[private_subscriber][private_bundle]2010 is shaping up to be a big year for the market of the recently deceased Irving Penn. For the past five years Penn has been a leader in terms of total sales and lots offered, coming second only to the perennially popular Ansel Adams (Fig. 7).
Although Penn is not among the top 10 earners in terms of single highest prices, two lots on offer at Christie’s next week—Cuzco Children, ($150,000-200,000) and Woman in a Moroccan Palace ($300,000-500,000)—could bump him up a few notches. Since 2007, a half dozen other prints of Cuzco and Woman carrying comparable estimates have appeared on the market; four were bought in, but two proved to be major market milestones for Penn: A print of Woman brought $396,000 in 2007—a record for Penn at the time—and in 2008 a Cuzco print brought $529,000, which remains his auction record today.
His high prices did not continue their upward trend last year (Fig. 8), but their dip was not as dramatic as the overall decline in prices for photography at the top of the market (see Focus On: Photography, Fig. 2). His average prices have stayed stable, especially when compared to those of his peers (Fig. 9).
Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, and Alfred Stieglitz were chosen for comparison based on market attributes that they share with Penn, such as low buy-in rates, high average prices, and high lot volume (see Methodology Appendix for more details). The downward trends in average prices for Arbus and Stieglitz give added perspective to the consistency of Penn’s market.
But Penn’s stable average prices are bound to be rocked by next week’s post-mortem madness: The 78 Penn lots on offer (70 of which come from the collection of Patricia McCabe, Penn’s former assistant) mark the first glut of the artist’s work to reach the market since his death in October.