

Christie's evening sale on November 20 of more than 60 Avedon photographs represents not only the largest ensemble of his works to ever hit the market, but also offers several unique and extremely rare items.

The auction, to take place at Christie's during the Paris Photo Festival (November 18-21), is estimated to exceed $6 million, with proceeds from the sale initiating the philanthropic The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Dovima with elephants, wearing an evening dress by Dior

"The Richard Avedon Foundation is pleased to work with Christie's on this sale in Paris," said Paul Roth, the Foundation's Executive Director.

"In establishing his foundation, Avedon intended that we sell photographs to fund its operations, including philanthropy in support of the visual arts and photographic education."

Philippe Garner, International Head of Christie's 20th Century Decorative Art & Photographs departments, noted: "Here, in this sale, you have a pantheon of the great creative figures of the 20th century.

"In addition to landmark images of the glamour and elegance of fashion at its most sophisticated we have intense, commanding pictures that confront the human condition."

Avedon was one of the most recognised and influential figures of photography, the defining medium in - and of - the 20th century.

The scope and inventiveness of his portraiture and fashion imagery have long been recognised by leading curators and art historians, most recently through a series of monographic exhibitions and books.

"A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact, but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth" - Richard Avedon

A native New Yorker, Avedon was born in 1923 and started to make photographs with a Kodak Brownie Box camera at age 12. Following service during World War II as a photographer in the Merchant Marines, Avedon's rise to the pinnacle of editorial fashion and portraiture was meteoric.

'The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is
no longer a fact, but an opinion,' said Avedon

Early in his career at Harper's Bazaar, he developed a great affinity for Paris and photographed the fashion collections there for over forty years.

Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver (estimated at $500,000-700,000) is his best-known image from Paris, and will be one of the many highlights of the sale.

The print being offered is the largest exhibition print in existence, shown during the national tour of Avedon's 1978 Metropolitan Museum of Art fashion retrospective.

Avedon's love of French culture, reflected in his joyful and energetic fashion images from the 1950s, helped restore vibrancy to the City of Light in the aftermath of World War II.

He breathed life into fashion photography, transforming static poses into dynamic vignettes. Veruschka (estimated at $15,000-25,000), Jean Shrimpton ($20,000-30,000) and Twiggy ($20,000-30,000) are other notable works in the sale.

Other unique and iconic works on offer include a vintage print of his iconic portrait of Marilyn Monroe ($100,000-150,000); Brigitte Bardot ($70,000-90,000); and rare prints of fellow artists such Pablo Picasso ($40,000-60,000) and Marcel Duchamp ($20,000-30,000).

Richard Avedon's (1923-2004) self-portrait

Also included are political leaders such as Malcolm X ($60,000-90,000) and the Dalai Lama ($10,000-15,000).

A key highlight is The Beatles Portfolio, London, England ($300,000-500,000), Avedon's well-known but rarely available set of four psychedelic portraits of John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

The Avedon sale follows several other Christie's auctions devoted to single photographic artists.

Photographs by Diane Arbus (2008) realised $1.4 million for a total of 51 lots; Photographs by William Eggleston (2008) garnered $3 million on 50 lots; and, most recently, Three Decades with Irving Penn: Photographs from the Collection of Patricia McCabe (April 2010), realised $3.8 million.

The sale is scheduled to take place on November 20.


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