By Alex Novak
AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers) had one of its strongest shows ever, according to many dealers and attendees. With its 12-foot walls covered in cloth in muted shades serving as a backdrop to a collection of some of the world's finest photographs, collectors and curators had a lot to choose from at this fair. And indeed the 32nd edition of this long-running photography show set new records for attendance, up 10% more than last year's record numbers of 10,000 visitors to 11,000. The seriousness of the visitors was also impressive.
With 75 of the world's top galleries and dealers exhibiting here, the photography on the walls showed the breath of this market--from 19th-century masterworks to the most cutting edge contemporary photography.
Most observers, including ourselves, felt that the fair itself looked better than at any time previously. The AIPAD staff did a great job and the dealers responded to show their best work. It was great to see the return of top 19th-century dealers such as Hans Kraus and Daniel Blau, as well as James Hyman's first-rate display devoted to this important area of photography. The addition of quality contemporary art dealers, such as David Zwirner, Higher Pictures, Bryce Wolkowitz, Weinstein Gallery and Beijing's 798 Photo Gallery only added to the impressive mix. There was also an elegance to the fair that wasn't quite evident before.
Major New York contemporary art gallery David Zwirner presented a solo exhibition of new work by Philip-Lorca diCorcia and sold a number of prints, including several large-scale photographs for $25,000. The gallery commented that they met new collectors and art consultants, and were pleased to see many curators and museum groups among the attendees. Kim Bourus of Higher Pictures had worked hard to bring in this top gallery to the show. As she put it, "I loved David Zwirner's solo booth of Philip-Lorca diCorcia. New AIPAD members like David Zwirner Gallery means exceptional art and big business." The commitment and energy of such members as Bourus has helped raise AIPAD's game over the last few years by bringing in a number of top players.
Expressing the thoughts of many of the exhibitors, Yossi Milo Gallery, New York noted, "Energy is up. People are excited. We are very happy with sales."
Santa Monica gallerist Peter Fetterman seconded Milo: "This year was our best AIPAD ever. We usually bring very classical material but decided to dip our toes in much deeper this year in terms of contemporary work. I'm trying to stay young and connected and "with it" as my young children urge me to do.
"Our two 'stars' were Stephen Wilkes with new images from his "Day to Night" series. It seemed that his special take on architectural New York landscapes infused with a human element really connected with the AIPAD audience. He patiently spends 15 hours at a specific location and watches as it moves from day to night, shooting perhaps two thousand images and spends on average three months in post production on each subject editing the work down to an average of 20 images with an astounding effect. Printed in three sizes with price points ranging from $5-20,000-plus, it was enthusiastically received. Wilkes was graciously with us through out the show and we barely had time to munch a sandwich for lunch over the four days. It was a bit like Grand Central at our booth.
"Likewise we had a similar reaction to Elisabeth Sunday's beautiful images from her 25 years of photographing in Africa. We produced special platinum prints in a limited edition which debuted at the show together with a new book "Grace", which is forthcoming from our friends at Nazraeli Press. Ms. Sunday's special technique is that she shoots her subjects through a distorted mirror which she feels releases her subjects' true souls and inner spirits. Many visitors were highly moved, some even to tears by the power and beauty of the work and the prints, and were enchanted to hear Ms. Sunday's stories, as she too graciously gave us four days of her time. Prices range from $6,000 and up. That is one of the great things about AIPAD from a visitor perspective. Collectors can actually get to meet the artists they are interested in collecting.
"Finally the rest of our booth was devoted as a tribute to the late, great Lillian Bassman with whom we enjoyed a wonderful, joyous and inspiring 20 year collaboration and friendship. The remaining prints we had were eagerly sought after in the $5,000-$20,000 range."
Fetterman summed it up, "All in all, great people, great energy, great sales and great New York weather--a dealer's delight."
Contemporary Minneapolis gallerist Martin Weinstein reported, "We did very well. Works by Robert Mapplethorpe, Alec Soth and Vera Lutter were received enthusiastically. Curators, collectors, other dealers and the general public were also in great admiration of the three monumental Robert Polidori images of India. We were impressed not only by the large number of attendees but by all the congenial feeling in the atmosphere. Many smiling faces, AIPAD is like the anti-art fair art fair."
