Issue #100  1/8/2006
Paris Photo Continues to Mature and Grow; Average Sales Per Booth Up Substantially

The world's largest and best run photography show put on its 9th extravaganza in Paris this past November, and it was a beauty. More than 40,000 visitors flooded the booths of 90 photography galleries and dealers, plus 16 photo book and magazine publishers.

The exhibitors came from 14 countries, making this a truly international fair (only a little over 28% were French). The fair received media coverage all over the world, including even from the New York Times.

Collectors also came from all over the globe, despite the earlier simplistic media coverage of a non-existent "Burning of Paris". While Reed's show management insisted privately that there were actually more American collectors this year, my own informal impression was that many of the Americans that I see regularly here had passed this year, for whatever reason. But there were still plenty of other big collectors and curators to take up the slack--many of whom I got to see, and a couple I missed in the crowds.

A few of the front-ranking collectors included Claude Berri, Manfred Heiting, Thomas Walther, James Hyman and Gary Sokel, among others. International corporate and museum curators included Peter Galassi (NY MoMA), Sandra Phillips (San Francisco MoMA), Sandra Gilman (Whitney), Rafael Doctor (Leon MUSAC), Chris Dercon (Munich's Haus der Kunst), Keith Davis (Hallmark Cards), Carol Ehlers (LaSalle Bank), Dr. Hans Rooseboom (Rijks Museum), Brian Wallis (ICP), Katherine Bussard (Art Institute of Chicago), Agnes Sire (Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson), Anna Tellgren (Stockholm's Moderna Museet), Robert Flynn Johnson (San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts), Weston Naef (Getty Museum) and many others. Most of them managed to stop by our booth and say hello despite the huge crowds.

Asked for his observations about the show, English art dealer and photography collector James Hyman told me: "For me the highlights were 19th-century images, above all the Brecknell Turners on Hans Kraus' stand and the Charles Negres on Vintage Works'. Of the 20th-century material, I was particularly impressed by the Moholy-Nagy photogram on Tom Gitterman's stand. I know that people complain that there is less and less great vintage material and that every year the prices are higher at Paris Photo, but nonetheless it is terrific that vintage material of such quality and rarity should still be available. At Paris Photo there are still great buying opportunities of important vintage photographs, which may well have disappeared in just five or ten years from now."

From the curator side of the fence, San Francisco MoMA's Sandra Phillips told me: "Besides the very excellent American dealers who were there, I especially enjoyed the booths of Thomas Zander, Serge Plantureux, and Alain and Francoise Paviot. I had only been to the very first Paris Photo--so this was a new pleasure for me. Yes, we are looking seriously at a number of things. I was also especially happy to see all the photography shows in museums and art spaces around the city, and I loved seeing the Melancholy show and the Dada show."

This was the first year that my company Vintage Works, Ltd. exhibited. Even with the largest size booth available (a massive 53 square meters), most of the time our only problem was that there were too many people in the booth to reasonably do business. A complaint--if one can complain about too many potential clients--which I heard from a number of the exhibitors.

There were also a few gripes from Paris Photo exhibitors about Christie's putting on a major auction during the show that some thought took away sales. Interestingly enough there was also some gossip about Claude Berri going around "reserving" images at the show. Some dealers thought he wasn't serious about actually purchasing, but just wanted to drum up support at his Christie's auction from those dealers. In recent years the French auction houses have shaded away from putting on sales during Paris Photo after a spate of poor results. Dealers have come to look at auctions (and previews) run during major shows, such as Paris Photo and AIPAD, which cannibalize those shows' attending audiences, with less than enthusiasm.

But Paris Photo was still an unqualified success. The show's own survey of dealers indicated that this year's average per booth sales soared over 36% over last year's. And my own queries to dealers indicated that business was indeed up for most dealers at this year's event, especially European dealers.

But many dealers told me that they also felt that the very high costs of doing the show put a damper on some of this success. The average American dealer had to look at a total cost of $30,000-65,000 to do this year's show. That is more than double the cost of a show in the U.S. with a similar (if available) size booth. Of course, the cost is not just for the booth space and its furnishings (lights, walls, carpet, furniture, electricity, phone, etc.), but also for shipping/customs, hotels/housing, meals, travel, promotion to clients in Europe, VAT collection, and booth workers with multi-lingual skills and photography knowledge. Of course, for a Parisian dealer the show makes more sense. After all, this is the best-attended photography show in the world, and arguably more money is spent here now than anywhere else. Even so, my friend and Parisian dealer Alain Paviot quipped, "God, it's a fortune for such a few ugly square meters."

