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Peter Lik is in awe of himself. When he describes his career as a fine-art photographer, he speaks with the satisfaction of a guy who has performed miracles, at the pace of a bystander who just caught a glimpse of Superman. The words tumble forth in self-exalting, run-on sentences, most of them laced with profanity, all of them in the sunny, chummy accent of his native Australia. But Mr. Gursky and Ms. Sherman are titans, with solo shows in pre-eminent museums.
It irks him a little that you have to ask. Because by one measure — money — Mr. Lik may well be the most successful fine-art photographer who ever lived. The images are mostly panoramic shots of trees, sky, lakes, deserts and blue water in supersaturated colors.
Generally speaking, his buyers are not people who acquire the art of Andreas Gursky and Cindy Sherman. Which is just one reason that Mr. Lik considers himself an artist working outside a system established by elitist tastemakers. So six months ago, he had an idea. Before the deal was signed, Mr. Lik hired a public relations firm to make sure that the sale, and the record, were noticed.
Lik, looking at four fat ring binders, which an associate had just plopped on a table. Previous records in photography were set by competing bidders in public auctions for images that were familiar and celebrated.
This was a private sale for a newly printed photograph, and scant details were offered. Joshua Roth, the Los Angeles lawyer who represented the buyer, declined to name his client, though he emphasized that the client exists. Despite the reported size of the deal, the art world greeted the news mostly with silence. This could have been because before the sale announcement, no one had laid eyes on the image. One of the few gallery owners willing to discuss it was Michael Hoppen, owner of a gallery in London.