"There was a good assortment of visitors ranging from institutions and collectors to new buyers," noted Sid Monroe from Monroe Gallery of Photography, Santa Fe, NM, who sold more than 45 photographs, including one from Stephen Wilkes's Day to Night series for $35,000. Wilkes seemed to have work in several places at the show.
The Weston Gallery, Inc., Carmel, CA, sold Paul Strand's Central Park, New York, a platinum print from 1915-1916, for $195,000. A lantern slide of the image is in the Paul Strand Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Private New York City dealer Charles Schwartz, said, "I thought this year's fair looked excellent and it was very well attended--maybe the best AIPAD show ever. We did very well at the fair this year, and it was one of my best years so far. We were very successful with cased images this year, including sales on several outstanding daguerreotypes and a number of other cased images."
Schwartz did note that "some very interesting photographs didn't sell during the fair and are still available, including a self portrait of Herbert George Ponting with His Cinematograph Camera from 1912 for $6,000 and a portrait of Karl Struss Filming, 1922 by Edward Weston in a "Project Print" made by Brett Weston for $12,500."
New York gallerist Laurence Miller said, "Overall we sold double what we sold in 2011. Sales included 19 Ray Metzker's (only two were on the walls), and several contemporary pieces. Most sales were for works under $10,000, but the contemporary works ranged from $18,000 for a Toshio Shibata to $45,000 for the Burk Uzzle "Desert Prada" carbon print, which sold the day before the fair and never made it to our stand. There were a handful of European collectors there, a few we knew, some we did not. Publicity seemed to be terrific, attendance was strong every day, and many new faces attended."
London dealer Eric Franck told us that "This was the most successful year yet for us at AIPAD. We doubled the amount of sales from last year. We sold works throughout price ranges, but did find that clients were interested more in higher-end classical photography. There seemed to be fewer museum curators that werenít based in New York this year, but the overall number of buyers increased from last year. We sold works by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Josef Koudelka, Martine Franck, Karen Knorr, Norman Parkinson, Chris Killip and Heinz Hajek-Halke. Overall, we feel quite pleased with the outcome of AIPAD this year. We thought it was one of the strongest AIPADís yet in terms of works being exhibited, and we thought the fair was well put together."
As for my own company, Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, while we did somewhat less dollar sales at the show itself than in the previous two years, which were admittedly two of our very best shows at AIPAD, we still have some strong possibilities that could easily bring us to those record levels. We were certainly very busy the entire fair and I expect we will have two or three important sales that will put us over the top.
After featuring his work in our booth, we sold three very good vintage Andre Kertesz prints and I expect to sell a fourth one that we have on hold shortly. We actually had several people vying for the same Kertesz photos at nearly the same time, which only goes to show that you need to make up your mind quickly at these fairs.
We also sold an excellent vintage Lewis Hine, an Ilse Bing, Barbara Morgan's "Kick", a Carl Mydens, a Sigismund Blumann, and two wonderful photos by Yasuhiro Ishimoto, who just passed away. Our sales included a stunning Nude with Fan by Heda Benakova-Fantlova and a nude by Jan Saudek, as well as images by lesser known Eastern Europeans, Alex Strasser and Drahotin Sulla. Nineteenth-century images sold included photographs by Henri Sauviere, Eugene Atget and J. B. Greene.
Many curators and collectors also came to the booth to look at and admire our very early primitive French photography, which included masterworks by Le Gray, Le Secq, Negre, Terris and Baldus-- to mention a few. One institution has put a rare and early Le Secq on hold, and I expect it will be sold in the near future.
Our large display of Tom Baril's rare vintage work, which had not been shown previously, drew a huge amount of enthusiastic attention and comments. We still have an excellent selection available of his photographs on our website at http://www.contemporaryworks.net , from $4,000-$8,500, which is a real bargain, considering Baril's reputation and the rarity of these photographs--many only available in one or two prints.
