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Some of the most iconic photographs by Richard Avedon were sold for a total of 5,467,250 euros at a special sale at Christie’s Paris on November 20 that benefited the Richard Avedon Foundation.

“If art isn’t controversial, it’s failed. That’s the point of art, to disturb. What would we need creative people for if they tell us only what we already know?”

When the legendary photographer Richard Avedon passed away in 2004, he left a legacy of some of the most iconic images ever created as one of the most influential figures on fashion photography and portraiture. He also left detailed instructions for the Richard Avedon Foundation, which he had founded to maintain his archive and continue his philanthropic work, including the demand that they sell photographs to fund their operations.

“Avedon: Photographs from The Richard Avedon Foundation” at Christie’s Paris is the first of those sales, with an estimated total of €3-5 million. Bringing together over 60 of his photographs, the auction showcases Avedon’s dynamic fashion photography as well as a roll call of celebrity portraiture. But, as Philippe Garrner, International Head of Christie’s 20th Century Decorative Art & Photographs departments, notes: “In addition to landmark images of the glamour and elegance of fashion at its most sophisticated we have intense, commanding pictures that confront the human condition.”

Indeed, it was Avedon’s ability to capture human condition that characterises his photographs more than even his talent at making static images appear to dance off the page. As he himself wrote: “A satisfactory photograph for me is one in which the sitter lends himself, his human qualities, the qualities of his soul and experience, to certain meaning which have to do with my obsession… with the human predicament. It is possible that what I think is the human predicament is merely my own.”

Richard Avedon at Centre Pompidou, Paris

An example of the work of the Richard Avedon Foundation is its recent gift of twelve Avedon photographs to the Centre Pompidou, Paris. The works including masterful portraits of Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Renoir and Coco Chanel. Part of the Richard Avedon Foundation’s mission is to encourage a wider appreciation of his photography by facilitating the exhibition of his imagery.

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