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Richard Gere’s photography collection goes under the hammer (NSFW)

March 23, 2022

Christie’s is auctioning Photographs from the Richard Gere Collection, in an online sale of images from the actor’s collection that runs from 23 March till 7 April 2022. Warning: this page is likely to be unsuitable for viewing at work.

The sale offers 156 lots and includes works spanning the entire history of the medium.

It includes the work of 19th century masters such as Gustave Le Gray and Carleton Watkins, alongside recognised early 20th century photographers such as Edward Weston, Tina Modotti and Alfred Stieglitz.

The sale also includes the work of notable contemporary icons such as Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Irving Penn, Sally Mann, Robert Mapplethorpe and Herb Ritts.

Many of the works were acquired directly from the artists, many of whom Mr. Gere counted among his close friends, most notably the late Herb Ritts (1952-2002).

The sale carries a low estimate of nearly $2million (US).

Edward Weston (1886-1958), Nude on Sand, Oceano, 1936. Gelatin silver print, mounted on board, printed 1940s. Image/sheet/mount: 14x15½in. Estimate: $70,000-100,000. Offered in Photographs from the Richard Gere Collection on 23 March-7 April 2022 at Christie's Online

Edward Weston (1886-1958), Nude on Sand, Oceano, 1936. Gelatin silver print, mounted on board, printed 1940s. Image/sheet/mount: 14×15½in. Estimate: $70,000-100,000. Offered in Photographs from the Richard Gere Collection on 23 March-7 April 2022 at Christie’s Online

Images with soul & humanity

Richard Gere explained, ‘These photographs arrived in my life because I felt something for them. They have real soul, a humanity, a generosity – it doesn’t matter what the technique is. You know, you listen to an early recording of a great opera singer from 1902, when they just started recording – it’s scratchy, it’s trebly. But the quality of that voice, the soul of the voice, it still hits you hard in your heart. Most of the photographers here are not that interested in technique. And the ones that are interested in technique were coming from a deep, personal place, with a point of view, and understanding of the universe.’

Darius Himes, Christie’s international head of photographs, remarked, ‘We are thrilled to handle such stunning works by one of the great film actors of the 20th century. Honed by years both in front of and behind a camera, Gere’s passion for image-making and collecting is on full view in this wonderfully diverse collection. In the late 1970s his interest in photography was strengthened through his friendship with the late fashion photographer Herb Ritts, who inspired him to dive deeper into the history of photography. Since then, he has collected across genres and time. On display are highlights from the collection signifying a reflection of his time spent in New York and Los Angeles, his admiration of 19th and 20th century photographers and the friendships he made along the way.’

Herb Ritts (1952-2002), Djimon with Octopus, 1989. Gelatin silver print on linen, mounted on board. Image: 28x23¼ in. Estimate: $25,000-35,000. Offered in Photographs from the Richard Gere Collection on 23 March-7 April 2022 at Christie's Online

Herb Ritts (1952-2002), Djimon with Octopus, 1989. Gelatin silver print on linen, mounted on board. Image: 28×23¼ in. Estimate: $25,000-35,000. Offered in Photographs from the Richard Gere Collection on 23 March-7 April 2022 at Christie’s Online

Auction highlights

Among the many highlights in the sale are emotionally charged works by Diane Arbus, Ralph Eugene Meatyard and Sally Mann. These works resonate with theatrics and drama – the images are challenging while maintaining a sense of delight.

According to Gere, ‘Being an actor, my basic tool is emotions. So I think most of the pictures that I respond to have the suggestion of a story or a flicker of the mystery.’

Whilst Richard Gere is best known for his leading roles in romantic film dramas and comedies such as An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and Pretty Woman (1990), he has been interested in photography for many decades…

Childhood interest

Now aged 72, Gere has had an avid interest in photography since childhood.

His passion for photography was sparked by a gift from his mother of a Kodak Brownie camera when he was a boy scout.

Gere recalled, ‘I remember taking pictures with that. I’m sure the quality was dodgy, but I remember starting to understand composition.’

Christie’s Darius Himes has praised Gere’s collection for having ‘a level of aesthetic attunement and sophistication that you rarely see.’

Yet Gere hesitates to call himself a collector, explaining simply, ‘These are images that spoke to me.’

Gere’s interest in photography developed further in the mid-1970s when he made the transition from acting onstage to acting in films.

He saw first-hand the way a narrative could be built by using multiple camera angles ‘each one of them telling a different story.’

Richard Gere pictured with his friend, the late Herb Ritts

Richard Gere (left) pictured with his friend, the late Herb Ritts (right)

Friendship with Herb Ritts

Gere admits that during his early acting days living in New York and Los Angeles, he would often spend time in all-night bookshops browsing volumes about legendary photographers such as Irving Penn and Edward Curtis.

