William Eggleston Untitled 1970
I don’t know if you have read/heard about this lawsuit taken out against Eggleston by one of his major collectors, if not, here is a quick rundown:
On April 4, Sobel filed a complaint against the artist in federal court, alleging that Eggleston diluted the value of Sobel’s collection by printing larger, digital versions of some of his best-known works and then selling them for record prices at Christie’s.
Now, how do you feel about Eggleston using his old negatives to make newer, larger digital pieces? Do you think this is betraying his former pieces? Do you think that once an photographer makes his limited edition run of a capture that he can’t ever use it again in another style or way?
Personally, I think this whole thing is BS. It’s a different piece of art, plain and simple. Different medium in its printing and a different size. I don’t think the presence of these larger digital prints in anyway dilutes the value of Sobel’s rarer, and more difficult to accomplish dye transfer print and that makes his piece special. I think the real issue here is that he knows that he will never be able to sell his piece for half a million like the digital pieces at Christie’s went for.
Now, why did the Christie’s pieces go for so much more than the original photographs with the more careful and more beautiful printing process? Because it was a big hoopla event with a bunch of rich people wanting something special and NOW, not then. The pieces are larger (the easier to see you with my dear) and the auction was exciting and an event, an excuse to compete with neighbors to show off your good taste and full bank accounts, not a private and perhaps boring exchange with a gallery director. The hype makes up a good portion of the final price tag.
Here would be my advice for Sobel, relax, don’t do it, if you want to, well….don’t. Sobel, bro, you aren’t thinking of the long term, you don’t know what those pieces will be worth in 20 years. Right now it seems exciting, but if I was a collector, why would I want some hype-machine digital print of an Eggleston photograph when I could get the original dye transfer print. Real collectors know the long term value of it and you are just acting like an entitled brat and you need to calm down. So remember, no amount of digital prints, no matter how large, or expensive they are (for now) are going to make your piece any less special or exclusive. Take a chill pill. This publicity is making you look petty.