PHOTO LA KICKS OFF 2009 WITH A LARGE, ENTHUSIASTIC CROWD, BUT MODERATE SALES; PHILLIPS DE PURY GETS PURCHASED BY RUSSIAN 'LUXURY' GROUP AND GETS NEW CEO, WHO WAS REPORTEDLY A STASI INFORMANT; AIPAD AND AXA INSURANCE TEAM UP FOR NEW YORK PHOTOGRAPHY SHOW; EBAY FORCES BUYERS AND SELLER TO USE PAYPAL VIRTUALLY EXCLUSIVELY; RICHARD PRINCE SUED AGAIN
FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT; OTHER PHOTOGRAPHY NEWS; A GORGEOUS TOME, PLUS SOME SERIOUS CATALOGUES, INCLUDING WORK BY BRANDT, EVANS, AND HILL & ADAMSON; MORE PHOTOS AND SPECIAL EXHIBITS ADDED THIS MONTH TO I PHOTO CENTRAL; FACEBOOK COMMUNITY BUILDING FOR PHOTOGRAPHY GROUPS
PHOTO LA KICKS OFF 2009 WITH A LARGE,
ENTHUSIASTIC CROWD, BUT MODERATE SALES
By Alex Novak
Photo LA is always the first major show of the year for the photography market, and, as such, provides a bit of a bellwether indicator of future business. This year, despite the general economic woes, the show drew very large audiences over its four-day run. Kicking off with a charity opening reception for the LACMA photography department, the exhibition drew what appeared to be many more important collectors than in a number of years, although several regulars were missing.
Despite the large (the exception was the Friday weekday) and enthusiastic crowds, sales were somewhat slow, although some dealers, including ourselves, reported better results than last year's show. Many dealers did say that buyers were taking their time in making decisions. They reported more Sunday sales and after-show activity than normal. While the feeding frenzy at art and photography shows seems to have died down, the actual buying is still there though, albeit at a more studied and serious pace.
Held this year, as it was last year, in the relatively new venue of the Barker Hanger at the Santa Monica airport, the show looked very professional and many dealers felt that the new location was an improvement.
Some dealers did reduce prices a bit and/or brought lower priced items; and most were willing to work with collectors creatively on terms, etc.
As Newport Beach dealer Susan Spiritus told me, "I actually did quite well and sold lots of my artists' works. My gallery was well situated and, as always in years past, had crowds all the time. People complained that my booth was always so filled with people that at times they couldn't get in. My most popular artists from my booth whose work drew most interest and sales were Cara Barer, Dar Spain and Camille Seaman. Additionally the work by Robert Turner sold well, as it always does, and also work by Roman Loranc, Jeffrey Becom and Cara Weston, granddaughter to Edward.
"I did sense that there was tremendous interest, but many were not buying due to the economy. In consideration of the economy, I did bring lower priced point items and did reduce some prices to make them more appealing for a faster sale. I also offer lay-away plans to my clients, which is attractive to some. I did not have high sales expectations for this year, so as not to be disappointed, but that proved not to be the case; and I left on Sunday with a result that made me very happy and satisfied. I did like the fair this year and love the new venue."
Mark Pinsukanjana of Modernbook Gallery said that "anything over $2,000 is harder to move due to the economic climate." He still did well, selling 30-40 photographs and over 50 books. Contemporary work and items under $1,000 were his big sellers. Pinsukanjana's final judgment on Photo LA? "It was a great fair."
Tom Gitterman was another dealer pleasantly surprised by the show. He said, "I can't believe I am saying this, but it was a good fair. The amount of sales we closed at the fair and the profit we made wasn't good, but we didn't expect much different. These are trying times. However, I was surprised at the amount of serious collectors we spent time with. There was one couple that had been collecting regularly for 30 years that I hadn't even heard of."
Unlike Spiritus, Gitterman noted, "We designed our booth to look as great as possible. We didn't edit for "recession" or a "lower end" fair. I think it worked in our favor. We spent time with serious collectors and curators, promoted our artists, the gallery reputation and made a few sales.
