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Auction experts: Phillips' Vanessa Hallett on photography

9 July 2018By Ticky Hedley-Dent

A yacht is the perfect place to display your art collection but, when it comes to choosing the top auction lots, what should be looking for? Here Vanessa Hallett, worldwide head of photographs and deputy chairman, Americas at Phillips, gives her expert advice on collecting photography...

What is the most important sale you have done?

This past year we presented The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation (JGS) , which was assembled by JGS’s founder Howard Stein. The sale featured rare and unique pieces by true masters of the medium, such as Eugène Atget, Edward Steichen, Imogen Cunningham and Robert Frank among many others, spanning from the beginning of photography to contemporary works. We set many records and to date it is one of the most impressive collections of photography to ever come to auction.

The most interesting piece you’ve sold?

A triptych by famed photographer Helmut Newton called Walking Women, Paris, 1981, which sold for $905,000 in 2015, setting an auction record for the artist that still stands today.

Phillips auction house in New York

What do you collect?

My personal collection ranges from earlier work through classic fashion imagery to contemporary artists. I also have a real interest in experimental photography and camera-less images. I’d love to own Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #476, 2008 – it is from her series of society portraits that epitomise opulence.

Market insight

An interesting trend is that instead of solely focusing on the pre-eminent works in their region, collectors are acquiring the best works from artists around the world. We were very pleased with the results in our first Hong Kong sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art and Design in 2016, especially with Nick Knight’s Tatjana Patitz for Jil Sander (top), which set a world auction record for the artist of $304,204.

Your advice to collectors?

Collect what you love and what speaks to you. Always feel comfortable in reaching out to art specialists with all the questions you have about an artist, a particular piece, or the market in general.

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