If you sell a number of prints of a photograph as a “limited edition,” should you be allowed to later reprint that photo in a different size, format, or medium and then sell the new pieces as a new edition? Apparently the US legal system believes the answer is “yes.”
A judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed against photographer William Eggleston by art collector Jonathan Sobel, who claimed that Eggleston’s decision to sell new prints of old photos hurt the value of the original “limited edition” prints.
William Eggleston didn’t invent color photography, but his landmark 1976 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art gave it dignity, and began the four-decade process of acceptance by curators and collectors as an art form to rival oil painting.
Shot in 1970, “Untitled (Memphis)” – shown above – was one of the 75 photos in the show, and also featured on the cover of the catalogue. Now it’s included in a retrospective of Eggleston’s early work at the Metropolitan.
PDN has published an interview with art collector Jonathan Sobel, who’s suing photographer William Eggleston for creating and selling new prints of iconic photos that were once sold as “limited edition” prints. The new prints that recently fetched $5.9 million at auction were digital prints that were larger than the original ones.
The dispute boils down to this question: If an artist produces and sells a limited edition of a photographic work, and then re-issues the same image in a different size, or in a different print format or medium, does the re-issue qualify as a separate edition? Or do the new prints breach New York law that defines “limited edition,” and therefore defraud the buyers of those original limited edition versions of the work?
The answer could have a significant effect on the photographic print market. A number of photographers issue limited editions of their works, then later issue new editions of the same works, reprinted at different sizes or in different mediums. The reason is obvious: When an edition sells out, and scarcity drives up the price, artists want to cash in on pent up demand.
Sobel, who has spent 10 years studying and collecting Eggleston’s work, claims that eight of his prints that were previously worth $850,000 have been devalued by the recent sale.
Q&A: Art Collector Jonathan Sobel Explains His Beef with William Eggleston (via The Click)
Last month we reported that 36 digital pigment prints of photos by William Eggleston had been auctioned off for a whopping $5.9 million. At least one man wasn’t too happy about the news: a New York-based art collector named Jonathan Sobel has filed a lawsuit against Eggleston, claiming that the photographer’s decisions to sell new, oversized prints of his iconic images has diluted the resale value of the originals. Sobel owns one of the largest private collections of Eggleston’s photographs — 192 photos worth an estimated $5 million. He is seeking unspecified damages and also a ban to prevent Eggleston from making new prints of his 1960s suburbia photos.
36 of American photographer William Eggleston‘s digital pigment prints were auctioned off at Christie’s on Monday, fetching a whopping $5.9 million — far more than the $2.7M they were expected to sell for. Eggleston is credited with helping making color photography a legitimate artistic medium for galleries, which had previously favored B&W prints. A print of Eggleston’s “Memphis (Tricycle)” (shown above) was the top seller after being snatched up for $578,500.