"Our mammoth-plate Watkins of Yosemite got a lot of attention because of the Getty exhibition and the two mammoth-plate W.H. Jacksons of Glenwood Canyon, CO, did as well. We did well with the Roger Mayne vintage prints of London in the 1950s and early 60s. There was a lot of interest in the work of the artists we exhibited this season--Josef Breitenbach and Daniel Masclet--and we continue to sell their work well. The group of nine vintage Siskind divers (Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation) got a lot of attention on our outside wall. I thought it was amusing that I heard two different people suggest that the photographer must have been aware of Robert Longo and Vik Muniz (how sad!). I was even surprised that several viewers responded positively to some of the more avant-garde work we hung, such as the Tabard of a dentist chair, an oversized early Kertesz distortion and a Man Ray of Meret Oppenheim. Our Arbus twins also drew a lot of folks initially to our booth. I guess that my experience is that is pays off to not underestimate one's audience."
Gitterman summed up, "The fair looked good; tall walls, good light, decent carpet and good food. The California sunshine sure helped as well."
Agreeing that the venue "was very nice", Florence Penault of Gallery 19/21, which is now based in Boston, told me that the show was initially "very slow. Then suddenly on Sunday it was very busy at the end. So it was not so bad after all." She sold 16 contemporary black and white silver prints and two vintage prints by Henry Cartier-Bresson and Mario Giacomelli.
Penault jokingly reported on one oddity: "We sold exclusively to women this time. They were quite enthusiastic! One of them, however, was reluctant to tell her husband about her purchase. And regular male collectors stopped by only to say, 'Hello. We are not buying this time'. They all looked a bit depressed."
She notes that she still has a number of interesting Giacomellis available.
Washington D.C. dealer Gary Edwards, who didn't have one of his better shows, still said, "I thought Photo LA was a model of efficiency and organization. The whole event and venue was attractive and dealer-friendly. The crowds were amazingly large, and I sold about ten photographs, but only two were in the four-figure range. I did not meet the expenses of the booth, let alone other expenses. However reluctant I am to lose money, I still enjoyed Photo LA, as I always have, and seeing old friends in the photo field including my fellow dealers, meeting some new collectors, and buying some important new vintage photographs for my inventory. Also, a January visit to LA and its 70-80 degree weather while the east coast was only10-20 degrees is a wonderful break in the year. And there was some strong interest in my best photographs that just might lead to important sales in the future. Besides the American salt prints that he is known for, Edwards also showed work by Man Ray and Francesca Woodman, some early Russian photographs, a Frith mammoth plate, and other 19-century images by W. J. Stillman, Felix Beato, etc.
Sid Monroe of Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe, NM, reported that: "Photo LA has consistently been a very good fair for us, both for sales and meeting new clients. This year we were a bit apprehensive as to what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised and had a very good fair. Attendance seemed to be the largest of any year, although many of our regular clients did not attend. Some who did told us they were "looking and taking notes" but not buying. However, almost all of our sales were to collectors new to us. We had many sales in the $2,000 - $7,500 range; and two in the higher end (over $10,000). I heard that some people were haggling for deals but somehow we did not encounter that."
"We brought selections that emphasized our focus on humanist and photojournalist imagery. We sold from two featured photographers in our booth: Stephen Wilkes, with his contemporary series from Ellis Island and China; and Eddie Adams, who took the famous Pulitzer-Prize winning photograph 'Street Execution of a Viet Cong Prisoner'. We showcased a rare set of three vintage prints of this image: a frame taken just before, the actual execution and a frame just after. These were from Adams' personal collection, and generated a lot of talk and interest, and remain available. A documentary film on Adams life has been circulating the International Film Festivals, and the first book on his career, 'Eddie Adams: Vietnam' (Umbrage Editions, February 2009) have brought a lot of attention to his work.
"We also devoted a significant portion of our booth to 1960s photographs, including the Civil Rights movement, which sold very well. Sales were spread well across our selections, so we were very pleased."
Catherine Couturier, who owns Houston's John Cleary Gallery, told me that she "did fairly well at the show. It wasn't the best I've ever had (and a bit of a nail-biter by Sunday morning), but I've had much more success with follow ups than ever before. I think the serious buyers were making sure to see every piece in every booth before making a decision. They seemed to be on more of a budget and wanted to spend it the best way possible, which is why I think I've had so many follow ups--the collectors got home and realized they still had money left.
"One of the reasons I didn't make as much is because dealers didn't seem to be buying as much from each as in previous years, which, as a dealer, I can understand. I think we're hanging on to our pennies a little tighter as well.
