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Michael Stipe photo of Kurt Cobain sets personal record at Vancouver auction

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Before Michael Stipe was known the world over as the lead singer and lyricist for the multimillion-selling rock band R.E.M., he was taking pictures. And while his outsized music career has since overshadowed his visual pursuits, the 64-year-old set a personal sales record earlier this month at a private art auction in Vancouver.

Stipe was one of roughly three dozen artists and collectors invited to the West Vancouver home of fellow artist, writer and long-time friend Douglas Coupland for an auction benefiting the Capture Photography Festival. And he didn't show up empty-handed.

The "Losing My Religion" singer donated a 1993 photograph he took of late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's hands to the auction in support of the non-profit group. The photo would fetch $75,000 from a patron in the room, setting a record high for Stipe's photographic work, according to the festival's director.

"It was really, truly, incredibly generous for him to support the organization in this way," executive director and chief curator Emmy Lee Wall told CTV News.

"It's not lost on me that artists who make donations to auctions then are not making a sale," she added. "So it's a really, really generous thing for artists to participate."

The arresting black-and-white photo depicts Cobain’s clasped hands, adorned with three rings and a cheap promotional wristwatch from a Portland, Ore.-area appliance dealer.

Frances Bean Cobain, the late musician’s daughter who also happens to be Stipe’s goddaughter, posted the photo to her Instagram account last month on the 30th anniversary of her father’s death at the age of 27.

The photo was captured the same year that Stipe and Coupland became friends after a chance meeting at the inauguration of former U.S. president Bill Clinton.

Coupland painting nets $150,000

Coupland, who now serves as a co-chair of the Capture Photography Festival, donated one of his own artworks to the May 11 auction. The oil-on-canvas painting, titled Northwest Passage, earned $150,000 for the arts festival, marking a second personal auction record for the night.

Douglas Coupland's oil-on-canvas painting, titled Northwest Passage, earned $150,000 at the Vancouver auction. (Keagan Archer-Hastie)

"We are immensely honoured to have auctioned two incredible works at Saturday's event, raising significant funds for Capture Photography Festival, which will ensure we are able to continue providing a platform for lens-based artists," Wall said.

"We are deeply indebted to both Michael and Doug for their support of Capture."

Founded in 2013, the Capture Photography Festival describes itself as Western Canada's largest lens-based arts festival. Participants exhibit their works at dozens of galleries and venues throughout Metro Vancouver during the month of April.

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