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October 23, 2009

Edward Burtynsky Photos.. Defied Recession Gravity

Edward Burtynsky Photos.. Defied Recession Gravity.

For those long time MAO readers.. it will come to no surprise that MAO is an avid fan of Canadian Photographer Edward Burtynsky. Yes.. we know.. Edward's work is big, colorful, over-hyped, straightforward, expensive, often pretty, very "corporate", safe, etc.. just about everything most fine art photography scholars and contemporary art snobs love to poke fun of.. but yes.. MAO loves his images.

But.. here's a little secret.. The auction world LOVES Burtynsky Too!!

So while photo auction results have been poor.. some artist's works are still breaking records. 

Check out this outcome from last week's October 15th, Phillips Photography Auction Sale in London..


Lot #88

Edward_Burtynsky_Oxford_tire_pile_1999Edward Burtynsky

Oxford Tire Pile #1, Westley, California, 1999
Colour coupler print. 68.6 x 86.4 cm. (27 x 34 in).  Signed in ink, printed title, date and number 1/10 on a label affixed to the reverse of the mount.

ESTIMATE £7,000-9,000

Actual Realized Total Sale Price including Auction House Premium

£30,000....Or... Approx $ 49,200 !!!

PROVENANCE Acquired directly from the artist

EXHIBITED Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky, touring exhibition, including National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 31 January – 4 May, 2003 and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, 7 October 2005 – 15 January, 2006 (each another example exhibited)

LITERATURE Yale University Press, Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky, 2003, p. 112; Steidl, China: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky, 2005, p. 18


OK.. so just a few MAO stupid thoughts about this photo and these auction results...

  1. Wow..It's a pretty cool photo
  2. This was not the largest size print this image comes in.
  3. $49,200 is a ridiculous huge number.. to pay for a living photographer's image
  4. Why was the auction presale estimate so low? Like how clueless were the stupid people at Phillips?
  5. One high auction result does not mean too much, it may have been just 2 hedge fund guys with little wankers huge egos trying to out do each other
  6. Other Burtynsky images have also done well before.. but nothing quite like this.
  7. The image was in the recent Brooklyn Museum Show
  8. God Damn that a lot of tires!!
  9. Up until a few weeks ago..You could probably have bought this photo from one of the too many 7 Official Burtynsky Dealers around the world for only $25,000
  10. There are 9 More of these photos out there in this size.. plus at least 3 (or maybe 6) more in the larger print size.. plus some artist proofs floating around..plus he could always print more..
  11. MAO owns one of these phoos that he really should consider selling soon!! that should probably come out of cold storage.
  12. Who'd want to hang this depressing image on the wall in their home?
  13. Burtynsky is a great photographer and history will show him as one of the most important from our generation
  14. There are several better Burtynsky images in the MAO Collection..and we need to call Phillips our insurance company ASAP.

Well.. So...what do you think?

FYI.. For those who don't know.. there's a new Burtynsky Show "OIL" at the Corcoran Gallery Of Art in Washington DC, he also has a new great book Edward Burtynsky: Oilpublished by Steidl.

Plus there are NYC and  Toronto Gallery shows which just opened up. It's the Nicholas Metivier Galleryin Toronto, and in NYC, it's in the old Charles Cowles Gallery (R.I.P.) Space on 24th street at the newly relocated & renamed  Hasted Hunt Gallery Hasted Hunt Kraeutler Gallery..The show in NYC is up until November 28th.


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I don't care what art snobs think of his work. They might find it too earnest, who knows? His work is very relevant and makes one think of the environment without being didactic. I agree with MAO, he's one of the most impt artist of this generation. I'm glad I got a few of his pieces while they were relatively more affordable.

very apropos - i was just at the corcoran the other day looking at his work. got the photo book (btw, it's on sale at the museum) and a signed museum poster (they're out of signed photo books). i doubt i'd need to call my insurance agent yet, but glad you got some of his pieces if he's indeed on a rise (at least it terms of auction pricing)

always enjoy reading the blog.

Too bad it doesn't have any artistic merit .except large .foremat. Reminds one of the
penny dreadfuls who drag their stuff to antique shows to have work "authenticated "
say $$$ -if amount is high enough it becomes
something of worth . Crap is crap no matter how much the price .But then we are not talking creative work, we are talking money .