"The most interesting work I had were the beautiful hand-coated silver prints on Gampi paper by Rita Bernstein and the platinum prints over gold leaf by Dan Burkholder. Both of those artists garnered a lot of attention because the prints are so unique and hand-made."
San Francisco's Robert Tat reported, "If everything sticks, I will have done alright. I was selling mostly less expensive pictures, under $2,000, and only a few higher priced pieces. I featured popular images and photographers, especially those that are well-priced. Interestingly, that was not what sold, but rather a cross-section of my usual eclectic inventory. If a couple of pending after-sales go through, this might be my best Photo LA ever.
"Collectors were definitely more cautious, with several regulars telling me they just had to pull way back this year. But as usual, what sold was the better material.
"Among the pieces of particular interest that I still have available are a set of signed vintage contact prints by Ruth Bernhard, mostly unique; an early 1970s print by Neil Selkirk of Diane Arbus's 'Burlesque Comedienne in her Dressing Room, Atlantic City, N. J. 1963'; and a vintage Lee Friedlander of 'Blaze Starr'."
Tat concluded, "Overall, I thought the show looked great. The venue was working well this year, with some of last year’s logistics problems ironed out. The crowds were good, even though buyers were fewer and cautious. Several of the more established galleries were not present, opening up space for some new players in the contemporary area."
Louis Klaitman, who shared a booth with Tatt, told me, "I sold about 10 photographs by various artists, but none over $2,500. Although there was much interest in the material that I brought to the show, I felt there were mostly lookers. Many attendees that in the past would have purchased a photograph or two appeared to be impacted in one way or another by the economic conditions."
Klaitman said, "My most interesting pieces were the ones from a Parisian photographer that I am representing, Cathleen Naundorf. I sold two of her photographs, and there were over a hundred inquires about her work. At times there were so many people looking at her photographs in the booth that everyone else was blocked from entering. In 1994 she struck up a friendship with Horst P. Horst and decided to dedicate herself to fashion photography. One of the photographs sold was a homage to Horst.
"The other photographs that attracted interest in my booth were Horst's 'Main Boucher Corset', a Weston Pepper printed by Cole Weston at $12,000, an Annie Leibovitz vintage photograph of Baryshnikov for $8,000, a fantastic Weegee circus triptych for $8,500, a small vintage Carlotta Corpron of a double-exposed Chambered Nautilus at $8,000, as well as a collection of unique photographs from Iosef Berman, a Romanian news photographer who was active in the early 1920s until his death in 1941 (ranging in price from $700 to $2,500)."
Klaitman noted, "In general I thought the show was much better organized than the past. The Wednesday move-in was great, and the attendance was fantastic--the best I have seen."
LA dealer Michael Dawson reported that "it was a tough show all round: lots of people but few buyers. The pattern of this show was different than most shows for me. I sold only one $600 print through Sunday morning, and then I sold a Judy Dater for $5,000 and a Teske for $6,000 on the last day. That is the first time I have done any business on the last day of this show. Yesterday I sold a $12,000 Richard Misrach split-toned image from the 70s that was shown at Photo LA. With these sales my take at Photo LA went from disaster to almost breaking even."
In my own company's booth (Contemporary Works/Vintage Works), we showed a strong group of mostly 20th-century master work by major photographers. While the pieces, on the wall at least (we had more in our bins and boxes), were certainly not in the low range of this fair, we had tremendous interest and strong sales. We sold vintage work by Jacques Lowe, Andre Kertesz, Sabine Weiss and Wynn Bullock, although we have additional work from each of these master photographers available. We also sold three nice Roger Fenton Crimean War images from our boxes of 19th-century material. I also featured the work of Robert Mapplethorpe and sold two strong pieces to two different collectors. The trick is a simple one: good value for top work.
We also sold contemporary work by Arthur Tress from his newly released series of female nude studies of Twinka at Arles, France, and three works by modern landscape master, Mitch Dobrowner, including one of his large triptychs of "Shiprock Storm" (there is also interest in an additional one), which is fast selling out. Lisa Holden's new large-scale color series on Lilith (we showed "Lake" and "Bathers") grabbed a lot of attention, and we still have strong interest in one of the pieces. Limited edition artist books by both Arthur Tress and Lisa Holden were also sold.
