Psychedelic Beatles portrait stars in record-breaking $7.5m Richard Avedon sale

As the Beatles sang, money can't buy you love. But what it can get you is a unique piece of their memorabilia and on Saturday (November 20) in Paris one collector paid $609,547 for Richard Avedon's 1967 Beatles portfolio, smashing its original estimate of $300,000 - $500,000.

The set of four psychedelic portraits, one of only 9 portfolios ever printed, was just one lot amongst 67 in the auction of Avedon's work.

The portfolio, one of only nine, broke the previous
record of $464,000

It was the largest collection of his photographs ever sold, and the uniqueness of the sale was matched by its popularity with the auction achieving a total of $7.5m, (far beyond the pre-sale estimate of $6m).

All 65 lots were sold at 100% or more of their value, and the sale set a new record for a photography auction in France. The money raised by the sale will go to create an endowment for the Avedon Foundation with which to support various charities and artistic endeavours.

As expected, the sale's top-earner was the spectacular exhibition-sized print of Avedon's famous 1955 photograph 'Dovima with Elephants'. The print had an estimated price of $500,000 - $700,000 but fierce bidding saw it eventually sold for an astounding $1.15m, a new World Record price for his work.

'Dovima with Elephants' sold for a record-breaking $1.15m

Second place went to the Beatles portraits (breaking the previous record price for the portfolio of $464,000), with the portrait 'Andy Warhol and members of The Factory, New York, October 9, 1969' coming third with a price of $412,301.

This price, more than double its $164,000 estimate, truly showed both the strength of the photography market and the sought-after nature of Andy Warhol memorabilia.

Other notable sales included a revealing portrait of supermodel Stephanie Seymour which reached $362,989, and a set of political portraits commissioned by Rolling Stone magazine in 1976 entitled 'The Family' that sold for $280,803.

The highly desirable 1957 portrait of Marilyn Monroe (as featured last week) also broke its estimated price of $109,000 - $164,000, selling for an impressive $231,491. This was hardly surprising however, considering the currently booming market for Monroe memorabilia.  

As the auction drew to a close, one thing was sure; Richard Avedon's legacy as a true giant of the photography world will continue long into the future, and his admirers will continue to pay handsomely for his work.

It seems certain that his photographs will continue to break records whenever they come up for auction, and for investors that should prove that the world of photography is worth taking a closer look at.


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