Sorry, Andreas Gursky. A private buyer has set "a new benchmark for the value of Peter Lik works" with the purchase of a single photograph—for $6.5 million. "Phantom" is a black-and-white version of the Australian photographer's "Ghost," which for a time sat in a nature photography exhibit at the Smithsonian. The Arizona Republic reports the photo shows a shaft of light penetrating an underground cavern in Arizona's Antelope Canyon. "Phantom" sold alongside photographs "Illusion" for $2.4 million and "Eternal Moods" for $1.1 million, which, according to a press release, means Lik has now sold four of the top 20 most expensive photographs ever—a fact that seems to amaze art critics, who have never been particularly taken with Lik's work.
"If this is the most valuable 'fine art photograph' in history, God help fine art photography," Jonathan Jones writes at the Guardian, arguing the photo "typifies everything that goes wrong when photographers think they are artists." A lawyer for the buyer says his client has chosen to remain anonymous, but "someone has been very foolish with their money," Jones says. Given such criticism, it's perhaps surprising that the Washington Post reports Lik isn't one to be modest. His website describes "Phantom" as a "masterwork" and Lik himself as "a true leader in the world of fine art." Still, Lik's unusual salesmanship—he's been featured on a Jumbotron ad in Times Square, for example—has made him a hit with the public, the Post reports.