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Buhl Photos Earn Highest Auction Price for Private Collection


A recent Sotheby’s auction of photographic works known as the Buhl Collection beat the expectations of the collection’s private owners by earning more than $12.3 million. The figure represents the highest ever auction price for a private collection of photographs and a third-highest for a single-owner collection.

Before the December 2012 auction, estimates of the auction’s total take ranged from $8 million to $12.2 million. The majority of the proceeds will benefit The Buhl Foundation.

The collection, known as “A Show Of Hands: Photographs From The Collection of Henry Buhl,” included “Lonely Metropolitan,” by Herbert Bayer, and “Fotogramm,” by László Moholy-Nagy, each of which sold for $1.48 million. These two sales now rank as the third-highest price for a classic photograph sold at auction. Sotheby’s has now sold eight of the top 10 most expensive classic photographs of all time.

Other notable sales included “Rayograph with Hand, Lens and Egg,” by Man Ray, which sold for $866,500, and Alfred Stieglitz’s “Hands and Thimble,” which sold for $770,500. Record prices were also set for works by Herbert Bayer, El Lissitzky, Lee Miller, Peter Hujar, Helen Levitt, Man Ray and Gabriel Orozco.

The Buhl Collection, one of the world’s most significant privately owned photographic collections, included images that focused on the human hand as a general theme. The collection was assembled by philanthropist and collector Henry M. Buhl.