Written for Vendarte.co, available at http://vendarte.co/2017/08/the-bechers-market/ 

Throughout their career the Bechers presented a solid group of works, their interest in the landscape and “anonymous sculptures” are present in all their works and conceptually there was no departure from the couple initial interests and subjects. Therefore it is possible to classify the works by format, sizes 40 by 30 cm and 60 by 50 cm, and landscapes. While the first two focus on architecture details or individual buildings.

The concept of presenting the works together as grids were assimilated by the market and often the works will be organised in such form and consigned at auction as one single lot, the formation of nine and fours are the most common. This characteristic disrupts a basic way to analyse an artist market per year of production, since the duo collected this images in a span of several years, for example, Blast Furnaces, part of the Tate collection (that illustrates this post) is dated from 1965 to 1995 and composed by twenty four photographs. This database is from 2010-2016, most of the information was obtained through the ArtPrice database and complementary data directly from diverse auction houses, mostly in Germany, UK and US.

Classification Total Sales Total # lots Bought-in  Bought-in % Average Price/sqcm
Grid 2.996.094,86 € 60 9 15,00 % 9,67 €
60×50 248.209,16 € 34 7 20,59 % 3,10 €
40×30 194.007,95 € 37 14 37,84 % 7,14 €
Landscape 94.137,73 € 19 4 21,05 % 6,83 €
Other 178.144,44 € 19 7 36,84 % 16,37 €

By analysing their recent market according to this classification, it is possible to notice the popularity of grids is not only illustrated by the number of lots with this formation but also by the high price paid considering the artwork’s area. The average price/sqcm is € 9.67, three times higher than the 60×50 cm works (€ 3.10), and 26% higher than the 40×30 works (€ 7.14). Additionally, grids present the lowest bought in rate, falling to sale less than other categories.

The current record for the Bechers is € 340,000.00 achieved at Sotheby’s Paris in 2015 in a sale of a grid composed by nine water-towers during the Back To Black Photographies sale.

Observing the market per year, it is clear that there is an active market for the artists, during the last three years the volume kept above half a million per year. In 2012 there was only one grid offered at auction, which explains the low sale volume. The number of lots by the artists decreased from 2011 to 2014, but it is important to observe the increasing volume of sales from 2012 onwards, the number of lots including grids rose in the same period. Considering the estimates, the hammer prices are slightly above the lower estimate, what signifies that although there is an active market for the duo, there is not a large number of bidders during the sale.

The price/sqcm analysis allows to observe the valorisation of works by the Bechers in recent years, although there is a drop in 2016 average price this is more of an impact in the balance between the quality of the works offered considering size and grids. 

A turning moment that might still be captured by the market is the recent death of Hilla Becher in 2015, there is no public record of who is the current responsible for the artists’ estate, there is also no official website. But it is likely that Max Becher, the couple’s only child, is the current responsible for the estate, being an artist and photographer himself. The management of the estate is crucial for the future of an active market for the Bechers in the form of new exhibitions, decisions regarding future use of the negatives for contemporary prints and commercial gallery representation. Also there is no information regarding original prints that were still in possession of the estate and carrier gravitas as original works.

We will keep analysing other DSP photographer markets in future articles.