As part of a contemporary art sale at Christie's auction house, a photograph by Jeff Wall fetched $3,666,500 — the most ever for a work of Wall's, and one of the most expensive pieces of photography of all time. The image is Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986), which was shot during the Soviet/Afghan war, and printed in 1992. It's one of just two prints — and an artist's proof — and is a transparency on top of a light box.
Dead Troops Talk marked Wall's foray into digital art, with the actors photographed in the studio, and then digitally composited in the outdoor scene.
Over the past 12 months we've seen a rash of photography auctions that have fetched record breaking amounts of money. Cindy Sherman's Untitled #96 fetched $3.9 million, Andreas Gursky's Rhein II recently broke all records by hitting $4.3 million, and a collection of Eggleston prints netted $5.9 million. The sale of Dead Troops Talk was only expected to reach $1.5-$2 million, and the previous record for a Jeff piece was $1.1 million.
This same auction saw a number of major contemporary art sales, including a Rothko which fetch $87 million, a Klein for $36 million, and a Pollock for $23 million. Curiously, the same Cindy Sherman which fetched such a high price last year was also on the auction block, and went for just $2.8 million, $1.1 million less than the previous time.