11 September 2017

Phillips Announces the Fall Auction of
The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation

Sale to be Held on 3 October in New York

Early 20th Century Masters Lead Auction with Works by Eugène Atget,
Alfred Stieglitz, Imogen Cunningham, and László Moholy-Nagy


NEW YORK – 11 SEPTEMBER 2017 – Phillips is honored to announce highlights from the auction of The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation on 3 October. Following the successful offering of works from the collection earlier this year, the fall sale will include 229 lots, spanning three centuries of photography. Assembled by JGS's founder Howard Stein, this sale presents rare and unique works by true masters of the medium, such as Eugène Atget, Edward Steichen, Imogen Cunningham, Robert Frank, and László Moholy-Nagy, among many others.

Caroline Deck, Phillips’ Senior Specialist, Photographs, said, “We are thrilled to offer our second sale of The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation this October. Our first sale of this renowned collection was hosted in April and it was met with a great deal of enthusiasm by photograph collectors around the globe. The demand for these extremely rare and significant works was a testament to the knowledge and passion with which Howard Stein built his collection and we are confident that the fall auction will be equally as compelling.”

László Moholy-Nagy’s Portrait of Ellen Frank is a wonderful example of an early 20th-century work from the collection. This photograph is from a series Moholy began in the late 1920s in which he pushed past conventions to create a new kind of portrait photography.

Also among the early 20th-century works is Rue Mouffetard by Eugène Atget, who documented the city of Paris with an objective clarity that remained consistent throughout his career. Rue Mouffetard, taken in 1925, portrays a distinctly modern street scene. With its lighted shop signs, delivery carts, and clothing displays, this photograph is exemplary of Atget’s unique ability to document a specific place and time. Yet, the photograph’s headless mannequins, garments that seem to float above the shop entrance, and ghostly blurred trails of passing shoppers are examples of the elements that made him so appealing to the Surrealists.

Among several examples of photographic books is a nearly complete set of Alfred Stieglitz’s Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly. Produced between 1903 and 1917, Camera Work is one of the most ambitious publishing projects in the history of photographic literature. Within its 15-year lifespan it encompassed the shifting dominant modes of photography and traced the medium’s evolution from Pictorialism to Modernism. The production quality of the journal remained exceedingly high throughout its run, with many of its illustrations appearing in photogravure.

Imogen Cunningham’s Magnolia Blossom (Tower of Jewels), is a masterful close-up view of the pistils and stamens of the Magnolia grandiflora. It is one her most accomplished images and is an early example of the uniquely American mode of Modernist photography that would reach maturity in the 1920s. This photograph encapsulates Cunningham’s ability to create an image that combines scientific accuracy with aesthetic perfection. This image was an important one for Cunningham from the time of its making, yet a mounted and signed print, like the one offered here, is a true rarity.

André Kertész’s Distortion with Vase is among the rarest works in the auction with the only other early print of the image located in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Kertész began incorporating visual distortion into his images at the start of his career and continued to employ various distortion techniques in the following decades, often to subvert an otherwise conventional photographic genre such as the nude or the still life.

The sale includes many fine 19th-century photographs by makers whose names are synonymous with the medium’s early history. Early works by William Henry Fox Talbot and Southworth and Hawes demonstrate the creative energy of photography’s first decades. Large format prints by Gustave Le Gray, Carleton Watkins, and Julia Margaret Cameron are prime examples of these photographers’ work. An album of Felice Beato’s photographs of Japan shows how 19th-century photography often straddled the line between the documentary and the artistic.

The auction will also include an impressive selection of photographs by contemporary photographers, such as Robert Heinecken, Barry Frydlender, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Irving Penn, Idris Khan, and Shirin Neshat. Selected images from Are You Rea, a group of seven gelatin silver prints from 1966-1968 by Robert Heinecken, are among the sale’s highlights with one of the works serving as the cover lot for the auction catalogue.

Christopher Mahoney, Consultant, Photographs, said, “Working on the third sale of photographs from the Joy of Giving Something Foundation has reinforced for me how deep this collection delves into the very essence of photography. Whether he was collecting early photography, Pictorialism, Modernism, or Contemporary, Howard Stein was concerned foremost with photographic excellence, in terms of vision and quality. It is a remarkable exploration of photography’s vast expressive range.”

The Collector
Joy of Giving Something Foundation was founded in 1998 by the late financier and pioneering New York-based collector Howard Stein. Stein began acquiring photography in the 1980s, eventually forming one of the most comprehensive collections in private hands, spanning the 19th through 21st centuries. Devoted to the field of photography, he established the non-profit foundation to consider the relationship of photography to social issues and to support emerging artists and advance the arts in education. Stein gifted the majority of his personal collection to the organization to help fulfill its mission. In addition to publishing fine art books and journals, JGS has established annual scholarships for students pursuing post-secondary degrees in the visual arts, and has launched afterschool photography programs for youth throughout New York City. To highlight these programs, Phillips will be exhibiting 33 photographs by 7th-grade students from the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School (LMS) alongside the pre-sale exhibition for the auction. Works from the JGS collection have also been loaned to major museums across the globe. An initial auction of works from the JGS collection, 175 Masterworks to Celebrate 175 Years of Photography, realized over $21 million in 2014, the highest total for an auction of photographs. In April 2017, Phillips offered the first half of its selection in a successful dedicated auction and the sale this October will mark the final opportunity to acquire works from this historic collection. The JGS Board has stated, “This is the final sale from the JGS Collection and JGS will fulfill that vision by donating the remainder of the collection to museums, universities, and smaller arts organizations.” The proceeds from the sale will support the future philanthropic mission of JGS.