Lik Claims Priciest Photo

Los Angeles -- The Australian landscape photographer Peter Lik's photographic work, 'Phantom', is now the most expensive photo in history as publicized at auction, reportedly fetching $6.5 million.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are doubtful of this inflated transaction, for reasons explained below.

'Phantom' was captured at Arizona’s Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon that’s popular among landscape photographers, and shows a beam of light resembling a “ghostlike figure” (hence the name). It’s a black-and-white version of a photograph that has also been printed in color with the title, “Ghost.”

The sale of the photograph was to an anonymous collector, it also included two other photos by the artist: 'Illusion', which sold for $2.4 million and 'Eternal Moods', which fetched $1.1 million.

This auction sale therefore places four of Lik's works among the top twenty most expensive photos of all time.

Two years ago, Fairfax Media reported Lik's claim to have sold a photograph for $1 million, which was then the highest price paid for work by an Australian photographer and one of the most expensive photos ever sold.

"Certain textures and contours found in nature lend themselves beautifully to black and white photography," Lik said in a press release. "The intensity of contrasting light and dark spaces was surprising, but made for some of the most powerful images I've ever created."

The buyer's representative Joshua Roth of the law firm, Glaser Weil Fink Howard Avchen & Shapiro, described their client in a press release as "a long-time collector of Lik's works" who "is delighted to add these one-of-a-kind photographs to his impressive collection."

Cliché Work

On noted critic described the work as "hollow, clichéd, and tasteless, the black and white shot of an Arizona canyon isn’t art – and proves that photography never will be".

The publication went on to state: "the record-setting picture typifies everything that goes wrong when photographers think they are artists." The publication continues stating that Lik's use of black and white as "outmoded" and "affected."

Concluding: If this is the most valuable “fine art photograph” in history, God help fine art photography. For this hollow and overblown creation exposes the illusion that lures us all, when we’re having a good day with a good camera – the fantasy that taking a picture is the same thing as making a work of art."

Lik is not shy about his accomplishments. He describes himself both as the “world’s most influential fine art photographer” as well as “one of the most important artists of the 21st century.” It’s obvious promotional hype, but Lik does indeed now command worldwide distinction.

Skeptics have speculated that the most recent sale is nothing more than a marketing tactic, and may have been purchased by an auction 'shill'.

The work was sold privately to an unknown buyer and no documentary proof beyond a press release of the sale appears to have been provided.

Dubious Sale

Lik's body of work has been ignored by major public art galleries and dismissed by critics.

When his photos have gone up for public auction, they have not sold well. Australia's most famous photographer Bill Henson sells for nowhere near Lik's astronomical prices.

As art consultant David Hulme said in 2012: "If I was advising a client on a $1 million art purchase, I would be extremely wary of purchasing a Peter Lik photograph, however good it is. This is because Peter Lik's photographs have no secondary market presence or value."

Lik is not the only Australian artist to make wild claims about selling works.

In 2012, Fairfax Media reported that a Gold Coast property entrepreneur claimed to have paid $5.2 million on a painting called Points of View by a little-known artist from Newcastle, Sharon Davson.

Lik's $6.5 million price tag is so improbable as to require proof beyond mere assertion in a press release.

Perhaps the US tax authorities will be able to verify whether this sale occurred given they must have a keen interest in the sales tax payable on this multi-million dollar transaction.

The previous record for photography was held by German visual artist Andreas Gursky, for his 'Rhein II' (1999), a digitally-manipulated colour photo of the River Rhine which fetched $4.3 million, or £2.7 million at Christie's in 2011, and Cindy Sherman's 'Untitled #96' (1981), a self-portrait of the artist lying on the floor in an orange outfit, sold for a then-record-setting $3.89 million, or £2.4 million - also at Christie's.