It was during this time that Gere became friends with the fashion photographer the late Herb Ritts, whose dramatic black-and-white pictures became some of the best-known images of the young actor.

Gere revealed, ‘I knew him before he was a photographer. He was just kind of in the gang… and he’d take pictures of us.’

After meeting the more established Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts soon became a leading name in the fashion photography scene, and was Gere’s ‘go-to’ photographer.

Gere revealed, ‘He was the only one I wanted to work with… So probably 80 or 90% of the shots of me that ended up in magazines were by him.’

He also spent a lot of time with Ritts at shoots where he wasn’t the subject. He recalls his friend’s easy manner with models and how he ‘cared deeply’ about every image.

The actor further expanded his taste by visiting exhibitions wherever he travelled for work, and by going to auctions with Ritts.

‘It wasn’t necessarily to buy,’ explained Gere, ‘it was like going to a museum. It was about seeing beautiful stuff.’

This became part of what Gere terms ‘an evolutionary process of training your eye and your own sensibilities’, which stood him in good stead when he began buying photographs seriously.

Diane Arbus (1923-1971), 42nd street Movie theater audience, N.Y.C., 1958. Gelatin silver print, flush mounted on board. Image/sheet/flush mount: 6½x9⅞ in. Estimate: $25,000-35,000. Offered in Photographs from the Richard Gere Collection on 23 March-7 April 2022 at Christie's Online

Diane Arbus (1923-1971), 42nd street Movie theater audience, N.Y.C., 1958. Gelatin silver print, flush mounted on board. Image/sheet/flush mount: 6½x9⅞ in. Estimate: $25,000-35,000. Offered in Photographs from the Richard Gere Collection on 23 March-7 April 2022 at Christie’s Online

Captivated by Diane Arbus

From the beginning he was captivated by the work of Diane Arbus, whose pictures of residents of a home for the developmentally disabled both disturbed and delighted him.

The Christie’s auction features several early works from Arbus’s career, including a haunting image taken in a Manhattan cinema, with the beam of the projector frozen like a ray of sunlight in a cathedral.

In fact, Gere was introduced to Arbus’s work by Elizabeth Avedon, the daughter-in-law of the late US photographer Richard Avedon, whose two portraits of Bob Dylan appear in the sale.

Gere played Billy the Kid in Todd Haynes’s 2007 film I’m Not There, in which six actors portray real or fictional characters who inspired Dylan’s songs or represent pivotal moments in his career.

He describes Avedon’s Bob Dylan, Folk Singer, New York City (1965) as ‘one of my favourite photographs ever taken.’

He also acquired several pictures by Irving Penn, choosing classic images from the photographers’ travels such as Bena Family, New Guinea (1970). This posed portable-studio portrait of five indigenous people from the Pacific island is in stark contrast to Penn’s better-known Vogue fashion shoots.

‘He was very influenced by 19th-century photography,’ explained Gere, who has long admired the US photographer’s dedication to the formal qualities of his work, from the ‘soft north-face light’ he favoured to the complex printing processes behind every shot.

Richard Avedon (1923-2004), Bob Dylan, Folk Singer, New York City, 1963. Gelatin silver print, printed 1967. Image/sheet: 19⅞x16in. Estimate: $60,000-80,000. Offered in Photographs from the Richard Gere Collection on 23 March-7 April 2022 at Christie's Online

Richard Avedon (1923-2004), Bob Dylan, Folk Singer, New York City, 1963. Gelatin silver print, printed 1967. Image/sheet: 19⅞x16in. Estimate: $60,000-80,000. Offered in Photographs from the Richard Gere Collection on 23 March-7 April 2022 at Christie’s Online

Early photography

Gere’s collection also includes examples of early photography, including pictures by Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) and Gustave Le Gray (1820-84).

Notably it includes Le Gray’s famous image Études de nuages clair-obscur (1856-57), a serene vision of clouds over a calm sea, which belies its technical complexity.

Measuring 16×20 inches, the image was compiled from two negatives.

Gere explained, ‘The light metering is very different, top and bottom, so he took two shots, sometimes more than that. He used the horizon line as the division,’ marrying the two negatives in the darkroom.

Le Gray’s composite study is actually a rare landscape within Gere’s collection, which mainly features images of people and glimpses of everyday life.

Gere revealed, ‘Being an actor my basic tool is emotions — storytelling. I think most of the pictures I respond to have a story.’

Richard Gere shown discussing his photography collection with Darius Himes from Christie's

Richard Gere shown discussing his photography collection with Darius Himes from Christie’s

Watch Richard Gere talking about photography

To watch a short film of Richard Gere discussing his photography collection with Darius Himes, Christie’s international head of photographs, just go to Big in pictures – Richard Gere’s photography collection.

Photographs from the Richard Gere Collection – the auction

You can view the live auction online at Christie’s Auctions & Private Sales or you can download the Christie’s apps to get involved.


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