Most Expensive Photo Sale Called Into Question

Peter Lik

News that the work of Australian landscape photographer Peter Lik’ photographic work, ‘Phantom’ had become the most expensive photo in history has been called into question. The image was said to have sold for an impressive $6.5 million, or £4.1 million. The work is a black-and-white shot of Arizona’s Antelope Canyon, with a piercing column of sunlight appearing like a ghostly figure between the rocky outcropping.

The sale of the photograph was said to have been to an anonymous Los Angeles collector, it also said to have included two other photos by the artist: ‘Illusion’, which sold for $2.4 million, or £1.5 million and ‘Eternal Moods’, which fetched $1.1 million, or £700,000. This sale had therefore placed four of Lik’s works among the top twenty most expensive photos of all time.

But now the Sydney Morning Herald has taken the photographer’s sale to task, citing the lack of documentary proof of the sale aside from the press release. When Fairfax Media reported that Lik sold another work for $1 million, or £636,000 in 2012, art consultant David Hulme went on record saying he would warn clients to “be extremely wary of purchasing a Peter Lik photograph, however good it is. This is because Peter Lik’s photographs have no secondary market presence or value.”

The Guardian recently described the work as “hollow, clichéd, and tasteless, the black and white shot of an Arizona canyon isn’t art – and proves that photography never will be”.

The publication went on to state: “the record-setting picture typifies everything that goes wrong when photographers think they are artists.” The publication continues stating that Lik’s use of black and white as “outmoded” and “affected.”

Even if the $6.5 million or £4.1 million photo sale is legitimate, a rival photographer named Jeff Frost is already claiming to have broken the record by a 10 cent margin. In a fake press release mocked up to resemble the same press release sent out by Lik – Frost begins by admitting that “this is going to seem incredible given the fact that the world record had just been set, but the dollar amounts being so close is pure coincidence.”

The previous record was held by German visual artist Andreas Gursky, for his ‘Rhein II’ (1999), a digitally-manipulated colour photo of the River Rhine which fetched $4.3 million, or £2.7 million at Christie’s in 2011, and Cindy Sherman’s ‘Untitled #96’ (1981), a self-portrait of the artist lying on the floor in an orange outfit, sold for a then-record-setting $3.89 million, or £2.4 million – also at Christie’s.

© Artlyst 2014 photo courtesy of Peter Lik all rights reserved


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