Unsold, but gathering lots of scrutiny and praise were Irving Penn's "Woman in Bed", Robert Mapplethorpe's "Legs, Lisa Lyons", Horst's "Barefoot", Aaron Siskind's large Untitled Abstraction (a rare Egan exhibition print), and our vintage groups of Josef Sudek and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
We actually did better at this year's show than last year's, and I still have a few potential sales straggling out there. As other dealers noted, I also found the crowds this year to be much more serious buyers, but who rightfully took their time in making a decision. We always bring a fairly broad range of material to these fairs, and I did not see any particular trend in the buying pattern that was substantially different than in the past. Buyers were still buying lower end through upper end pieces, although admittedly a lot more decisions were made on the last day of the show and even well after the show.
LA artist/dealer Norm Kulkin said, "I feel like I did well at this year's Photo LA, I sold 35 pieces at varying prices. My favorite sale was one of my own collage works. The 34 pieces other than my artwork were all vernacular ones. They were highly "selected" and fortunately irresistible. One woman bought ten of them."
"At times I wished the 10,000 or so people at the show would all chip in a penny and buy one piece to share among themselves in one-day turns for a while. The financial picture was a snapshot that everyone had in their wallet."
Stephen Cohen, who runs Photo LA but also exhibits there with his own gallery, emailed me after the show: "I don't know how most people did. My gallery did okay at the fair, but we had about four follow-up sales a few days later, and I am working to finish up two sales that, if they happen, will make this my best fair ever. Some dealers told me they did well and others that they broke even, and some didn't do well at all -- the usual for an art fair.
"We had a lot of interest in our contemporary photographers: Ferit Kuyas (China) and Gerald Forster (couples coupling in the night). As usual, there was A LOT of interest in Nick Brandt, and we expect a good deal of follow up. In fact, the sale I referred to that I hope to complete soon involves two very large and expensive prints of his.
"We also sold some (new to us) Japanese vintage pictorial work by Ogawa Gesshu. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art purchased two pieces and there was strong interest by another institution and an important private collector. We will have a vintage Japanese show in the spring with this work and three others.
"Objectively, I think this was the best looking Photo LA ever. The general quality of the work, the presentation by the exhibitors and our production of the fair all worked well to make it a very positive statement about the state of the photography market. It's still alive and--knock wood--if the first two weeks of January for my gallery are any indication, the year is getting off to a great start. I just wish we had it after the inauguration. I think ART LA will benefit from the confidence that will bring."
PHILLIPS DE PURY GETS PURCHASED BY
RUSSIAN 'LUXURY' GROUP AND GETS NEW CEO,
WHO WAS REPORTEDLY A STASI INFORMANT
Simon de Pury, head of the Phillips de Pury & Co. auction house, has never been known to give up control even when his back has been up against the wall in the past. Yet in October 2008, the Moscow-based Mercury Group acquired a majority share of Phillips de Pury. How they managed to get the reluctant de Pury to give up control of his firm remains a bit of a mystery.
In early October, the Mercury Group, Russia's largest luxury-retail company, bought a controlling stake in the cash-strapped auctioneer Phillips de Pury & Co. Although the sums involved in the private transaction were not released, various news sources reported that Mercury paid about $60 million for its majority share, of which "around 50%" was to cover Phillips's outstanding debt.
Some of the same news sources reported that Dmitry Filatov, a St. Petersburg-based food-production businessman, sold his 15% stake in Phillips to the Russian retailer in a separately negotiated transaction. Some industry observers think the Russians outplayed de Pury by lining up this additional piece of the business in advance to gain outright control, while de Pury may have miscalculated.
Mercury is run by Leonid Friedland, who has been described as "one of the most powerful men in fashion", and his associate, Leonid Strunin. With annual revenues totaling over $8 billion, the company operates high-end market department stores and shopping centers, including the prestigious TsUM, in Moscow, while offering such labels as Gucci and Prada, plus super luxury items like Rolex watches, and Bentley and Ferrari cars.
As soon as the Russians took over the company, personnel changes started happening, whether or not these were related to the takeover, which is hard to determine. The CFO left; the New York and London heads of the photography departments left; and the company got a new CEO, Bernd Runge, a German media executive who once worked as a Stasi informant, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The 48-year-old Runge, who was formerly Vice-President of Condé Nast International, will be based out of the auction house's new London headquarters beginning March 1st.