Yet another blog post to spur on speculation, hype, and boost prices of an artist the blogger collects. I thought the stock (art) market had learned its lesson.

You typed "wankers". tee-hee

This does seem a bit steep, but his work is beautiful. I also noticed that Phillips is including this work:


in their next photo auction in NY. This is the same work that one could have purchased from Blind Spot for $900 a year ago. One wonders about the greed of the individual who is selling this photo so soon after purchasing it from a non-profit organization?

Regardless, I'm with you Mao--I think EB is quite talented and I love having his work in my home.

Philips may have been "stupid" like a fox. The low estimate probably got a lot of people interested in the sale.

Dear DB:

I am the ONE getting rid off the one listed at Phillips~! Not so much for greed but, because I DON"T like to buy unsigned work , it comes with a signed label and I really hate that. Also after being stashed away for more than a year, I placed on the wall right next to 2 Michael Wolf Chicago's Transparent City photographs, it say nothing to me. So there, the cat is out of the bag!

Oh and greed... it is very good. Besides hopefully, I will make a new owner happier with it, that me being STUCKED with . First time, I ever sell a piece of art and might not be the last. If you want it and CAN afforded ...go 4 it!


Good luck! I have my own.


DB :
Look at it this way...I am increasing the value of your $900.00 purchase .It is a big sacrifice but, could not and and will not live with unsigned work. I even contacted Burtynsky studio to try to get it signed. I draw a hard line about this and this is the end result. So might as well cash in. All these was arranged in July way before all this new Burtynsky show, resurgence and drama started.


That is an excellent point! I am curious to see what happens.

Also, I am perplexed by your unsigned/signed notion. Why do you consider a sticker the equivalent of an unsigned work? Whether it is on the print, or not, isn't a signature (along with an edition number) the equivalent of authenticity? Clearly the art world is accepting it as signed, as evidenced by Phillips agreement to put the work up for sale.

Let me know your thoughts.


Well... if you lose the sticker (which can easily be reproduced ) artists dies or gallery goes out of business, game is over. Same thing for the print, not signed at verso , with all the great new technology availble, can eaily be knocked of as well. The only only way you know 100% itis when it is signed at verso.
Even Warhol had his assistants sign his work.

The art world is for money, accepts ANYTHING ...I don't. I don't want to have a surprise 20 years from now. Like the guy who is fighting with the Warhol Foundation with a lawsiut for a signed Warhol that, now 20 years later might not be real.

I think it is laziness from the artist part and rather disrespectul to collectors buying it. You are so busy and fabulous that, I paid money for your work and you can't sign it? It is not 20 x 200 is it?

That is the collectors pride and validation prize...a properly signed and documented piece of art that, will withstand the time in terms of value and quality .

There is also to much dispute going on with vintage photographs regarding the same issue. So DB, that is why it is on the block for sale. I feel strongly about it enought to get rid of it. Ciao Burtynsky!...Hello CASH$$$$!


J'adore your honesty. I think you have a bit of a signature fixation, but, alas, labels (or, should I say, not labels?) are important.

These labels are, however, often stuck on the back of the print. For instance, Blind Spot affixed said sticker to the back of my Burtynsky, so unless the glue gives (and a huge gust of wind sweeps through Chelsea) I think I am safe. Also, let's be honest here: Burtynsky ain't Warhol. Are people really going to start knocking off Burtynsky photos? My honest sense of why he went the sticker route is that he did the photo as a benefit print (not a gallery deal), so he did, indeed, want to make things a bit easier for himself.

Regardless, I am now EXTRA curious about what will happen with your soon-to-be ex-photo in November.


1.) Don't many living photographers works sell for $50K and above (Gursky, Ruff, Sherman, Hofer...)?

2.) I thought many photographers signed labels, instead of the verso of the work, so that the signature would not be covered by mounting. The sticker is to be adhered to the verso of the mount (after mounting).

3.) Didn't you know the EB photo came with a signed 'label' prior to purchasing it?

4.) Isn't your blog's latest 'Best Print Buy of the Week' from an exhibition you curated? And the entry before that recommends an on-line auction lot that is consigned by you (one of the signed posters is dedicated to you)?


Just noticed two things. First, the Burtynsky came with a label that was not affixed by Blind Spot. In fact, they gave me the label and then Lamount put the label on after mounting. Just checked my notes. Second, I think you own a Demand Bullion (sorry, one gets to googling and finds things). That work also has a label signed by the artist and stuck to the verso.


