Friday, February 17, 2006

A Big Sale Spurs Talk of a Photography Gold Rush

By RANDY KENNEDY @ New York Times

Photography has had "it" moments before — times when the comfortingly concrete facts of the marketplace signaled to curators, dealers and photographers that the medium had finally arrived, fully embraced by the world of fine art and serious collecting.

In 1981, a huge print of Ansel Adams's famous "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico" sold in Los Angeles for $71,500 — at the time the highest price ever paid for a photograph, and an even more stunning figure because Adams was still alive at the time.

Records have continued to be broken steadily. But until last year, when a contemporary photograph by Richard Prince sold for $1.2 million at Christie's, no single print had ever broken the six-figure barrier at auction. So when Sotheby's announced this week that "The Pond — Moonlight," a platinum print by Edward Steichen owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, had sold for almost $3 million to an anonymous buyer, it was as if continents had shifted in the photography world.

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