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artnet Launches Icons: 20th-21st Century Photographic Portraits Sale Featuring 200 Photographs of Legends from Madonna to Obama

  • 200 photographs by 70 renowned photographers
  • Estimates from $1,000 to $20,000
  • June 15 - 25, 2009

New York / Berlin, June 15, 2009 - From June 15-25 artnet Auctions will feature Icons: 20th-21st Century Photographic Portraits, a special sale of 200 original fine art photographs of legendary figures including The Beatles, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, President Barack Obama and Elvis Presley.

Screen Sirens

Leading the sale is an exceptional group of fifteen photographs of screen stars Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe from the 1950s-1960s. Highlights include a rare photograph of Audrey Hepburn taken at the pinnacle of her career in 1956 by renowned portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh. This work has never before been seen at auction and is offered in pristine condition (estimate: $15,000-$20,000). Also featured in this section are two luminous portraits of Grace Kelly taken in 1955 by fashion photographer Howell Conant shortly before she became Princess of Monaco (estimates: $3,000-$3,500 each). Among the other highlights are some of the most recognizable photographs ever taken of Marilyn Monroe, including Marilyn Monroe Singing "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy, 1962 by Bill Ray (estimate: $2,500-$3,500) and Marilyn Monroe and Billy Wilder On The Set Of The Seven Year Itch, 1954 by George Zimbel (estimate: $5,000-$6,000).

Music Legends

The sale celebrates music legends including Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan and Madonna. Madonna's rise from a virtual unknown to pop icon is chronicled in five photographs by artists from Lee Friedlander to David LaChapelle. Friedlander's Nude (Madonna) is a rare nude portrait taken of Madonna in 1979 before she became famous (estimate: $25,000-$35,000) while LaChapelle's Madonna: Mythical Swans, 1998 captures the radiant pop megastar two decades later (estimate: $12,000-$14,000).

The sale also chronicles the evolution of Rock 'n Roll in the 1960s and 1970s featuring classic photographs of the Beatles, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix. The Beatles Land in Los Angeles, 1964 by Bill Ray captures the young musicians on their second world tour (estimate: $2,500-$3,500) while John Lennon, New York City taken by Bob Gruen in 1974 reflects the change in both the artist and the times (estimate: $1,400-$1,600).

Fashion Icons

Fashion icons also figure prominently in the auction, with works ranging from the 1930s to the present. Leading this group is a collection of 20 rare vintage portraits by Louise Dahl-Wolfe from the 1930s to 1950s. One of the great fashion photographers of the 20th century, Dahl-Wolfe photographed a cross-section of fashion and film stars for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue. The collection includes photographs of Lauren Bacall, Josephine Baker, Balenciaga, Christian Dior, and Spencer Tracy (estimates: $1,000-$3,000 each). Also featured in the sale are contemporary fashion icons such as Kate Moss Veiled, 1993 by Albert Watson (estimate: $7,000-$9,000) and Naomi Campbell, 1995 by Sante D'Orazio (estimate: $8,000-$10,000).

United States Presidents

Two U.S. Presidents are also the subject of photographs in the sale, including a pensive 2008 profile of Barack Obama taken by Kwaku Alston, who photographed the Obama family extensively on the 2008 campaign trail (estimate: $3,000-$3,500). President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy are the subject of five photographs in the sale, including John Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, a beaming 1960 photograph by Bill Ray (estimate: $1,000-2,000) and Will McBride's John F. Kennedy, Willy Brandt & Konrad Adenauer, Brandenburg Gate Berlin, which documents Kennedy's historic 1963 trip to Berlin (estimate: $2,500-$3,500).

Athletes, Artists and Literary Figures

Among the other outstanding works in the sale is a group of thirty photographs of legendary athletes, artists and literary figures. Sports legends featured in the sale include Bobby Jones, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali. Ali's rise from a young boxer in training to three-time World Heavyweight Champion is chronicled in five portraits from 1963-1967. Also offered in the sale are photographs of renowned artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol. Included in this section are three intimate 1979 photographs of Jean-Michel Basquiat by Nicholas Taylor (estimates: $400-$600 each) and a group of six photographs of Andy Warhol, among them an exuberant 1981 photograph of Warhol, Steve Rubell, and André Leon Talley by Bob Colacello (estimate: $3,000-$5,000). Rounding out the sale are ten photographs of celebrated literary figures including Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs, James Joyce, and Jack Kerouac.

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