Ah.. quite a few interesting comments on this post.. thanks all.. and just a few more MAO thoughts..

First off..

1. Yes KT .. we typed "wankers".. after all it was a London auction!

2. Good Luck Ruben..you greedy little Burtynsky seller!! and MAO really thinks you should get over your signature label issues..it's just not that big a deal! I agree with DB!

3.KMV.. Gursky, Ruff, Sherman, Hofer photos do sell for $50k+, but they don't generally print everything in 3 size editions of 20, 10, and 6.. plus AP's..


Get over the signature label issue. Really. I don't understand why you have such a visceral reaction to EB signing labels. Calling it laziness is not really fair. At least he signed & numbered the label. EB usually mounts the photo and sticks the label at the back. Some artists have signed certificates. Subject is moot.

Good luck with your Phillips consignment. EB is getting more popular esp with his Corcoran show.

Anton K

To you all!

Yes, I got over the label issue long time ago...that is why is going on SALE ! ha ha! ...and you all watching to see how much money yours it is worth and will brag about it, like this post started to begin with ..ha! gotcha you!

Yes, DB it was a LOOSE label... my whole point all along! So there you go! just an like an overpriced 20 X 200, no different!
and no I don't own one of those DB(googled me wrong), sorry but, no more signed labels for me after this one. The other things that I own with labels are 20 x 200 and very quietly (well no more ) I had either mailed them back to the artists for them to signed for me at verso. Even Brian Ulrich signed my 20 x 200 for me so, there , it is my kink .

And yes let me repeat this to the ones that did not got it the first time. The print has been at Phillips since the first week of JULY 2009 ,so no REAL GREED was involved at all , just GETTING RID OFF IT...comprende?
I also said the the print looked like nothing right next two other 2 Michael Wolf prints that they were to be with on the wall so ...what? I had no use for it.

No I was not informed of about it and it took me months to pick up the damn print. Riding the subway home the label fell out into the floor that is how, I first came aware of it.

And yes, the print this week it is from an exhibit, I curated and it is my blog . Every week, I CHOSE what, I think it is affordable ...so? It is very affordable and, I do own the print already so, lucky me~!

And yes, I am dumping my poster collection too. I have no room and any use for it . It is very cheap and you should put a bid and take it home...ha ha! I lost my interest for collecting posters ...is that a sin also?

There is a big difference between not wanting to own a piece after purchased and using the momentun now to cash in on it. MAO you damn right know that, I was over it long time ago!

AMEN..and shut up and watch your masterpiece go up in price on my small sacrifice (not really!)

Oh one more thing DB, Burtynsky has not signed any of his prints at all for the last 7 years. Only labels!
This was directly from Burtynsky's manager. So even if you pay $30,000.00, you still get your 20 x 200 look alike label.

Maybe his old work (older than 7 years) would be more valuable and would not have so much authentication problems 20 years from now...it is signed at verso.

You're full of it Ruben, you flip artwork all the time and most of the time they are these benefit prints. Arguing about signed labels? Bullsh*t! That doesn't matter, it's just a pathetic excuse for your sale, wish I could have heard Burtynsky laugh when you allegedly contacted his studio about it. And I certainly hope the reserve is low or expect a non sale.

And seriously MAO a whole post dedicated to a fluke of an auction result. This is one of the worst posts ever. Speculative BS hype. We all are very much aware of how you need just 2 morons in a bidding war for this to happen, I guarantee this is not a new trend in Gurskyesque prices for Burtynsky, and yes I love his work, just being realistic.

Bob L,

Mind telling me what other benefit prints Ruben has sold? Ruben had a hard time parting with the Burtynsky print. After careful consideration, he decided to consign the piece to Phillips. Whatever his reason is, it's his prerogative. But your assertion that he flips his art all the time is unfounded...that's not true.


At the risk of fanning the flames, I want to point out that collecting Canadian artists is a bit different from collecting U.S. artists.

Canadian museums have a government-funded mandate to collect contemporary Canadian art, so even emerging artists here can nearly sell out an edition to museums. (Try buying an early Sanchez Brothers print, and you'll see what I mean.) Those works won't re-appear on the auction block, so even a fairly big edition might not offer many prints for private collectors. Draw your own conclusions about what that does for investment.

