Houston Photography Auction Takes Over the Briar Club, Draws Major Collectors

Bidding in the Picture

BY // 05.15.19
photography Roswitha Vogler

It was a photo finish when Houston Center for Photography presented its annual print auction, one of the liveliest of the acquisitions opportunities that defined the Houston art and social scene this spring.

The seated dinner at The Briar Club lured staunch collectors of the medium, as well as curators, artists and the curious.

For the first time in memory, a gallerist chaired alongside a pair of artists: Foto Relevance’s Bryn Larsen (also a keen collector) and artists Libbie Masterson and Karen Chiao presided over the over-the-top evening that established HCP’s new scholarship fund for promising talents.

Executive director Ashlyn Davis enjoined the packed room to “bid high and bid often,” while auctioneer Sarah Krueger — in from New York City, where she helms the photo department at Phillips — deftly hammered down 43 live-auction lots.

Nineteen silent-auction artworks plus two experiences (a weekend workshop with collector/photographer Mike Stude and lensman Mike Marvins at Stude’s South Texas spread, Hacienda Blanca, and a fiesta dinner party at HCP crafted by Mariquita Masterson and chair Libbie Masterson) helped the evening raise more than $200,000 for the photo-focused nonprofit, now in its 38th year.

Daniel Gordon’s “Still Life with Bowl of Lemons,” 2018, was among the top lots, generating brisk bidding.

The top three lots testified to the diverse approaches and subject matter favored by contemporary photographers. Daniel Gordon‘s eye-popping Still Life with Lemons, 2019, which inspired the night’s branding and graced the auction catalog cover, realized $9,500. Elliott Erwitt‘s vintage image, Valencia, Spain (Robert and Mary Frank), 1952, brought $11,000. Roger Ballen’s avian-themed Chicken Wings, 2012, went for $4,500.

Photo Fans: Curators Anne Tucker and Clint Willour; FotoFest’s Steven Evans; Mark Sullivan with posse Kathy Masterson and Tiffany Masterson; architect Robert Morris; collectors Jereann Chaney, Krista and Mike Dumas, Mary and Bernard Arocha, Meg and Nelson Murray, Frazier King, Philip Alter, HCP board chair Stuart Nelson, Bevin and Dan Dubrowski, Kath Blanco, and Sarah Bray, who snagged Renate Aller’s heroic image of an Alaskan mountain range; gallerists including Catherine Couturier, Geoffrey Koslov, Betty Moody, Debra Barrera and Jonathan Hopson, Barbara Davis, and Heidi Vaughan; and artist headliners Keith Carter, Thedra Cullar-Ledford, Avisheh Mohsenin, collaborators Mary Magsamen and Stephan Hillerbrand, Shelley Calton, in-from-Canada Torrie Groening, Missouri-based Julie Blackmon, and Bucky Miller, whose surreal print of a leaf pile was acquired by Houston Symphony’s Molly Simpson and husband Patrice Abivin.

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