Which of these photos sold for more than $3.5 million at auction?

Untitled #96
The Rhine II 1999 by Andreas Gursky born 1955
Rhein II

Actually, all 3 did.

Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled #96” fetched a cool  $3.89 million back in May of 2011. Later that year,  Andreas Gursky’s “Rhein II” received a record $4.3 million at a Christie’s auction. Not to be out-done, in 2014, Peter Lik’s “Phantom” sold for an amazing $6.5 million smackers, making it Officially the Most Expensive Photo Ever.

I originally intended the subject of today’s blog to be solely about the Rhein II photo. I remember reading about it when it made news back in 2011 and thought I’d share my opinion of that photo. I’ll save that harangue for a later date.

Out of the three million dollar + photos shown, Phantom is the only one that appeals to me, while the other two, well, not so much. In my opinion, none of the three are worth the price tag they fetched at auction. But hey, that’s Art. Sometimes there’s no accounting for taste.

The Rhein II photo reminds me of an Art exhibit I attended a few years ago with a dear friend. The artist’s name is Wolfgang Laib. I’m going to refer to Wikipedia for an explanation, it seems they even have a hard time explaining Laib.

“Laib’s work is challenging to classify. It may be grouped with Land Art or Process Art, and he shows influences of Minimalism. Informed by the purity and simplicity of Eastern philosophies, he employs natural materials, most notably milk, pollen, beeswax, rice and marble. His works are more complex than being just about nature and the natural world. They involve ritual, repetition, process, and a demand for contemplation….”

Yellow Pollen

They go on-

“Laib is most well known for his use of large quantities of intense, yellow pollen. A slow and deliberate process, the artist collects the pollen from around his home in southern Germany during the spring and summer months. Working with the natural sequence of the seasons, he harvests the pollen on each tree or flower when it is in bloom, beginning with hazelnut, moving on to dandelion and other flowers, and finally ending with pine. Each type of pollen is unique in color and size. Laib exhibits the pollen in a variety of ways, most famously sifted on a stone or concrete floor, creating a field of brilliantly hued pollen. Final sizes are determined by the abundance of the pollen itself; with pine being more plentiful, therefore creating larger sifted areas. The pollen is also exhibited in glass jars or small piles. In addition, the pollen is sold to collectors and institutions in glass jars, without any stipulations as to how it should be exhibited. For Laib, the pollen is the artwork, not the process of collecting it or presenting it sifted on the floor or in jars.”

Yes, this is an empty room with yellow pollen.

I think I have a pretty good appreciation for Art. I realize that sometimes I will not understand it. I get that. We left the Laib exhibition almost in tears as we were laughing so hard. Years later when we talk, we still laugh about that day.

Is there a point to all of this?  Well, yes there is. Actually there are two:

  1. Don’t delete your photos. There are a few good reasons for this and it’s a subject on an upcoming blog. For now, trust me on this and don’t delete your photos that you don’t think are “good enough.”
  2. Show off your work.  Got an image you’re proud of? Show it to anyone that’ll look. Maybe you’ve got a couple you’re just not sure about. Especially show it. Get input. Ask friends, show it on Facebook or online message boards. Get constructive criticism. You’ll be surprised at how many times people will favor the one that’s not even your favorite. Just think of the $4.3 million Rhein II photo. A photo I would have just tossed away,  somebody paid millions for it. Like I said, sometimes, I just don’t get it. You never know when an image will captivate someone. It’s such a great feeling when it does. The next blog will elaborate more on this subject and the tragedy of keeping your work to yourself and not showing it to anyone.


Thank you for reading.



Yellow Pollen. Indeed.








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