Simon de Pury will remain chairman for now.
Runge spent the past decade launching more than 20 magazines, including Russian versions of Vogue, Glamour, and GQ. According to the January 26th article in the WSJ, he worked as a paid informant for communist East Germany's spy agency during the 1980s, while he was a student and later a reporter for a news agency in Hungary. The information came from former Stasi archive files in Berlin that were released by the unified German government and widely reported in the German media five years ago. Runge spied on fellow students, anti-communist dissidents in Hungary and Western journalists. He even informed on his sister when she applied to leave East Germany, according to the files.
"I attach absolutely no importance to reports that have been made several years ago regarding Bernd Runge and some activities in the distant past," de Pury said to the WSJ reporter. Runge, through a Phillips spokeswoman, apparently declined to comment.
AIPAD AND AXA INSURANCE TEAM UP
FOR NEW YORK PHOTOGRAPHY SHOW
The Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) has announced that AXA Art, one of the world's leading art insurance specialists, will be the premier corporate partner for the AIPAD Photography Show New York. AXA Art will be the main corporate partner of the AIPAD Photography Show New York through 2011.
This year's show will be held from March 25-29 at the Park Avenue Armory on Park Avenue at 67th Street, New York City. More than 70 of the world's leading fine art photography galleries will present a wide range of museum quality work including contemporary, modern and 19th-century photographs, as well as books, photo-based art, video and new media. The AIPAD Photography Show New York is the longest running and foremost exhibition of fine art photography.
"AXA Art is known for top-notch industry leadership in their field, and we are pleased and honored to be working with them," noted Stephen Bulger, new president, AIPAD and president, Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto. "We believe AXA's goals and global relationships complement those of AIPAD galleries and photography collectors around the world and look forward to a dynamic and fulfilling partnership."
EBAY FORCES BUYERS AND SELLERS
TO USE PAYPAL VIRTUALLY EXCLUSIVELY
In another recent move that has infuriated its dealers and some of its bidders, eBay has instituted new policies for most categories, including photography and art, that appear to be monopolistic in real world practice. Sellers are now forced to offer payment options only from a "choice" of three: the eBay-owned "PayPal", which charges dealers a higher rate than most credit card merchant services; "a credit or debit card processed through an Internet merchant account", which is extremely difficult and expensive to set-up, making it virtually unattainable for most small dealers; or "ProPay". ProPay? Yes, we've never heard of it either. Yet apparently eBay finds this tiny unknown more acceptable and secure than GooglePay, even though it will be virtually impossible to convince buyers to sign up and use such a limited service.
EBay claims, "Safety and convenience are at the core of eBay’s policies toward payments. This policy is designed to promote safe online shopping, and to encourage online payment methods that are safer, easier to use, and offer high levels of protection for users."
Dealers say they are being forced to use eBay's PayPal, which has become the only part of the company to still increase its revenues, as eBay's last quarter net income fell 31% overall. As one eBay dealer told me, "I'll take a check any day over PayPal." Overall costs of PayPal for dealers who use it have grown steadily, and dealers feel that the only reason for this move is eBay's greed to lock in additional profit and more firmly establish PayPal's supremacy over competitor GooglePay.
EBay has threatened dealers with expulsion who try to circumvent the new payment rules, which rule out all checks, money orders, wires and offline merchant services--and, of course, GooglePay.
If you want to see the additional mess of eBay problems as some eBay dealers do, you might click on the following: http://genuineseller.com/ebay-2008-year-in-review-what-a-mess/
RICHARD PRINCE SUED AGAIN
FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT
The Art Newspaper has reported that French photographer Patrick Cariou has filed a lawsuit against Richard Prince. The suit claims that the artist improperly lifted images from Cariou's photographic survey of Rastafarian culture for a recent series of paintings. The lawsuit, which was filed in New York City, also names as co-defendants Larry Gagosian, Prince's dealer who displayed the series in a recent show, and publishing house Rizzoli, which co-produced the catalogue. Besides unspecified damages for copyright infringement, the lawsuit also demands the "impounding, destruction, or other disposition" of all of the paintings, unsold catalogues and preparatory materials involved in the making of the works.
The photographer's lawyer and representatives for Prince and Gagosian all declined to comment on the suit, according to the Art Newspaper.
