A rare photo album made by Ed van der Elsken sold for $21,250 at an auction in New York, setting a new record the Dutch photographer and filmmaker.
Made ca. 1951, the untitled album comprises 27 black and white photographs depicting Parisian street scenes, as well as portraits of Dutch photographers Emmy Andriesse and Ata Kando (who was married to Elsken). Five bidders competed for the work during a photography sale on March 11 at Swann Galleries in New York, where it was estimated at $10,000–$15,000. Curator Hans Rooseboom at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam purchased it on behalf of the museum.
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This is the first time the work has ever been sold on the market. It has been in the Elsken family’s hands for seven decades. The result surpasses the last record for an Elsken photo album at auction, set by his 1962 book of 99 photographs titled Crazy World. That work sold in Haarlem, Netherlands, in November 2013 for $16,300.
Active from the 1940s through the 1970s, Elsken is known for his black and white photographs of urban life throughout Europe. In Paris, where he began living in 1950, he worked at the esteemed Magnum Photos agency, printing photographs for Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. In 1952, Edward Steichen included him in a MoMA exhibition, and in 1956, he published his first book of Paris photographs, titled Love on the Left Bank (1956).
In June 2020, the Rijksmuseum and the Nederlands Fotomuseum announced the two museums plans to jointly acquire the artist’s estate of over 10,000 photographic materials, a portion of which was donated by Anneke Hilhorst, the artist’s widow.
“The piece can add to our understanding of a photographer who is now receiving new and much-deserved attention from collectors and institutions,” said Deborah Rogal, Swann’s head of photography, in a statement on the sale.
Swann’s 409-lot photography sale made a total of $1.4 million, realizing an 82 percent percent sell-through rate. Other highlights from the sale included Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother (Horizontal), which sold for $ $63,800, and Irving Penn’s Tulip/Tulipa: China Pink, New York, sold for $32,500. Dorothea Lange’s silver print Abandoned Tenant House, Hall County, Texas (1937) sold for $12,500, Alfred Stieglitz’s prints from Camera Work went for $16,300, and Francis Frith’s three volumes Sinai & Arabia Petra, Jerusalem & Palestine, and Egypt & Athens were bought for $27,500 by institutions.