Despite some drop-off, probably due to the European economic situation and a slightly stronger dollar, we still saw many Europeans and Asians come to the fair, and we sold to a number of these international collectors, galleries and curators. I am impressed with the buyers here at AIPAD, which continues to be the show for serious business in photography.
Catherine Couturier, owner of Houston-based John Cleary Gallery Fine Art Photography, reported, "I did well at the fair. It was the third best sales numbers the gallery has ever had at any fair, the other two best years also being at AIPAD. I was surprised that I didn't sell my Mapplethorpe "Tiger Lily" which was reasonably priced at $40,000. I also have a vintage 16 x 20 Brett Weston "Holland Canal" that is a beautiful print, priced at $28,000.
"The fair was unbelievably busy. I wish I had chosen a bigger booth and had brought two more employees with me, especially on Thursday and Saturday. What was a change this year, in my observation, was that so many collectors appeared only to be at the show for a single day. That helped close deals more quickly, but it also led to a sense of urgency that hasn't been present in the last few years, and I had to sell different work to different clients all at the same time. My list of follow-up sales was also the longest it has ever been after a fair.
"I was happy with the way the show was run, and all the membership seemed happy as a whole. Isn't it funny how happy dealers are with a fair when they're making sales and how unhappy dealers are with a fair when they aren't?"
New York dealer Alan Klotz said, "We had a great show, and, so far, our after-show sales have been better than the usual, as well. The thing that stands out is that we sold numerous works from all three centuries: Wonderful 19th-century photographs, 20th-century vintage, and later work and contemporary work--sort of a trifecta. I suppose this response further encourages me in my commitment to the whole history of the medium. My heart is in many places, and the bottom line results of the show tell me that in fact I do not have to choose. I wouldn't have anyway.
"Because of the MoMA Atget show I wanted to have a good number of Atgets on offer. We had over a dozen prime vintage pieces, and some very rare early (1929-30) prints by Berenice Abbott prints, some of which were on gold-toned printing-out paper exactly as Atget would have done them. On the vintage side we sold four works, the best of which was a dark, rich version of the Terrace Steps at Saint Cloud. The best Atget that we have left--surprisingly--is the well-known store front titled either, "Commerce de Vins" or "Cabaret, Rue du Four". It's in perfect condition. Of the Abbott/Atgets we sold the signature Corset Shop, Boulevard Strasbourg, but we still have "La Villette" (the prostitute sitting in the doorway). Also sold were three Callahan's, two Siskind's, two Hoppe's, a Capa and more. Some great photographs still with us are: Robert Frank's "City Fathers, Hoboken", a luminous print of Adams, "Horizontal Aspens" and a Hine "Anemic Spinner in a Vermont Mill".
"I thought the general look of the Show has gotten better every year, and this year it was particularly elegant-looking. Our show organizers are clearly the right group of professionals, who take their work for us seriously.
Klotz raised an issue a number of dealers have felt strongly about: "I think we need to have a second show. AIPAD is "photography", and we could do much better than other satellite shows in Miami because we are photography, and so many more collectors are looking for it. We would stand out among the crowd, and I think we would do very well."
Mack Lee of Lee Gallery said, "I'm always impressed by the level of interest and knowledge of the collectors and curators. AIPAD continues to attract serious customers, and curators from abroad. The show looked great and functioned smoothly. Our sales were strong. We sold early prints by Callahan, an H. P. Bosse, an Art Sinsabaugh, and prints by Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, William Garnett, Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz. A fine print of "Yosemite Falls," 1861, by Carleton Watkins did not sell, and we also brought home a fine Black Canyon print by O'Sullivan, a Bisson Frères alpine scene, and a pristine group of vintage prints by Paul Strand."
Oakland, CA-based dealer Richard Moore reported, "We had a very successful fair, our best AIPAD to date. We sold around 30 pictures to previous clients, new collectors and one European Museum. We sold a beautiful 14 x 11 inch exhibition print by Karl Struss of the Grand Canyon, titled "The Inferno" and also sold five vintage prints by Peter Sekaer. We still have a very early printing of Ansel Adams "Aspens, Northern New Mexico" (horizontal) 16 x 20 size in the original framing selected by Adams for the original owner in 1959."