This is not the first time the legality of art appropriation has come up as an issue--even with Prince.
According to the Art Newspaper, in the 1980s photographer Garry Gross sued Prince over "Spiritual America", a 1983 work that consisted of a blown-up copy of a picture Gross took of a very young, nude Brooke Shields. Reportedly the suit was settled out of court.
Of course it was Prince's series of enlarged Marlborough advertisements that brought him international attention from some and derision from others. Many of the photographic copies sold for millions of dollars, but also angered the commercial photographers who actually took the pictures in the first place.
OTHER PHOTOGRAPHY NEWS
COLLECTOR/PHOTOGRAPHER BERRI DIES
Claude Berri, who was a noted director, photographer, producer, screenwriter and actor, died last month in Paris. He was 74. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Berri "the great ambassador of French cinema" to the world. The cause was a stroke. His company, Renn Productions, made dozens of films. In the late 1980s Berri sold half the company--then worth about $50 million--to support a new hobby, collecting contemporary art, including photography. His collection eventually became one of the most important in France, although he sold much of his photography collection four years ago at auction in Paris.
EATON LOTHROP MEMORIAL
The Memorial service for Eaton S. Lothrop, Jr. is this Saturday, February 7th, from 10:30 to 11:30 am at Collegiate Church, 79th Street and Broadway, New York City. The reception following the service is in Platt Hall. Lothrop was one of the world's top collectible camera experts, who wrote the book, "A Century of Cameras: From the Collection of the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House". He also collaborated with some of the world's top collectors on many of the most important books on classic cameras.
DEBI KAO NAMED HEAD CURATOR
AT HARVARD ART MUSEUM
Debi Kao has been named as the new head curator at the Harvard Art Museum. This new title reflects a revised conception of the position as well as some additional responsibilities. Kao will participate in the development of a balanced schedule of exhibitions, public programs, collections development, research and publications that align with the museum's institutional goals. She will also continue in her role as curator of photographs.
CONTINUING CHANGES IN AUCTION
HOUSES' PHOTO DEPARTMENTS:
CHRISTIE'S NAMES NEW NYC DIRECTOR
Jamie Krass has been named senior vice president, and director, 20th Century Art and Photographs, of Christie's New York. Krass will now be responsible for client development, business-getting and market expansion for both areas. Krass, who holds a B.A in Art History from Hobart College, joined Christie's in 1995. He is also an auctioneer, having directed many of Christie's highest profile sales.
CHANGES AT PHILLIPS DE PURY
Kelly Padden has taken over the London photography department from Genevieve Janvrin, who has reportedly left to return home to Australia. Joseph Kraeutler, former New York head of photographs, has also left the company, along with CFO Arlene Kick. (For more on the changes at Phillips de Pury, read the accompanying article.)
BLOOMSBURY PARTNER PASSES AWAY
David Stagg died on January 17th, succumbing to cancer. Stagg was one of the three founding members of the Bloomsbury auction house in 1983. He was a major driving force behind the start-up, growth and more recent flourishing of Bloomsbury. As the Bloombury email release read: "He was full of energy, he got things done, was a brilliant auctioneer, and, of course, was the most charming business-getter with a great sense of humor and the best laugh you could hope to hear."
SOTHEBY'S ELIMINATES CREDIT CARDS
IN NYC AS COMPETITOR ADDS THEM
Sotheby's explained the change, saying that putting auction items on cards "was not widely utilized"! Not widely utilized? How about a single charge for nearly $2.4 million by Eli Broad for a painting by Roy Lichtenstein in 1995? The Sotheby's-branded MasterCard has also been discontinued. Christie's, on the other hand, began accepting credit cards last fall for sales up to $100,000, although it has cut its commercial facilities in October, a move that alienated dealers and major clients. You have to wonder about how in touch the top managements of these auction houses are with their customer base.
A GORGEOUS TOME, PLUS SOME SERIOUS
CATALOGUES, INCLUDING WORK BY
BRANDT, EVANS, AND HILL & ADAMSON
By Matt Damsker
TRAVELS WITH VAN GOGH AND THE IMPRESSIONISTS:
DISCOVERING THE CONNECTIONS.
