Issue #23  12/15/2000
Paris in November

They may sing about April showers, but November still seems the rainiest month in Paris to me (Météo France says otherwise, although it does indicate that November is rainier than April). But there is always so much going on then that Paris has to be considered a "must" itinerary for anyone in the photography field. There are lots of great museum and gallery exhibitions, a flock (is that right?) of auctions, the opening of the Beaujolais Nouveau and, of course, Paris Photo.

Paris Photo (at least the physical fair itself), which had been growing in leaps and bounds over its four years of existence, is now in its last incarnation, according to Rik Gadella, the fair’s director. The show added a small exhibition space (Salle Soufflot) between the big halls in the Carrousel du Louvre, bringing the total number of dealers up to 95 from 16 countries.

Gadella sees future expansion in the virtual universe: he plans a web site for the show, which will encompass the entire catalogue and more. He claims it will have over 10,000 web pages. His group will also get into the publishing business by producing a book on corporate photography collections, an offshoot of this year’s accompanying exhibit and seminar. The seminar formed the basis for a meeting of corporate curators that Gadella is encouraging to meet at Paris Photo every year.

This year’s special exhibit was focused, but not exclusively, on the self-portrait. Corporate collections (or at least their curators) seem to be more focused on the big bright colored contemporary work that has become the 21st century’s "designer art." While some images were certainly intriguing and challenging, many were pedestrian. Fortunately Petros Petropoulos, curator for the Collection Premiere Heure, provided the most emotionally charged and interesting images. All, not surprisingly, were vintage prints with a direct Bauhaus school look (some actually were from Bauhaus students/teachers).

Selections by director Chantal Nedjib’s for the Collection Photographique du CCF and by Francis Lacloche for the Caisse des Depots et Consignations were the standout selections in the contemporary area. I particularly like Giacoma Costa’s Agglomerato, No.9, a photomontage of modern apartment buildings layered on top of one another in a wonderful junk heap mountain, picturing all that is wrong in modern architecture. And Yoshiko Murakami’s Les Mains pour voir was magical in its ability to project both strength and fragility at the same time.

Gadella told me that next year’s special exhibit will be a homage to Harry Lunn, the photography dealer who was so instrumental in getting the show launched in the first place and who died two years ago.

Asked about his take on this year’s show, Gadella noted that "prices are not cheap this year, but you can still find pieces for 5,000 francs (about $660 at the time)." He felt that there was a better mix this year with the addition of a few more vintage photo galleries, including 19th century dealers, Hans Kraus, Jr. and Pierre Spake. In fact, he says he will be looking to add a few big name contemporary dealers next year.

My own take on the mix was that vintage prints, while up a little bit, were hardly a substantial portion of this largely contemporary market. I think Rik is missing the boat on this important segment.

True, in addition to Kraus and Spake, some of the French dealers offered other tempting 19th century images.

As usual Galerie F+A Paviot had some very top images, including a marvelous Marville (L’ange de passion, les sculpteur et son aide)–or at least it was attributed to him and seemed right–and an Atget of rowboats to kill for (at a price that might cause a heart attack). Paviot also displayed some excellent 20th century material.

My friend Arnaud Delas at Hypnos had a very nice selection of 19th century and turn-of-the-century material. Delas has found himself specializing in ethnographic and genre material as of late, although his interests are much broader. His display included fine work by name photographers and that very prolific artist Anonymous. His images of a study of a hand, a Naya of boys playing in the waters of Venice, a nice Frenet portrait, a tree study by Lord Craven, and others were reasonable and touching. Delas has the distinction of being able to say that he also sold someone the Brooklyn Bridge at this show (a panoramic photo of the bridge, not the real bridge, of course).

On Friday night, Hypnos served up Beaujolais Nouveau and good Bordeaux at their booth to prospective customers and fellow dealers alike in a spirit of hospitality.

Delas, Paris auction expert Pierre Marc Richard and myself are the founding members of The Photographic Wine Club. There are no dues (as of yet), no meetings yet scheduled, no responsibilities (yet), and only two requirements: you must love both wine and photography. Prospective members can apply to any one of us (but don’t necessarily expect us to respond immediately). We hope to meet on both sides of the Atlantic from time to time to imbibe the best of the grape amidst friends who care about photography. Paris Photo and AIPAD sound like good occasions to me.

