Thursday, April 5, 2012

The You Can't Please All of the People Department, Updated Again -- William Eggleston Edition

Southern giant of photography William Eggleston has annoyed some of his collectors by releasing digital prints of some of his classic images, says PDN, in a story here.

The original story is well-covered in an article in the NY Times, here  and another story from PDN, here. 

Here is another story, this time from ARTInfo, this time discussing the implications of this story for the art world.

Here is an interview with the aggrieved collector, from PDN

Now, says PDN, "A major collector of William Eggleston’s work filed suit against the photographer yesterday in a U.S. District Court, accusing him of devaluing his vintage dye transfer prints by selling new, large-scale pigment prints of many of his iconic works.

"The suit by Jonathan Sobel, a collector of 192 of Eggleston’s works, was prompted by a March 12, 2012, auction of Eggleston’s new pigment prints at Christie’s, which brought in more than $5.9 million.

"Sobel, who estimates the value of his Eggleston collection at $3 million-$5 million, is suing the photographer, his two sons and the Eggleston Artistic Trust for unspecified damages, and has asked the court to bar Eggleston from making or selling any more prints of the photographs he has printed and sold previously as limited editions.

"Sobel says in his claim that he has eight dye transfer prints that were devalued by the sale of new digital versions at the March 12 auction.

"According to gallerist Robert Mann, who sold Eggleston’s work in the late 1970s while working with one of the photographer’s original dealers, Harry Lunn Jr., Sobel is not the only person upset by Eggleston’s decision to offer a new edition of previously sold, limited edition work.

“I understand there are a lot of people out there who are pissed, and I don’t blame them,” Mann told PDN. “I’ve heard that other people are concerned, upset, wondering how this is possible, and what’s stopping it from happening again. It’s a credibility factor. I would be mortified if I was working with his collection.”

Sobel is actually nuts. Eggleston is actually making his images rarer and more valuable than they ever were before.

In the time of the "vintage print," in which collectors make distinctions between images printed by the artist vs. images printed by others FOR the artist, between images printed in the year the image was made vs. images printed in subsequent years, and images produced in all the various ways an image can be printed, what matters is the creation of a category that conveys uniqueness and that elusive quality "authenticity."

People who now want the "real" Eggleston images will flock to Sobel and pay him vast sums for his images.  The digital versions will inevitably be viewed as inferior to the real thing, the "originals."

He must not realize it, but Sobel is a lucky guy.

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