Jeff Wall photograph sells for record $3.6M US

CBC

A famous photograph by Canadian artist Jeff Wall, Dead Troops Talk, sold for more than $3.6 million US at auction in New York on Tuesday.

Christie's said on Twitter that the large-format photograph "realized $3,666,500, setting a world auction record for the artist."

The sales totals are the hammer price plus buyer's premium.

Tuesday night's sale makes Dead Troops Talk the most expensive Canadian photo ever sold at auction.

Wall's work is also the third most expensive photo ever sold at auction, after Andreas Gursky's Rhein II (1999), which sold for $4.3 million in November 2011, and Cindy Sherman's Untitled #96 (1981), which went for nearly $3.9 million in May 2011.

Christie's had estimated that the 220 x 417 centimetre work — the full title of which is Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986) — could sell for between $1.5 and $2 million US.

The image, which was created with actors in a studio in 1992, shows a scene of gory, dead soldiers rising up and talking, the auction house said in a description of the work.

Christie's said the "monumental, glowing image" is one of the most-recognized works by the award-winning Vancouver artist, who is known for large-scale photographs of contemporary everyday genre scenes.

In Dead Troops Talk, Wall arranged the image with actors in a Burnaby, B.C., studio, photographed in individual sections later assembled digitally, and finally simulated a monumental outdoor photograph.

In 2007, Wall was named an Officer of the Order of Canada, and in 2008, he was awarded British Columbia's highest visual art award, the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement.

Wall's work has regularly fetched prices of more than $1 million US. His 1989 image The Well sold for $1.1 million US at a 2008 Sotheby's sale in London. That same year, another work titled The Forest sold for just over $1 million US at a Sotheby's auction in New York.

The image sold Tuesday is the first print from an edition of two, plus an artist's proof, Christie's says.

Dead Troops Talk is from the private collection of the late David Pincus, who collected abstract expressionist paintings and contemporary photography with his wife Geraldine.

The Pincus estate had several major works for sale Tuesday, including a 1961 Mark Rothko painting that also set both a new record price for the modernist artist and became the most expensive contemporary or post-Second World War artwork ever sold at auction, according to Christie's officials.

Orange, Red, Yellow sold for $86,882,500, Christie's said — well beyond the auction house estimate of between $35 million to $45 million US.

Jackson Pollock's Number 28, from 1951, went for $23,042,500 and set a new auction record for the artist, the New York auction house said.

The estimate for the Pollack painting had been between $20 million and $30 million.

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