Peter Lik's Phantom: The Most Expensive Photo Of All Time?
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, Peter Lik's "Phantom", a monochrome version of a previously released print titled "Ghost" 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 even though disputed by many.
Where Is Antelope Canyon?
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).
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.
How Much Are Other Peter Lik Photos?
Cited by the ArtNet News, Initially offered at $4,000, a photo's sticker-cost rises steadily as the supply shrinks. An image that is 95 percent sold-out becomes “Premium Peter Lik” for $17,500, and the price only further skyrockets as those final pictures find buyers.
What Makes Peter Lik's Phantom So 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? Far from it. 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 Peter Lik's 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 annoymous sale, it is likely we will never know. Without evidence of the sale, I could just as easily claim that I sold one of my Limited Edition Fine Art Prints for seven million dollars and the factual evidence of the two sales would be identical.
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 Mr. Lik.
Luxury Fine Art | Aaron Reed Photography
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. :)