P.S. In Ruben's defense, he's not like that guy on eBay who flips benefit prints for a living. Ruben collects a lot of emerging artists who really appreciate his support. He's entitled to sell off a few buyer's remorse purchases, no?

> P.S. In Ruben's defense, he's not like that guy on eBay who flips benefit prints for a living.

But no, he is just like that guy and has sold benefit prints on ebay. Do what you do, just own up to it is all I ask.

Bob L

Do you better homework before making false statements...it comes out rather angry, ignorant and pretty jealous. Besides ...who are you other than with this insignificant and unfounded rant?

Pretty jealous? Lol, of what pray tell?

And you're not a very good liar btw.

Gotta say that I am thoroughly enjoying the highly entertaining nature of this thread.

Lisa, That is fascinating about Canadian artists. I did not know that. Thanks for the info.

Ruben, Your Independent Collector personal collection shows the Demand Bullion. Is that not you? If that is yours, there is, indeed, a sticker stuck to the back of that baby.

Could there be another RN-SM?



I talked to Ruben earlier today. He doesn't have the Thomas Demand Bullion. I'm joined Independent Collectors recently; there are 2 members who own that print. I'm one of them and the other one could be yours? You're right, there's a signed sticker label verso. It was not a separate label.

Got it. Strange how Ind Collector brought me to his site and that image. That site acts oddly at times.


I guess you are on clear now and can now, I hope you can leave alone me with the sale instead of picking on other things that have nothing to do with it.

Bob L -You sound so bitter that, if you are man (are you?) enough will show your real identity and credentials. At least, I don't need hide my credentials, toughts, persona and agenda from anybody . I help and I am 100% committed to artists , foundations and art organizations on a daily basis.So far you sound and might look like a sore loser. Man up!

Again who ARE YOU? Nobody cares! So far, it is only your bitterness clouding and spoiling this dialogue.Please stay unknown and angry where ever you are.

Could you be any more childish RNSM? Who are you? Nobody cares? Get a load of yourself.

And sore loser? What did I lose pray tell? Fact is I own 2 Burtynsky photographs and I don't need your "help" by putting this in auction and bringing up Burtynsky's "worth." That's laughable and just another sad excuse to flip another benefit print. But it's quite probable your photo will get bought in so you'll probably do more harm than good.

I know you promote emerging artists. Wonderful, good for you. That doesn't mean you haven't flipped benefit prints. You have stopped doing so on ebay though, so good for you ...but there's always Phillips.

Bob L
Your ignorance is beyond words... I don't even have an Ebay account...ha ha! Never sold or bought in it. Please get over yourself!

...so foolish and inmature of you. Personal attacks will get you nowhere in life

Glad you own two Burtynskys, if that make you feel you are REALLY somebody and that is your only validation and claim to fame...well at least to this post as far as, I am concerned or care. Really , put it to sleep and stop the personal attacks , we have seen a very ugly side of you already and most likely there is a non flattering one in person.

Oh... I did not put it on sale to help you...I just don't want the print...got it?

Who I am is what, I stated before and much more that you will ever be...don't want to waste the time with people like you, who's whole purpose in life and negativity tries to consume and deteriorate others who try to do better.

Obviously I might be somebody for you to claim that, I am known for selling benefit prints...just the wrong person...do you homework better, instead of looking like an ass in front of this audience. Well speaking of now , I got to finish judging Photolucida's Critical Mass 2009 so, Bob L there is far more important things than you! Ciao!


I just think it might be more ethical (especially to the casual reader) to fully disclose your financial and/or professional interest in prints and specific auction lots you are promoting on your blog.


Meaning What I buy and collect , I promote?
I always says so.
It is my blog and do as I please with it.

99% of the time, I promote everybody for the most part, so when it comes to something I created there is an issue? Really?
Well get used to it or don't read the blog. Simple and to the point.

This is all a quite wonderful study of the so
called "art" world . Reading all the comments
one comes away with how pathetic a world
it is ,even in this small group ,no where
is it about the art - it is about signatures ($$)
and $$$$.Talk about the barbarians at the gate.......it is a dirty taste .

Well said Ariel, lets not forget the personal attacks without proper and true data.

Are you kdding me Ruben, you are so full of yourself it's amazing. And you're full of it about never being on ebay.