"The show had great balance, with vintage photographs from all periods shown alongside top contemporary work and new media. This broad spectrum of artwork offered by dealers who are knowledgeable and passionate about their artists makes the AIPAD Show stand out from other art fairs showing photographic work. Overall the quality of work and presentation seemed better than ever. It was not surprising to see the record-breaking attendance with people of all ages."
Kim Bourus of Higher Pictures, who just moved her gallery to above Gagosian's uptown location at 980 Madison Ave, New York City, said that she "loved the show--always do." Bourus reported that "The Jessica Eatons couldn't stay on the wall. We sold out of several editions during the fair with prices starting at $4,000 and up. Emily Roysdon's piece, "Untitled" (David Wajnarowicz project) created a lot of legit buzz with major institutions and serious contemporary collectors. The set (12 silver gelatin prints), edition of 5, is available at $20,000."
Also taking time out of moving her gallery to give her impression of the fair was new exhibitor Sasha Wolf of Sasha Wolf Gallery, New York, who "felt the fair was an excellent experience for me. We did quite well and met a lot of fabulous people. We sold a lot by my artist David Nadel. This work is editioned and although I did sell out of a couple of images, I have editions left. Prices range from $1500-6,000." Wolf also sold work by Catherine Wolkoff, another of the gallery's artists. As of May 1st the gallery will be temporarily without a home while it builds out its new location. It will be back up and running by June 15th but, for the time being, will be working out of a temporary office space in its current building, but will still be available to see clients any time. All of contact information will remain the same.
Charles Isaacs Photographs, New York, sold two photographs by Gustave Le Gray in six-figures and an 1865 photograph of the moon by Lewis Rutherford for $30,000, among others. Isaacs said, "This was our best year in at least six years. We saw more European collectors and curators this year, but fewer Asian collectors. Overall we had more buyers and serious inquiries this year. The show continues to improve; it looked good, ran smoothly, and brought in a dedicated crowd of collectors."
Nineteenth-century work also sold well to U.S. and international museums and private collectors at Hans P. Kraus Jr. Inc., New York, with prices ranging up to six figures, including early photography by Eugène Atget, John Dillwyn Llewelyn, Louis-Emile Durandelle, Etienne-Jules Marey, and Rufus Anson.
"We saw a lot of American curators that don't make it to Europe since their travel budgets have been slaughtered," commented Daniel Blau, Munich.
Paris dealer Serge Plantureux reported that he sold 31 photographs, including important works from Brassai, J. B. Green, Germaine Krull, Man Ray, Louis Vignes and others. He said he like the diversity of art photography at the show and noted that he saw many institutional clients there.
Gary Edwards Gallery, Washington, DC, noted the overall impression of AIPAD was "excellent" and sold J. B. Greene's Algeria, an 1856 calotype, for $40,000 and several other 19th-century pieces including a paper negative and a salt print by Edouard Baldus.
"We've been very pleased," noted New York gallerist Andrea Meislin, who sold photographs by Barry Frydlender, Tai Shochat, Michal Ronnen Safdie and Rina Castelnuovo.
London dealer James Hyman told us, "I thought that the fair looked the best I've ever seen it and that the overall presentation of early photography, from the 1850s to the early twentieth century was the strongest that I can remember. Hans Kraus, Gary Edwards, Alex Novak and Charles Isaacs, in particular, had brought out great 19th-century pieces, and Weston Gallery had a memorable early work by Paul Strand. However, I'm not sure that the level of sales in this area matched the quality of the material on offer.
"We like to curate special exhibits for art fairs and this year devoted our booth to a museum-level presentation of early French photography that explored the church as a motif in France in the 1850s, complete with dark gray walls, low light and a late Gothic gargoyle as a centerpiece! The outside of the booth was 20th-century modernism from Atget through Strand and Weston to Callahan. We also produced a substantial book to accompany our exhibit, entitled "From Sermons in Stones to Monsters of Modernity. Early French Photography and the Church."
