They Came, They Bought

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Joshua Holdeman '93 joined Christie’s New York as international director and head of the firm’s New York photographs department and of Christie’s New York 20th-century decorative arts department. He serves in both a managerial and international business-getting role, with focus on pursuing high-value property and single-owner collections.

Shown here working the phones with clients at the two-day New York  auction of "Icons of Glamour and Style: The Constantiner Collection," at 20 Rockefeller Plaza.
The collection features an extensive range of work of Helmut Newton and various other acclaimed photographers whose images portray high fashion models and glamourous celebrities (many of Marilyn Monroe), along with other assorted images.
Also shown at a auction for Tiffany's antiquities.

Auctioneer at Tiffany event and for the first Constantiner sale is Philippe Garner, international head of the international photography department, and Andrea Fiuczynski, in the second sale. Also shown, collector Leon Constantiner (black glasses, bald head) and art handler William Gregory.

It’s Dec. 16, and they’re coming. Scores of visitors stream into the Manhattan headquarters of Christie’s, the purveyor of highbrow art and culture, for the two-day sale Icons of Glamour and Style: The Constantiner Collection.

The 320 photographs on the block represent the “most important collection of fashion photography that we know of,” says Joshua Holdeman ’93, international director of 20th-century art at Christie’s.

Will these fashion and celebrity images actually sell?

Despite the collection’s significance, Holdeman and his Christie’s team at 20 Rockefeller Center are concerned about the sale. The economy is imploding, and buyers are skittish. (Later in the winter, Christie’s and rival Sotheby’s would both announce layoffs.) Will these fashion and celebrity images, made by photographic legends such as Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn, actually sell?

At least today, not to worry. During an electric first night, Newton’s life-size, four-panel gelatin silver print of Vogue runway models, Sie Kommen, Paris (Naked and Dressed), fetches $662,500. The final sale total is $7,721,875.

At the auction’s close, Holdeman is more than relieved. Given the recession, “we were ecstatic,” he says.

Holdeman was an art major at Bates — he studied painting as well as art history — then left for New York, where he’s worked his way up the gallery and auction ladder while trying retain to a certain equilibrium. “The world is a crazy place,” he says, so he’s guided by principals he saw in action daily at Bates: “There’s no substitute for hard work and ethical, straightforward behavior.”

Holdeman represents clients in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the U.S., helping them develop and manage their collections. Managing client expectations is a constant challenge because — understandably — “many people believe their objects are worth more than they are.” His best clients, he says, “let me do my job.”

On this night in New York, Holdeman is constantly on the phone — sometimes two phones — working with clients, assessing the dynamic situation. Every client bid reflects a certain level of trust in Holdeman’s assessment of a dynamic situation. It’s these relationships that give Holdeman great professional pleasure.

“It’s all about the people,” he says.

Photographs and text by Phyllis Graber Jensen

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