Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thank You Christie's & William Eggleston!

Among photographers, art dealers and collectors there have always been some underlying question as to the legitimacy of digital prints vs the hand-pulled print made in the traditional darkroom. I have adamantly been a proponent of digital print-making and the editioning of digital prints. If you would like to read more of my comments on print editions, scroll down on this Blog to "Limited Edition Prints."

 While digital print-making has been around for almost 20 years, thanks to a recent sale (March 12, 2012) of William Eggleston's classic 1973 image of a child's tricycle at Christie's in New York, the digital print, in my opinion, has finally been legitimized ... yes!

 The 44" x 60" digital pigment print sold for $578,500. This was more than twice the previous record for an Eggleston print. The print was printed in an edition of 2 ... with a caveat that the 2nd print would not be sold for 3 years! Now that's a limited edition! Prior to the production of these particular digital prints, Eggleston's prints have been of the dye-transfer process ... a laborious and complex process known for it's clarity, color saturation and archivability.

Untitled, 1973 by William Eggleston

According to Ctein, a master dye-transfer print maker, "they are simply without peer." Dye-transfers today are made by only a handful of individuals. Due to the rarity of available materials and the complexity of the process, they are VERY expensive! Kodak no longer manufacturers the film material used in the dye-transfer process.  What materials were available have been purchased and stockpiled. It is my guess that in a very short period of time this process will be gone forever. 

According to an article in PDN (Photo District News), the Eggleston print auction at Christie's was a benefit for the Eggleston Artistic Trust. The article also references Joshua Holdeman, International Director of Christie's photography department, who states that "the sale was to establish a new market for Eggleston's photography in the contemporary art world." "Eggleston has been kind of stuck in the old school world of the photography collectors for a long time, whose primary concerns are about process, print type, print date, etcetera," says Holdeman. This is a "huge deal," for photography collectors, Holdeman says. "For contemporary art collectors it's much more about the object itself - they couldn't care if it's a dye-transfer or a pigment print or whatever, as long as the object itself is totally amazing, that's what they care about."

This is not only a big deal for collectors, it is also a VERY BIG DEAL for photographers and art dealers alike. Thank you Christie's and thank you Mr. Eggleston for finally giving legitimacy to the digital print. 

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