Photographs by Neil Folberg, text by Lin Arison. Abbeville Press, New York, NY. 283 pages; approximately 120 color plates. ISBN-13 No. 978-0-7892-0932-0; Information: http://www.abbeville.com
The inexhaustible appeal of classic Impressionist painting is reason enough for this opulent pairing of Lin Arison's thoughtful prose--a mixture of European travelogue and art history--with Neil Folberg's inspired photography. The combination makes for a coffee-table tome of unusual richness and interest (it's a first-rate gift idea) if only for a cast of characters that includes the youthful descendents of painter Berthe Morisot (great-great-granddaughter Lucie is portrayed on the cover, evoking a Manet portrait of her great-great grandmother.).
Indeed, Arison and Folberg are ardent in discovering the connections between the great Impressionists and their lives, loves, landscapes, and legacies. Van Gogh is the titular artist, and Arison writes extensively of the tormented genius' days and nights in Auvers, France, where he sought to establish his "studio of the south" but only succumbed to his demons. Folberg's photographic set pieces are striking re-enactments of some great Van Goghs, such as the melancholy portrait of Dr. Paul Gachet, leaning head on hand or the vivid feminine form and wallpapered background of "L'Arlesienne". But these photos come off, inevitably, as rather stagey and with limited power beyond this book's context. And it's hard to view Folberg's careful re-creation of Renoir's great social canvas, "Luncheon of the Boating Party," as much more than a forced exercise.
Folberg shines, nonetheless, in his rigorous composition and lighting effects, especially in such difficult scenes as those emulating Degas' ballet dancers before the mirror, or his superb still life with apples and onions, or his deep-indigo study of a Provence forest (the latter two after Cezanne). And as pure travelogue, this book holds many pleasures. Arison well knows these picturesque locales and the artists who activated them so indelibly, and she has researched their history to add a great deal of resonance to her account of present-day discovery, as she travels to find the old chateaux and landscapes depicted in the great paintings. Encountering the grandchildren of Morisot, she and Folberg enjoy an extended idyll in the French countryside, resulting in a number of gracious portraits of children and parents whose remarkable good looks help us understand what so inspired the likes of Manet and the other Impressionists.
From Bernard Quartich Ltd., of London, Catalogue 1372 documents an important exhibition from earlier this year, "Bill Brandt: Photographs 1932-1957 and Books," in which the pre-eminent British photographer, whose career spanned photojournalism, fine art, fashion, and advertising, is represented by a collection of 18 photos and nine photo books mainly from the collection of Brandt's first wife, Eva Boros. These images span the range of Brandt's work and are offered as vintage prints made close to the dates of the negatives and on papers of the period.
Each photograph, in its own way, is a treasure. These range from powerful female nudes to the famed moonlit image of St. Paul's Cathedral foregrounded by wartime rubble, as well as a moody shot of Stonehenge, various portraits (including fine images of London statuary) and street photography. First editions of Brandt books such as "The English at Home," "A Night in London," "Perspectives of Nudes" and "Shadow of Light" are also featured, along with issues of "Lilliput" magazine from the 1940s, featuring Brandt's work. As always, Quartich provides extensive descriptive notes. Information: email: firstname.lastname@example.org
; or http://www.quartich.com
Sun Pictures Catalogue Eighteen from Hans P. Kraus, Jr., of New York chronicles Kraus's recent exhibit, "Frederick H. Evans: A Logical Perfection," and is the first Kraus catalogue devoted to a primarily 20th-century photographer. A master of architecture and landscape studies, Evans (1853-1943) is perhaps underappreciated nowadays, but Larry J. Schaaf's helpful text provides detailed information and historical context, while most of the more than two dozen silver and platinum prints presented here are presented in actual size with their paper mounts depicted as well.
Evans' cogent, superbly composed and sunlit images of cathedrals, castles, English and French landscapes are truly masterly in their delineation of visual elements that would come to define good photography--for example, the 1903 "Sea of Steps" leading into Wells Cathedral, carrying the eye from one architectural level to and toward an archway. This is the sort of photograph that hints at modernism and abstraction yet charts the physical world in intensely observed detail.
Also from Hans P. Kraus, Jr., and also with concise text from Larry J. Schaaf, is a catalogue representing "The Bicknell Album," a collection of 100 salt prints from calotype paper negatives by D.O. Hill and Robert Adamson, circa 1843-1847. Schaaf describes the album as "one of the most important repositories of early photography to be offered in recent times," noting that all other known major Hill & Adamson albums are already in permanent public collections.
