A photograph of a woman posing by two elephants selling for over $1 million at Christie’s Paris? This could sound slightly overpriced—if not completely absurd—if you omit the fact that the shot was taken by Richard Avedon, the model is Dovima, and she’s wearing a silk Dior gown.
Dovima with the Elephants, the largest known Avedon print, found a new home at the house of Dior, after hanging in the artist’s New York office until his death in 2004.
While Paris is celebrating the art of photography this month with the Paris Photo fair, the Christie’s auction dedicated to the influential American photographer set a new record price for the artist, more than doubling his previous auction record of $457,000 for his 1957 image of Marilyn Monroe.
Avedon’s stripped-down aesthetic revolutionized the 20th-century art of fashion photography, capturing ideals of beauty and style in magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and The New Yorker. “You can’t separate fashion from the world. Fashion is the way we live,” he once said. “Dress designers lent me textures, shapes, patterns that became the ally of my true work, which was always about women – what was going on beneath their clothes, beneath the hats. In their heads.”
Other highlights of the sale included a portfolio of the Beatles, atypically colorful, as well as portraits of Bob Dylan, Pablo Picasso, the Dalaï Lama, Malcolm X, Andy Warhol, and stark images of Avedon’s other notable subject matter, regular working-class types such as coal miners, housewives and children.
Raising approximately $7.5 million, the 65 rare photographs constitute the largest auction sale of works by the photographer to this day, proceeds from which will go the Richard Avedon Foundation.