A major collector of William Eggleston’s work filed suit against the photographer yesterday in a U.S. District Court, accusing him of devaluing his vintage dye transfer prints by selling new, large-scale pigment prints of many of his iconic works. The suit by Jonathan Sobel, a collector of 192 of Eggleston’s works, was prompted by a March 12, 2012, auction of Eggleston’s new pigment prints at Christie’s, which brought in more than $5.9 million.
Sobel, who estimates the value of his Eggleston collection at $3 million-$5 million, is suing the photographer, his two sons and the Eggleston Artistic Trust for unspecified damages, and has asked the court to bar Eggleston from making or selling any more prints of the photographs he has printed and sold previously as limited editions. Sobel says in his claim that he has eight dye transfer prints that were devalued by the sale of new digital versions at the March 12 auction.
According to gallerist Robert Mann, who sold Eggleston’s work in the late 1970s while working with one of the photographer’s original dealers, Harry Lunn Jr., Sobel is not the only person upset by Eggleston’s decision to offer a new edition of previously sold, limited edition work.
“I understand there are a lot of people out there who are pissed, and I don’t blame them,” Mann told PDN. “I’ve heard that other people are concerned, upset, wondering how this is possible, and what’s stopping it from happening again. It’s a credibility factor. I would be mortified if I was working with his collection.”
This story is developing. Check PDNOnline later this afternoon for more information on the case and what it means for the Eggleston market.