Is Peter Lik's Phantom The Most Expensive Photograph Ever Sold?
Out of the seven reported highest grossing photographs ever sold as of 2019, five of them were sold at auction by Christie's, one by Sotheby's and the most expensive one....anonymously? In December 2014, “Phantom" a monochrome version of a previously released print titled "Ghost" by photographer Peter Lik was thrust into the spotlight by claiming to be the most expensive photograph of all time. This anonymous sale was for a reported 6.5 Million dollars, shattering the previous record held by Andreas Gursky's Rhein II after it sold for $4,338,500 via the auction house Christie's in November 2011.
This black and white photograph of upper Antelope Canyon in Arizona shows a shaft of light and falling sand inside the underground slot canyon. An iconic place with many photographers and one I have photographed myself many times. While some controversy swirls around the sale of this photograph and its anonymous nature, it has still been widely recognized as the worlds most expensive photograph.
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The Artist | Who Is Peter Lik?
Peter Lik (born 26 December 1959) is a photographer from Australia, best known for his nature and panoramic landscape images. He hosted From the Edge with Peter Lik, which aired for one season on The Weather Channel. He sells his work through high end photography galleries located in Las Vegas and around the United States in high traffic tourist locations.
What Kind of Photo Paper Does Peter Lik Use?
Fellow photographers often ask about the visual style of Peter Lik Prints, usually after viewing his work while traveling or after participating in one of the closed door light presentations that his galleries often provide. The question of how his prints appear to be back-lit or illuminated is one often posed to me by potential collectors. The apparent mystery of this style is even debated by other photographers.
As described on his website, Peter Lik uses a Silver Halide photographic paper produced by Fuji called Fujiflex. A white polyester-based material for use with conventional and laser printers, Fujiflex Crystal Archive Printing Material produces rich image color, pure whites, and razor-sharp letters with exceptional surface gloss and flatness. His prints are produced as acrylic face mount pieces and the "look" or "style" of the print is achieved through the print process itself, coupled with high quality lighting in a dim gallery environment.
Where Is Peter Lik For Sale? Gallery Locations
- Lik Gallery Aspen - Colorado
- Lik Gallery Chicago - Illinois
- Lik Gallery Dallas - Texas
- Lik Gallery Hamptons - West Hampton, New York
- Lik Gallery Waikiki - Honolulu / O'ahu, Hawaii
- Lik Gallery Houston - Texas
- Lik Gallery Key West - Florida
- Lik Gallery Lahaina - Maui, Hawaii
- Lik Gallery La Jolla - California
- Lik Galleries Las Vegas - Nevada (Caesar's Palace & Forum Shops, Mandalay Bay, The Venetian)
- Lik Gallery Miami - Florida
- Lik Galleries New York City - New York (Madison Avenue, SoHo)
- Lik Gallery Washington, D.C.
Where Was Phantom Photographed?
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon in the American Southwest, on Navajo land east of Page, Arizona. It includes two separate, scenic slot canyon sections, referred to as Upper Antelope Canyon (or The Crack), and Lower Antelope Canyon (or The Corkscrew). Upper Antelope Canyon is called Tsé bighánílíní, 'the place where water runs through rocks' by the Navajo. It is the most frequently visited by tourists because its entrance and entire length are at ground level, requiring no climbing; and because beams of direct sunlight radiating down from openings at the top of the canyon are much more common. Beams occur most often in summer, as they require the sun to be high in the sky. Winter colors are more muted. Light beams start to peek into the canyon March 20 and disappear by October 7.
How Was Antelope Canyon Formed?
Antelope Canyon was formed by the erosion of Navajo Sandstone due to flash flooding and other sub-aerial processes. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways eroded away, deepening the corridors and smoothing hard edges to form characteristic "flowing" shapes.
So What Makes Phantom Special?
Antelope Canyon is visited by millions of people each year including countless nature and landscape photographers like myself. What makes Phantom so special? Did Peter Lik capture a moment in time that no one else has? The main attraction of the upper Antelope Canyon tour comes in the early afternoon when the sun is high in the sky above the canyon. The light falling through a small hole in the roof of the canyon is illuminated by the tour guide throwing a shovel full of sand, allowing it to fall where the light penetrates the earth. This beautiful scene plays out every day for hundreds of photographs and sightseers alike. I visited and photographed the canyon myself in 2015, capturing the photograph below which I have titled ShapeShifter.
So IS Phantom The Most Expensive Photo Of All Time?
Because of the fact that it has been almost six years since the original announcement of this anonymous sale, it is likely we will never know unless the buyer brings it to market or publishes details of the sale.
The story and skepticism of the sale has been well covered in the press by the New York Times as well as many others on both sides of the sale. Ultimately, you will need to decide for yourself if this sale was authentic and if you believe in the value placed on the print by the artist.
In Conclusion: Photography Is Collectable Art!
What is based in fact without question is that photography does have its place in the collectable art world. As artists, it is our collectors themselves who determine value and we price our work accordingly. As a widely collected artist myself, although nowhere near the realm of these artworks here in terms of cost, I would argue that I provide a much greater value for my customers.
Since 2014, I have sold thousands of large format, gallery quality fine art prints to collectors around the world. My first edition of 200 sold out in 2016 and close to ten other pieces are well on their way. I only produce 1 Artist Proof per print and have very limited editions of just 50 for the majority of my work.
To see my available limited edition works, please enjoy the photographs below and feel free to look around my online galleries. You may just find a work of art to fall in love with that one day may fall somewhere on this list. :)