21 June 2009

David Bailey's Box of Pin-Ups, 1965.

David Bailey. DAVID BAILEY'S BOX OF PIN-UPS. Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London [1965].

Current Selling Prices
$6000-$12000 /£3000-£6000

One of the victims of this recession has been photobooks. However like real estate in Britain and America they had become grossly overvalued and a correction was due. There were 3 big photo auctions in May and, whereas none bombed, results were lacklustre. Dealers tended only to be buying on commission and collectors only shelled out for stuff in exemplary condition.

Some surrealist items did well (the 1936 photo collage book 'La Septieme Face du Dé' by Hugnet made £10000 in it s Duchamp covers) and others badly --rude boy Hans Bellmer's not uncommon 'Les Jeux de la Poupée' failed to make its £40K reserve. Bailey's book turned up in 2 sales on the same day. Christies copy in a repaired box and lacking the cardboard throwaway insert made a punchy £4375. At Bloomsbury the gavel came down almost simultaneously at £1800 on a lesser copy ('missing lower cover and cardboard packing sheets stamped 'To be thrown away', the box with some marks and splits at edges.) Below is our original late 2007 report on this groovy book. It is hard to imagine the circumstances in which one would find a fine copy--but if one were found, even in these borassic times it would surely make £10,000+. Perhaps Lord Snowdon, the unsaleable photographer, still has his copy-- pristine because too nasty too touch with its pics of lowlife criminals and thugs. Possibly, like Churchill's Graham Sutherland portrait, it was destroyed.

Much sought after and valuable book from the mid 1960s before kaftans, bells, patchouli and psychedelia. I can remember as a teen seeing it in the shops and thinking it was expensive (£10?); there must have been quite a few printed and they got bought by the affluent and many got broken up and pinned up on walls of their kids -- the exact purpose for which they were intended. Of the few sets I have handled, quite often the photos had been taken down and put back in the box - with the pinholes at the corners as the evidence. In this auction description they have tape marks:
David Bailey's Box of Pin-ups. Description: A set of 36 portrait photographs (halftone prints), sheets 370 x 320mm., printed captions on versos, 15 (list available) with small tape marks at top corners, loose as issued in original box, upper cover with title, notes by Francis Wyndham and portrait of Bailey by Mick Jagger, lower cover with a repeat of Mick Jagger by Bailey, both cardboard packing sheets stamped "To be thrown away" present, the box with some marks and splits at edges, folio, Sixties style recorded and defined in a select gallery of movers and shakers from the worlds of music, fashion, art, photography, advertising, film and the stage. "Glamour dates fast, and it is its ephemeral nature which both attracts Bailey and challenges him." The text on the reverse of the image, penned by Francis Wyndham, cites Shrimpton as the inspiration behind this homage to visual culture: 'I want to do a book about images', said David Bailey, 'Jean's an image'.
This set made £4000 in 2004. There is some fetish about sets that retain the piece of thick card printed with the instruction to throw it away. A fine set made £20K in a photo sale in 2006 when 2 sixties obsessed and presumably bunced up punters went into full combat in a classic pissing competition. Some might consider the 60s way overrated and Bailey too. His work is noticeably absent from Martin Parr's seminal 'Photobooks 1 & 2'. Bailey has been accused of lack of taste and certainly anybody seen wearing a studded and pleated denim flat cap (as DB did in his documentary about Cecil Beaton) would have a job explaining himself to the taste police + his photos of Marie Helvin wrapped up in newspaper are a sort of limp response response to the pervo chic of Hemut Newton. His real strength has been as a fashion photographer drawing out stylish and sexual response from the beauties of the Love Generation. Also as a collector of photography he showed interesting and innovative taste--at CSK I recall seeing him buy a Van Gloeden of a svelte young girl--a rare item as the good Baron mainly concentrated on boys.

'Pin-ups' was art-directed by the caricaturist Mark Boxer, later editor of Tatler and briefly editorial director of Vogue, and David Hillman, responsible for Nova in its glory years. The subjects included Mick Jagger, Terence Stamp, Brian Jones, Kasmin, Jean Shrimpton, John Lennon & Paul Mccartney,Beaton, Rudolf Nureyev, Michael Caine, Hockney, Snowdon, the Kray Brothers and others. The strong objection to the presence of the Krays on the part of Lord Snowdon was the major reason no American edition of the "Box" ever appeared, nor a British second edition was ever issued. Gerald Scarfe, regarding the book as obsequious, responded promptly with ‘Gerald Scarfe’s Box of Throwups’ - a book I have never seen and which may be just a contribution or a ghost. Image below is of Bailey's muse - the pulchritudinous Jean Shrimpton aka 'The Shrimp.'

VALUE? Not impossibly rare - the print run was quite high because it was trendy material. However fresh, complete, unhandled examples with the box firm and intact are pretty scarce. Copies have made as little as $3000 in auction in the last 3 years and defective copies less, on the other hand they can climb to $10,000 and beyond. No copies at present on any internet bookmalls. People used to actually sell the pictures individually like some botanical breaker--think £100 a plate. Possibly to future generations the photos will be like Julia Margaret Cameron's highly prized photos of Victorian beauties and celebs. On the other hand the 60s era may be seen as less 'far out' and amazing when the boomers are no longer around to proclaim its ecstasies.

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