36 of American photographer William Eggleston‘s digital pigment prints were auctioned off at Christie’s on Monday, fetching a whopping $5.9 million — far more than the $2.7M they were expected to sell for. Eggleston is credited with helping making color photography a legitimate artistic medium for galleries, which had previously favored B&W prints. A print of Eggleston’s “Memphis (Tricycle)” (shown above) was the top seller after being snatched up for $578,500.

Joshua Holdeman, director at Christie’s photo department, says that the purpose of the sale was to bring Eggleston’s work into the mainstream art world:

Eggleston has been kind of stuck in the old school world of the photography collectors for a long time, whose primary concerns are about process, print type, print date, etcetera. [...] for contemporary art collectors it?s much more about the object itself?they couldn?t care if it?s a dye transfer or a pigment print or whatever, as long as the object itself is totally amazing, that?s what they care about.

This is an attempt to start a migration of Eggleston from the quote unquote confines of the photography world into the larger context of the art world. I think it was probably the most important event for Eggleston in a long, long time. [#]

Here are some of the other top sellers at the auction:

Untitled, 1973 — Sold for $422,500

Untitled, c 1971-1974 — Sold for $386,500

Untitled, 1973 — Sold for $386,500

Untitled, c 1971-1974 — Sold for $362,500

(via Christie’s via PDNOnline)

Image credits: Photographs by William Eggleston/Eggleston Artistic Trust