NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Geographic Society opened its vaults and offered hundreds of historic and contemporary photographs and works of art at auction on Thursday, taking in nearly $3.8 million.
Led by Newell Convers Wyeth’s painting of two pirates, “The Duel on the Beach,” which fetched $1,082,500 including commission, the sale at Christie’s exceeded expectations, totaling $3,776,588.
Records were set for several artists and photographers, including Steve McCurry, whose haunting photograph “Afghan Girl” soared to three times the high estimate, selling for $178,900.
Christie’s said in a statement it was “delighted” with the sale, “which saw participation that was just as enthusiastic and international as the readers of National Geographic magazine,” said Katherine Brambilla, associate vice president for private and iconic collections.
“It reinforces the visual power and emotional connection the National Geographic brand has to people from around the world,” added National Geographic Society senior vice president Maura Mulvihill, director of its image and video collection.
More than 200 photographs dating from the 1800s to the present, paintings by artists such as Andrew and Newell Convers Wyeth and works of art from the fields of geography, archaeology, wildlife and world cultures hit the block at the much-anticipated sale, which was held on the eve of the 125th anniversary of the society’s founding.
Other highlights included “The North American Indian,” a 40-volume and portfolio record of traditional Native American culture by Edward S. Curtis with text and photographs, which sold for $902,500, just beating the high estimate.
Newell Wyeth’s oil “The Sea-Spider” from 1914 fetched $146,500, while Tom Lovell’s painting “Surrender at Appomattox” went for $80,500, about four times the presale estimate.
And Herbert Ponting’s more than 100-year-old gelatin silver print, “Iceberg, Antarctica” sold for an artist‘s-record $37,500, more than five times its estimate.
Other works sold for as little as a few hundred dollars.
Another top price was the $266,500 paid for William Henry Jackson and John K. Hillers’ 19th-century, five-volume “Photographs of U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey (Hayden Survey),” although it fell short of even the low estimate.
The National Geographic Society, based in Washington, D.C., is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Proceeds from the sale will be used to preserve the society’s archives and to foster the careers of aspiring artists and photographers.
Reporting by Chris Michaud, editing by Jill Serjeant and M.D. Golan