Image courtesy of Herb Ritts
Icons of Glamour & Style: The Constantiner Collection by Christie’s
9 Avenue Matignon, Paris
June 19, 2019
On June 19th, Christie’s will offer photographs assembled by New York collector Leon Constantiner that celebrate glamour, elegance and idealised beauty. The first sale, at Christie’s New York in 2008, presenting works from his collection was a landmark event in the photography auction market, underscoring the importance of the great editorial photographers who captured so memorably our ideals of beauty in the inspirational post-war decades of fashion and style magazines.
Image courtesy of Norman Parkinson
At the heart of the Constantiner collection is the theme of beauty, most specifcally female beauty as idealised in the worlds of fashion and film. The collection boasts fine prints of a range of images that have become defining icons of the genre, and woven into this compelling narrative of glamour and style are other themes particularly resonant to the collector. Notably, we trace what one might describe – to borrow the title of the Charles Dickens novel – as A Tale of Two Cities. The cities are New York and Paris. This seductive collection has been put together with passion and care by someone who made their home in New York some thirty years ago. We are invited to share the collector’s fascination with the city, used as a backdrop to classic fashion images, by Norman Parkinson and Peter Lindbergh, or explored as a subject in its own right by such artists as Andy Warhol and Hiroshi Sugimoto. We are also drawn by images that distil the lure of Paris, presented here as surely the world city most closely associated with the pursuit of elegance and high style. This is the city that saw the birth of haute couture and its dazzling post-war renaissance – the names of Balenciaga, Dior, Givenchy, and Saint Laurent feature prominently in the collection. Paris is of course the city that inspired visiting Americans, led by Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, to produce some of their most iconic works, the city that attracted as long-term residents a distinguished roster of photographers including such luminaries as Helmut Newton and William Klein, and that inspired some of their most important pictures. Avedon’s bravura composition Dovima with Elephants and Newton’s enigmatic Rue Aubriot demonstrate memorably the city’s potential to stimulate the creative imagination.
Image courtesy of Ormond Gigli
In the last section of the sale we also see Leon’s determination to give something back to the medium through the Constantiner Photography Award for an Israeli Photographer that he sponsored between 1999 and 2013 under the auspices of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Christie’s sold a major part of the Constantiner collection in 2008, but at that time Leon was not ready to part with everything and kept back a representative selection of treasures for his continuing delight. It is these that they are now honoured to present in Paris.
Image courtesy of Burt Glinn/ Magnum Photos Inc.