the critic

Seven Highest Prices Paid for Weegee Photos and Books at Christie’s, New York…

1. Weegee, A Portfolio (1940s-50s)
SALE 9484, 13 OCTOBER 2000
New York: Privately published, 1981. 49 gelatin silver prints, printed by Sidney Kaplan. Each with PHOTO BY WEEGEE N.Y.C. and PRINT: KAPLAN stamps on the verso. One of four complete portfolios realized from the original edition of 25.
Each approximately 163/8 x 125/8in. (41.7 x 32cm.) or the reverse.
Originally planned as an edition of 25, this portfolio is one of only 4 produced in 1981 by Wilma Wilcox and three of Weegee’s colleagues. Although posthumously printed by Sidney Kaplan in 1981, the group of 49 prints represents Weegee’s greatest images from throughout his career. One of the four examples is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and another was sold at Phillips, New York on 31 January 2000.

2. Naked City. New York: Essential Books, 1945.
SALE 2110, 10 APRIL 2008
Octavo (234 x 164 mm). 239 black and white photographs. Original tan cloth, spine and front cover lettered in blue; original photo-illustrated dustjacket, printed in yellow, red and black (a few short tears, a few very small chips at extremities); cloth folding box. Weegee’s signature in green ink on the title page, dated “1948”.

Autograph letter signed (“Weegee”) to John Faber (“Mr John Faber”), with envelope, undated but postmarked “13 April 1960”, from the Mapleton Hotel, London. 10 pages, quarto.

WITH A LENGTHY LETTER FROM WEEGEE TO JOHN FABER, of the Eastman Kodak Co., describing how he came to shoot ‘The Critic’, one of his most famous photographs: “this photo changed the whole course of my life”. His work as “official” photographer for Murder Inc not starting until midnight Weegee decided to take a chance on an opening at the Metropolitan Opera House: “the other photographers… told me to go back to my corpses, being a non conformist I said to myself fuck that nonsense, I went outside in the cold”, a car pulled-up, but the war meant a black-out was in effect, “I couldn’t see much but I could smell the smugness, so I aimed my camera and made the shot… and rushed back to the newspaper”. Weegee describes the “dopey” editor rejecting the photograph, and how it was subsequently picked-up by Life and published throughout the world and “in my first book Naked City”. Weegee then discusses selling the film rights, becoming a celebrity himself, and moving to Hollywood (“all the gangsters having shot each other off”). He goes on describing working on both sides of the Atlantic for Vogue&, Life, Fortune and others: “I still haven’t recuperated from that photo”.

3. The Critic (Mrs. Leonora Warner & her mother, Mrs. George Washington Cavanaugh attending opening night at the Metropolitan Opera), 1943
SALE 1893, 18 OCTOBER 2007
gelatin silver print
10 5/8 x 13½in. (26.7 x 34.2cm.)

4. Woman Cab Driver and Macy’s Clown
SALE 9432, 12 OCTOBER 2000
Woman Cab Driver and Macy’s Clown
Gelatin silver print. Circa 1942. Credit stamp on the verso.
10½ x 133/8in. (26.7 x 34cm.) Framed.

5. Their First Murder (ca. 1936)
SALE 7902, 21 APRIL 1994
Gelatin silver print.
Weegee The Famous; Arthur Fellig credit stamps; Popular Photography layout stamp and typed narrative text on a trimmed page affixed to the verso. 11¾ x 10 5/8in.
In response to Mr. Whiting’s request to reproduce the picture offered here (see Lot 166), Weegee wrote on September 13, 1946 in a letter which accompanies the lot: Thanx for your kind letters. & excuse the delay in answering them…As I am having my teeth fixed and a new set of STORE TEETH ordered from my favorite MAIL ORDER house…You might be intested (sic) that I have changed my act once more…NOW I am doing the photos for the SCRIPPS HOWARD newspapers full page ads in papers and magazines all over the country….$$400.00 yes I said four hundred bucks for a nights work.

6. Mother and Child in Harlem, 1943
SALE 2076, 17 OCTOBER 2007
gelatin silver print
titled ‘Negroes Moving into Wight [sic] Neighborhood’ in an unknown hand in pencil, ‘Weegee the Famous’ and ‘Photo-Representatives’ credit stamps (on the
13 3/8 x 10 5/8in. (33.9 x 27 cm.)

7. Coney Island
SALE 1039, 18 APRIL 2002
Gelatin silver print. 1940/1940s. Reproduction limitation stamp on the verso.
7½ x 9½in. (19 x 24.2cm.)

(The above is from Christie’s’ website… obviously many of the titles and dates are not accurate…)

I guess this tells us that people are crazy, or, that it’s the iconic, or “Famous Forty,” Weegee images are still the ones that are the most sought after…
The exception is the amazing “Mother and Child in Harlem,” 1943.
One of the best things about the portfolio is that the negatives are uncropped, they are all full frame…