Contemporary work seemed to be much more evident and in demand here than at U.S. photography fairs. Framing is done quite differently in Europe, where spacers replace mats in frames and di-bonded prints (adhered directly to acrylic and aluminum) are the norm. My one concern is with the di-bonded work, which must have conservation issues, but it does seem to be used more and more here. Apparently the process has been tried in the U.S., but only Europeans have been able to perfect the process.

According to reports from Paris Photo's show management, New York dealer Yossi Millo, whose Twilight-Zone children's portraits by Loretta Lux were snatched up at 24,500(wow!) euro each, was one of this year's success stories, reportedly selling out the work in the booth.

Adriaan van der Have of Amsterdam's contemporary Torch Gallery said that he also did well with Loretta Lux, and with Teun Hocks, a talented Dutch artist, who I admire. Van der Have noticed something that I certainly did not, when he commented, "This year I noticed that many galleries brought smaller works, so in total I thought the fair looked a little less impressive."

Despite Van der Have's comments, a lot of the work I saw was large-scale color, which seemed more dominant than ever this year. And it was definitely selling this year. I saw more red dots on this type of work than ever before. But, his humor always at the ready, dealer Alain Paviot told me, "It's very simple to buy red dots, just for potential client excitement." Many American dealers, on the contrary, left the red dots behind, trying not to tempt problems with French customs officials.

Paviot and his wife Francoise always seem to have, as Sandra Phillips noted above, one of the more interesting booths in the fair. Alain said that this year the "most fun part of our booth was the installation of small bondage images by John Willie. He had used these in the late 40s for drawings in publications with names like "Sweet Gwendolyn" and "Bizarre"." At only 400-600 euros, 19 of the 25 individual prints on display quickly sold to collectors. A series of five images by Willie had been put on reserve (and sought by a second collector as well), only to come open much later in the show. It still remains unsold. Man Ray's Meret Oppenheim portrait was quickly sold to a French client. A vintage Brassaï of Bijou was put on hold (also with secondary interest) only to leave the show unsold. Commenting on some of the booth's contemporary work, Alain said, "Dieter Appelt was very well loved (his work ''Canto II'' was sold twice) by a lot of visitors, and old and new clients. Francoise's excellent work on curating the Maison Rouge's large exhibition helped the recognition of the work of this important artist in Paris." I have always felt myself that Appelt's work was greatly under appreciated and applaud Francoise on her efforts.

Alain Paviot went on to discuss the show: "Americans love the Carrousel--this poor location without light and space. I can't understand it. From our discussions with visitors and friends, it was not a great year. Quality and selection was just so-so. This salon will soon become an art fair for contemporary photography. It is 'dans l'air du temps'. This year the visitors were of lower quality, and, although some curators were present, they were not here as in past years. The same could be said for foreign (non-French) clients. Fortunately, there were some very serious French clients for well-known contemporary work. And for classic material, it's not 'on time' but 'gone time'."

At Camera Works' booth, which focused much more on its contemporary artists this year than previously, the Berlin galley reported they sold: four David Drebin's; five Esther Haase's; 11 Peter Lindbergh's; four Robert Polidori's; six Martin Schoeller's; and one photograph by Irving Penn. The gallery was still following up on another possible 20 sales at the end of the show. The company had also sold five additional prints before the fair even opened.

Boston photography dealer and AIPAD president Robert Klein reported "sales at Paris Photo this year were very strong, although most of the business occurred in the first 48 hours." Klein was one of the big hitters at the show, selling a 1923 Moholy Nagy 'Fotogramm'; a Giacomelli; a 1932 Walker Evans portrait of Berenice Abbott; a 1926 Man Ray portrait of Andre Derain; a 1929 Man Ray portrait of James Joyce; and a Brassai 1940s print of Place de La Bastille from his 'Secret Paris' series. On the contemporary side, Klein sold a Michal Safdie from his new ice series; a Chip Hooper- New Zealand seascape; a huge 50 x 60 inch Tom Baril collodion enlargement print; and Lajos Geenen's "Birth of Solution" from Birth of... series.

