Sotheby’s September 30th photography sale contains one massive lot of Edward Weston photographs—548, to be exact—that were printed by his son, Cole. Weston Sr. famously taught his two photographer sons, Cole and Brett, how he printed his works before succumbing to Parkinson’s Disease. After his death, Cole was give the sole right to print from his father’s negatives which were eventually donated in 1981 with the restriction that no prints could be made.
The New York Times’s Randy Kennedy explains how the 1400 images that Edward Weston left behind have fared on the market:
Because of the quality of Weston’s works, combined with the limitations he put on their printing, his works have commanded high prices at auction. Sotheby’s sold Weston’s own prints of “Nude” (1925) for $1.6 million in 2008, and “Nautilus” (1927) for $1.1 million in 2010. Prints by Cole Weston have typically sold for between $3,000 and $20,000. The collection going up for sale in September is owned by the Cole Weston Trust, and is said to be the largest collection of Cole Weston prints of his father’s work in private hands.
The interesting thing is that Sotheby’s is offering the works as a single lot. At the high estimate of $3m, the average price for the prints would be around $5500. Surely breaking up this collection would yield the trust a greater return. So perhaps the hope is that an institution will pick up the entire lot and keep it together. Could a photography dealer see the profit in breaking it up?
Sotheby’s online catalogue also makes this observation of the lot:
A surprising number of the images offered here are not represented by prints in the Edward Weston archive at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson: the Center has no prints—neither early prints by Edward, nor Project Prints by his son Brett—of over 140 of the images that comprise the present lot.
Edward Weston Photos to Be Auctioned (NYTimes.com)
548 Photographs: In Context (Sotheby’s)