Indeed, the brief partnership of Hill and Adamson was a great collaboration that yielded some 3,000 negatives on hand-coated paper, documenting the life, culture and landscape of Scotland. These important photographs offer haunting early images of everything from children fishing to women in their modest garb, to soldiers of the Gordon Highlanders of Edinburgh Castle, to fishermen and gravediggers. There's also a portrait of steam hammer inventor James Nasmyth. The catalogue depicts about a dozen full-size shots, and the rest are nicely printed in miniature on the two penultimate pages. For information: email: email@example.com
; or online at http://www.sunpictures.com
Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the photo book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published in the fall of 2005.
(Book publishers, authors and photography galleries/dealers may send review copies to us at: I Photo Central, 258 Inverness Circle, Chalfont, PA 18914. We do not guarantee that we will review all books or catalogues that we receive.)
MORE PHOTOS AND SPECIAL EXHIBITS
ADDED THIS MONTH TO I PHOTO CENTRAL
Nearly 100 new items have been added to the I Photo Central website this past month--most just over the last few days. Andrew Smith Gallery has put up some spectacular new Ansel Adams images in this latest group. You can see them here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/result_list.php/16/30/0
I Photo Central member, Charles Schwartz, Ltd., has also been extremely busy over the last month or so, putting up new Special Photography Exhibits.
The company has added two new special exhibits on rare Japanese Pictorialist photography made between the 1920s and 1940s. The first focuses on nature--a popular theme in Japanese art, which was often an inspiration for the Japanese Pictorialists. It is called "Japanese Pictorialism: Water and Flora" and can be found by clicking: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/203/3/1
Schwartz is also featuring 16 images by Toda and Hirogane, both exceptional Japanese amateur photographers, in an exhibit entitled, "Toda and Hirogane: Exceptional Japanese Amateur Photographers of the 1920s-1940s". You can see this Special Exhibit at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/202/3/1
Schwartz is also featuring rare early African-American images in two Special Exhibits: "19th-Century African-American Carte-de-Visites from the Civil War Era", which can be seen at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/199/3/1
; and "19th-Century Photographs of African-Americans and/or by African-American Photographers", which can be viewed at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/198/3/1
Schwartz also updated his offerings of W. Eugene Smith photographs, which includes a number of his most important, iconic images, along with some that are lesser known. Prices range from $2,500-$25,000: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/65/3/1
We have also continued to change images and add to our essays for all our Special Exhibits, so they are worth another peek, especially if you have not looked lately. And, if you see one you like, let a friend know too!
You can see all of these fine new exhibits and others (now a total of 130 Special Exhibits in all, including those in the archive!) at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase.php
. Don't forget to check out the archived exhibits at the bottom of the page as well.
FACEBOOK COMMUNITY BUILDING
FOR PHOTOGRAPHY GROUPS
If you thought that Facebook was only for your teenage daughter, guess again. The social networking website had been growing quickly, and, as it expands, has been developing new networks that are aimed at--shall we say--a more mature market.
Photography galleries and groups have been popping up overnight. Photography curators, collectors, dealers and conservators have all found the site to be addicting, with its chat boards, user profiles, status updates, etc.
Because it is relatively easy to set up a profile page and it is free, hundreds of millions (yes, that's right) of users have done just that.
I Photo Central even has a page there. So does Contemporary Works/Vintage Works. Heck, so does the author. Just go to http://www.facebook.com
to sign up, and then search for firstname.lastname@example.org
, and add me as a friend. Then search for these two groups and be sure to join them.
Besides the three listed above, some of the most interesting photography groups include:
--Photography Collecting, which has a very active discussion board with dozens of topics and hundreds of participants. This is probably the most important of the photography collecting-oriented sites--besides being the broadest in concept. If you have a question on photography collecting that you want answered, this is the place to ask it.
--Vernacular Photography Mafia, which is focused on vernacular photographs.
--Snapshot Mafia (seems like some of the administrators also like one of Facebook's applications so much that they name their group after it). This group is focused on just snapshots.
--Great Photographers of Ours or Any Time.
Plus there are groups for nearly every major photographer (some major names actually have their own regular profiles and some have fan sites) and many galleries.