Roger Szmulewicz of Antwerp's Fifty-One Fine Art Photography told me, "The fair was very good. It was very crowded, but with the right people. The work was of high quality and there was good diversity." Szmulewicz noted that his African photography was very popular, including Seydou Keita (5,000-10,000 euro), Malick Sidibe (1,800-4,000 euro) and Ojeikere (between 1,800-4,000 euro). He said that Jurgen Schadeberg (around 2,000 euro) and Jean-Dominique Burton (2,500 euro) also sold well. Burton's photographs of African kings "had very good feedback". Bart Michiels (2,000-6,000 euro) and Ivan Pinkava (2,000-6,500 euro) were also highlights of the booth. Just for our readers' reference, the euro was trading at about $1.19 at the time of the show; it is currently approaching $1.22.

Anna Walker Skillman of Atlanta, GA-based Jackson Fine Art told me that the gallery had a great response from the collectors at the show and that her show experience was "overall successful. The energy was terrific and positive. The crowds were large the first night, and it was difficult to see the work; however, the buzz fuelled the energy of the show." Skillman noted that she showed contemporary work that "did very well", including Ruud Van Empel's 'World #5' and Mona Kuhn's 'Amsterdam V'. Graciously complimenting a fellow exhibitor, Anna said, " I also really loved Angela Strassheim and Ingar Krauss at Marvelli Gallery's booth."

New York dealer Tom Gitterman said, "We did fine but sales were a bit off compared to last year; however, we got some great new European clients and excellent press for our artists and the gallery. We did very well with work by Joseph Szabo, photographs of teenagers in the 1970s and early 1980s on Long Island (price range $2500-4,000) and by the Dutch photographer Fieret. After the show a French client bought a great Brett Weston from us after visiting us in New York. It also looks like a nice Mapplethorpe male nude we had at the fair will sell to a client from the fair as well." Gitterman noted that "We still have available a great Moholy fotogram at $175,000, a 1944 vintage Siskind 'Glove' at $18,000, a vintage Cunningham 'Flax' at $90,000 and a great vintage Weston 'Dune' at $100,000." Gitterman says that Paris Photo "still looks great, gets great press, and attracts a great and diverse audience."

Paris dealer Serge Plantureux revealed that while he did "well, better than last year", few of the sales resulted in immediate payments (an on-going complaint about cash flow from dealers these days). His stand, near my own, had some interesting images, as Sandra Phillips mentioned earlier. The booth featured Luke Swank's coated vintage prints, Wright Morris' contacts prints and a group of vintage Man Ray images, including several of the notorious Kiki that came directly from her. He sold four Man Ray's in all, including one for over 90,000 euro--although some of these sales may have been made just prior to the show. He reported that he sold a little bit of every type of photography--19th, 20th-century and contemporary. Serge Plantureux felt that the show was "more mature than ever, but it did not have enough 19th-century work."

Austrian dealer Johannes Farber told me, " We did very well; it was the best Paris Photo fair ever for us." Farber sold a Dorothea Lange print of White Angel Breadline from the 60s (this was the same image that recently and briefly held the world record for a 20th-century photograph at auction, when one sold at Sotheby's New York this fall), a rare large exhibition print by Josef Sudek of a 'Madonna' (plus other Sudeks), a vintage portrait of Jacques Prevert by Wols, an early Helmut Newton vintage fashion study, three Heinrich Kuehn gum prints and a rare nude study by Anton Josef Trcka. An early vintage print by Rudolf Koppitz of his famous Movement Study for 160,000 euro and a Man Ray portfolio print from Champs Delicieux for 38,000 euro were still available.

London gallerist Michael Hoppen called this year's Paris Photo the "best for a number of years. Overall quality was much better and more diverse." Michael said that he did "extremely well. Most areas sold very well, apart from classic Paris images!" Besides those Parisian images that may not have sold well, Hoppen exhibited the hot Japanese artist Araki.

Attila Pocze of the Hungarian Vintage Galeria said, "I felt this year was a breakthrough point to a higher level in the growth of the number of attendees and collectors at Paris Photo. Our most interesting pieces were Gyorgy Lorinczy's photographs from the series 'New York, New York' from 1968. The original book (1972) on this series was really a focus of interest."

Edwynn Houk sold four Stephen Shores at $16,000 and an absolutely stunning solarized nude by Raoul Ubac, one of my favorite pieces at the fair. The Ubac was very well priced in the mid-30s.