"As in 2011 we did well with our 20th-century material, especially American modernism. Although, disappointingly, our exceptional vintage Edward Weston platinum print, Chayotes in a painted wooden bowl, Mexico, 1924--the only known signed and only known mounted print of this work--was not sold, despite attracting much admiration. But in common with several of my colleagues, I was disappointed with the level of sales of early material, although I bought several pieces myself!
"As a European, the contrast with the internationalism of Paris Photo is striking. AIPAD still feels like a very American affair, with the focus very much on American collectors and American material.
"I love AIPAD, and we had very generous compliments on the quality of our booth, but we were disappointed by the level of sales in 19th-century French photography, especially given the rarity and print quality of the salt prints that we brought. This included exceptional salt prints by Charles Negre, Gustave le Gray, Edouard-Denis Baldus, Henri le Secq and Edmond Bacot. Nevertheless, we were satisfied with the overall level of sales that we made and look forward to presenting another specially curated exhibition in 2013."
798 Photo Gallery, Beijing, sold more than 20 prints and said their first year at AIPAD was "great. We love it."
Tucson gallerist Terry Etherton told us that the show "has improved dramatically. It's a very good looking show, very well run. We sold to a good number of new clients this year and expect some good follow-up with the new clients. We featured Richard Misrach's split-toned images from 'The Night Desert' series and 'Stonehenge'. Prices are from $20,000-28,000 each." Etherton Gallery also sold work by Duane Michaels, O. Winston Link, Lee Friedlander, Bruce Davidson and Harry Callahan, among others.
Indiana dealer Lee Marks reported, "I'm happy to say that I had a great fair this year with sales of most of the photographers I represent. Since I am only dealing in contemporary work, my sales would be considered mid to lower-range--the lower prices, however, were compensated by the increased number of prints sold, especially by Jen Davis, Mariana Cook, and Gen Aihara. My sales were to museums and private collectors for the most part, and indeed, it seemed there were more Europeans than usual. Seventy percent were new buyers, to me at least. I am having more follow-up inquiries than usual, some of which I'm confident will result in sales. I thought it was the best-staged AIPAD Show we've ever had and found that many dealers as well as clients felt the same."
Steven Kasher Gallery, New York, sold a number of photographs by George Platt Lynes for $10,000, as well as work by Weegee, Christopher Thomas, Vivian Maier and Chip Simone.
Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, sold a couple of works by Tina Modotti, in the $50,000 range, although the gallery reported that most sales were in the $5,000 and under range.
Robert Burge of New York's 20th Century Photographs, Ltd. commented: "I think the show keeps looking better and better, and more and more professional. More like an art fair rather than a trade show. I thought the traffic was good (not great); the quality of the traffic could be improved on (more buyers, less browsers and less photographers are needed). The timing of the show is still a problem for me. Spring Break for the affluent "Park Avenue" crowd means that these buyers with disposable income are simply not around.
"My feeling is that dealers with rarer, vintage and small editions sold more than dealers such as myself. Trying to promote contemporary, lesser-known work is still a tough go. Financially, we are still hoping to break even (and maybe realize a small profit) if two or three more sales in the works come through. For us, it is still wonderful exposure, but I'm not sure I can survive all the requests from photographers demanding I look at their work."
HackelBury Fine Art Ltd., London, commented that they "met a lot of younger collectors" and "appreciated the atmosphere of connoisseurship and friendliness."
In addition to the fair, there were five well-attended panel discussions, featuring leading curators, artists, dealers, and collectors. These were held on Saturday, March 31, for the first time at a spacious auditorium at Hunter College.
The panels garnered an excellent response from attendees and included: A Conversation with Rineke Dijkstra; Curator's Choice: Emerging Artists in Photography; How to Collect
Photographs: What Collectors Need to Know Now; A Celebration of Francesca Woodman; and Italian Contemporary Photography.
A few other of the better reviews/blogs of the show can be found here:
New York Times:
Figures of Grace by David Rudin:
http://videos.artinfo.com/video/The-AIPAD-Photography-Show;Featured-Videos#c=CL9DGX1WJM3TQS33&t=Preview the 2012 AIPAD Photography Show .