No, owning 2 Burtynsky's isn't my "claim to fame," it's to point out I am not a quote a "sore loser" like you imply. And it's to point out that you selling your benefit print isn't a benefit for Burtynsky collectors at all. But still you don't get it.

You think people respect you? LOL You're so stuck on yourself it's absolutely astounding. You boast on a blog about being a judge at a photo contest. Seriously? Are you absolutely that shallow? Do you think that makes you "somebody" it just proves how childish you really are.

In every reply you harp on about how special you are and how I and others are a "nobody." Did you graduate high school yet? Is this still how you value life and your self worth? Excuse me if I don't list my credentials on a blog to validate myself. It's sad really.

"Well said Ariel, lets not forget the personal attacks without proper and true data."
You just don't get it. You are obsessed with value and price and deals, collecting, ownership, hype, greed. And now you try to claim you "get" what Ariel is saying. You don't get it at all. You're exactly what Ariel is talking about.

You know...
Prove of my sales and purchases at Ebay. I dare you ! Look me up seriously. Since you are so fixated on it. Ha ha ha . The joke is on you!

I made no claims of being special. I make other people feel and be special!

Oh Yes Bob L, a bachelor degree and master degree in Architecture plus another bachelor degree in Finance. So, if you want to compete bring it own! Come out of that safe hiding and rather malignant place...

As far as i know, I am just putting an item up for sale. Not really any your business is it?

This has become for you a venue to provide lies and personal attacks towards me, well... you are the one who has to live with it not me.

Yes , I am a judge in Photolucida's and many other venues that YOU might not even know of. At least I am proving a service using my skliis and talent to help others not, to be angry and start atacking others.Stay with your 2 Butrynsky...buy more ..I don't really care!

Art + Commerce absolutely. Art is a business!

There is no way to reason with individuals like you. Your first post was already so polluted and without merit that it really tells the story about the kind of person who you really are.

''And I certainly hope the reserve is low or expect a non sale.'' This a quote alone from your first post that says a lot about you as a person. Just a real waste of time and bad energy.

I think Ariel was referring to you?

You don't get it!

When you promote and gush over the value of a lot in your friends auction and fail to tell the readers that YOU are the consignor? You don't see a confict of interest in that?

I just think it might be more ethical (especially to the casual reader) to fully disclose your financial and/or professional interest in prints and specific auction lots you are promoting on your blog.

I dont' understand why you get so defensive and lash out at the suggestion?

It is nobodys business who the lot belongs to. I do post every single month about Dan Cooney's auctions without any part or monetary interest in it...got it? So it happens they are my posters... so what?

I think, I got already a full plate with Bob L lies to start with you...so lets not go there!
And if that was her opinion even if I disagree with it, I respect it, not turn into personal attacks. It is her opinion like my blog in MY opinion.
Save your suggestions for your own blog.

Ruben, do you ever stop and listen to yourself? Still you're going on and on about how special you are and how much I'm a nobody. Is this how you react in real life or just online? Do you really think this is "positive energy?"

>a bachelor degree and master degree in Architecture plus another bachelor degree in Finance
>I am a judge in Photolucida's and many other venues that YOU might not even know of

You're so special because you're involved in some photo gig that I "might not even know of." I guess that makes you really special huh? Every single reply it's all about you and how great you are and what awesome qualifications you have and how you're involved in things that mere peons don't have a clue about. Do you realize how that makes you look like a self righteous...

Bob L:
You started the attacks ...I am giving you the facts.

Now...where is the records of that ebay acount with all transactions? ...I don't think so.
Yes, I work very hard and feel very proud of what, I have accomplished helping others not, bad mouthing others with no facts. I think several people here already told like me that I don't engage in such practices but, it was not enough for you.

I am so sorry that doing great things for others and greater things in life bothers you so much BobL!

You went after me from post number one so, there is the consequences. I never had a person try to insuly my credibility in this art business because most people are quite appreciative. . My blog and the work I do has always been to help emerging artists in specific photography. Feel free to keep attacking my persona, it will make me a better person to do greater things.

You know, I am pretty special, so sorry that it bothers you so much, intead of joining in the cause of helping others, spreading poison suits you best.

I expect this kind of pettiness and nastiness from Perez Hilton or TMZ readers, not from art lovers. Where's the civility? This is getting so gross. Cease and desist.

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