New York's Hans P. Kraus gallery, which presented a tribute to the English early photographer Roger Fenton (featured in several major museum shows last year), sold a dozen prints, one at more than $100,000, although not a Fenton but a Benjamin Brecknell Turner.

Returning to Paris Photo this year, the Rose Gallery from Santa Monica sold, among other items, four photos by Diane Arbus, including her 1967 'The Patriot' at $ 65,000 and four Egglestons at $18,000.

Other top 20th-century artists featured at various locations in the show included Raghubir Singh at the Munich gallery F 5,6, Sasha Stone at Paris' own (and my Paris Photo neighbor) ART 75-Yves di Maria, Antonio Caballero at Toluca, Ed Burtynsky at Charles Cowles Gallery, and Erwin Blumenfeld at Deborah Bell Photographs.

At our own booth (Vintage Works) our featured contemporary artist Marcus Doyle broke through at this show. It didn't hurt that the artist was on hand to sign his new book, "Night Vision". We had to replace some of his prints (ranging between $2,000-6,000) three times on the wall because of Parisian collectors wanting to take the framed pieces home with them. Along with orders from the show, six of Doyle's prints sold, and several more are still pending. Plus nearly 60 books ($39.95, plus postage, for softbound copies) quickly disappeared, including one limited edition with print ($500 and limited to 100 copies). The frenzy was quite palpable in the booth at times. Harper's magazine is planning to feature two of Doyle's images in its Readers' Section for up and coming artists and writers. Several museum curators were also very enthusiastic about the work. Marcus brought some new work for me to see at the show, which I am very excited about and will bring with me on my private selling trip to Los Angeles later this month (see the above story).

In addition to Marcus Doyle's large-scale color contemporary work, we sold a bit of everything, including a small but exquisite platinum print by contemporary artist Ray Bidegain, whose work is tremendously undervalued (that won't be for long). Over a dozen 19th-century pieces sold at and immediately after Paris Photo, including a six-figure Le Gray, an important print of Grasse by Charles Negre, a large print of Skull Rock by A. J. Russell and a marvelous image by Dr. John Murray, which was featured in the Traces of India exhibition. We sold even a bit more 20th-century photos, which included work by Brassai, Lartigue, Kertesz and Russell Lee. Our three Steichen masterworks were among the more admired of the images on our walls (and the Le Gray marine that sold early). But there was also lots of interest in our 19th-century prints by Auguste Salzmann, Roger Fenton and Charles Negre, plus some of our top daguerreotypes by Southworth & Hawes and by De Prangey. The large color contemporary work of Lisa Holden and Joel D. Levinson also received a lot of attention from curators and collectors alike. Several institutions who came to our booth are also considering work, and we have already sold to new clients from this show a second time via the website.

While in Paris, I bought a unique Man Ray (Kiki with Giacometti sculpture), two fabulous Francois Kollar prints (a doubled Eiffel Tower; and a triple impression of a woman and chess pieces), a fine group of Julia M. Cameron cartes-de-visite, two amazing stereo daguerreotypes, important 1850s Italian images and a vintage Manuel Alvarez Bravo, among the 110 new photographs that I posted to our websites just this past week. To view these images, just go to: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/result_list.php/48/7/VintageWorks/0 .

Launched in 2004, the BMW-Paris Photo Prize, worth 12,000 euro, was awarded this year to the American artist Anthony Goicolea for 'Ghost Ship', 2005. Goicolea is represented by the Luis Adelantado gallery of Valencia. The theme was "Spirit on the Move" for this year's competition, open to living photographers represented by a Paris Photo 2005 participating gallery.

This year the country of Spain was selected as the spotlighted country. It was well represented by a robust contingent of 14 selected galleries (eight in the Statement sector alone); the Central Exhibition, featuring the collection of the Comunidad de Madrid; and the Project Room, where videos from the video collections of four Spanish museums (the Artium in Vitoria, the Burgos CAB, the Comunidad de Madrid and the Leon MUSAC) presented the best of a lively photography scene--all in all, bringing a fresh new generation of artists to the international market, among them Alicia Martin, Raul and Sergio Belinchon, Carmela Garcia, Dionisio Gonzales, Cristina Lucas, and Bleda & Rosa.

The next Paris Photo will take place at the Carrousel du Louvre, Paris, on November 16-19, 2006, with the spotlight on Scandinavia (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden).