The Australian photographer Peter Lik is one of the most mysterious and controversial figures in the world of photography. He is said to have sold his black and white photograph “Phantom” for the record sum of 6.5 million US dollars in December 2014 – that is 2.2 millions more than the $4.3 millions Andreas Gurskys got for his work “Rhine II” at an auction in 2011. This would make “Phantom” the number one on the list of the ten most expensive photographs of all time, if, instead of being sold directly to a collector, it had been auctioned off like all the other mind-blowingly expensive photos. However, as the buyer conveniently wanted to stay anonymous, it is impossible to prove that the sale has actually happened.
A few days ago the New York Times published a rather long article on Peter Lik – curiously in the business section rather than in the art or photography one. In the article it says that, so far, Lik has sold 100,000 prints totalling $440 million dollars, which makes him the highest earning photographer of all time.
“Phantom”, possibly the most expensive photo of all time
What was most interesting for me was the information on Lik’s way of doing business, especially how the prints are made and then sold. I get the impression that his prints are being churned out like from a factory, and that his galleries – which feature tills where one can pay by credit cards – resemble supermarkets. The “Limited Editions”, consisting of a 1000 prints, are also unusual in the arts. The NYT seems to have hit the category spot on – “business” indeed…