Monday, May 17, 2010

Buyers set to pounce as commercial snaps become high art

Briar Williams cleans a  Wolfgang Sievers work
Head of Art Briar Williams cleans off one of Wolfgang Sievers works 'Gears for Mining industry' ahead of a Leonard Joel auction of noted photographer Wolfgang Sievers. Picture: Aaron Francis Source: The Australian
WOLFGANG Sievers' photographs have been long sought after by Australia's major collecting institutions but it has taken until three years after his death for a substantial collection of the German emigre's work to come up for public sale.
One hundred photographs from his estate, many of them signed copies of his most famous images, will go under the hammer at Melbourne auction house Leonard Joel later this week.
The auction will be the first big test of the commercial appeal of the photographer whose influence is considered as important as his contemporaries Helmet Newton and Max Dupain.
Whereas those photographers sold pictures to collectors, Sievers was a commercial artist who took photographs for clients, which he then was not free to sell but which have nevertheless come to be considered masterpieces of commercial photography.
Briar Williams, Joel's head of art, said, "only five or six works have ever sold before at auction".
Sievers was known as an industrial and architectural photographer who worked for Australia's mining giants, manufacturers, hotels and the fashion industry, among others.
The collection up for auction features at least one hilarious undated shot of nude women amid toiling huge metal cogs.
In the 1950s Sievers was engaged by the then department of overseas trade with a brief to change Australia's image from a land of sheep and wool to an image of a sophisticated industrial and manufacturing nation.
He had a Collins Street shopfront but in the late 1960s he felt so repelled by the growing violence in Vietnam, he posted in his front window an image from Time Life of a soldier with the flayed skin of a child and beside it he stuck his own manifesto for peace.

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