Other French dealers with interesting 19th century (and other) goodies included Michele Chomette, although most of the best ones were buried in portfolios. She had some very nice Baldus’, but they were priced a bit too dearly for me.

Galerie Baudoin Lebon showed off some rare and interesting Le Grays, including some from his Egyptian series that were stunning.

The Di Maria Brothers, who own A l’Image du Grenier sur l’eau, seem to always raise the bar on certain photographers. Last year it was Braun and Frechon. This year Henri Bechard and Atget were featured. The Bechard prices were eye opening but the images were certainly good ones. The Atgets were reasonably priced but more on the lower end of the spectrum.

Of course, Hans Kraus had some lovely images including a negative by Rev. Calvert Jones, a good Robert Fenton Crimean Harbor, and many others.

London dealer Pierre Spake also added a good selection of images by Constant Famin, including children and landscapes. He also sold several Dr. John Murrays.

Dutch dealer Ton Peek (I misspelled his name in my coverage of the October auction at Chartres. Actually I spelt it phonetically; at least that’s my excuse. My apologies.) brought the wonderful group of Felix Jacques Moulin of Algeria to the show and promptly sold many at record prices from $2000 to $3500 a piece. My friend and fellow photo dealer Daniella Dangoor bought one of the more expensive images of three Jewish women for her collection in this area.

There was also a good selection of 20th century vintage images at the show. German dealer Hendrik Berinson had numerous images that I coveted. I was sorely tempted by a group of Umbo abstracts of stockings from the 1950s (a bit late for Umbo but very nice images that at least one French curator also mentioned to me after the show) and a very good Werner Rhode collage and watercolor. Berinson joked (at least I think he did) about having to double the prices on those items after the show.

Photo Art from Germany had a number of very good vintage Peter Keetman’s. While they sold the iconic BMW Kotflugel, the gallery still had a beautiful vintage series of a Locomotive that was very powerful in its execution. It also had a reasonable price tag. Another one of my after-show temptations.

Csaba Morocz sold out most of his booth to dealers before the show opened.

Kowasa had some fine between-the-wars Spanish photography. I bought two images. I obviously only got through the A’s, because one was by Antonio Arissa and the other by Enrique Aznar–two exceptionally talented photographers. But the gallery had numerous talented, if not well known, Spanish modernists and pictorialists.

From Bernard Dudoignon, I purchased a 1920s large triple exposure of champagne glasses by new discovery Jean Dreville. Dreville, better known for his filmmaking in the 1920s and 1930s, came up at auction over the last year and hit stunning levels. His work is modernist and exceptionally well executed, and, as you might expect, extremely rare. I was outbid at the two auctions for his work.

I also bought a vintage Jean-Pierre Sudre La Panier aux Oeufs (or eggs in a wire basket), one of his most well-known and published images. Dudoignon represents the estate of Sudre, who has been dubbed the French Edward Weston.

Dudoignon also had a great group of collages by K. Waldmann.

Fellow French dealer Serge Plantureux, always the iconoclast, put out his last "theme" catalogue and made it his exhibit: "Vanities." An ode to the fragility of being, the images explored themes of death, religion, fashion, ego, war and vanity itself. One particular anomaly created a problem for the catalogue. The U.S. election of a president was noted on the last page (along with the 83rd anniversary of the October Revolution) as the publishing date of the catalogue. The two names (Al Gore and George Bush) are now crossed off. One more postscript to this strange saga.

Gallery 1900-2000 (will they have to rename themselves because we have entered the 21st century?) showed a large display of largely between the wars European material. The Fleiss father and son team are one of the mainstays of Paris galleries showing 20th century vintage material.

The German book dealer Eberhard Kemmer had numerous fine examples of largely Eastern European material, both books and images.

And, of course, Swiss dealer Kaspar Fleischmann’s Galerie Zur Stockeregg had some marvelous images, but at typically stratospheric prices. Atget again seemed one of the major names of the day.

New York dealers Michael Senft and Howard Greenberg both typically had exceptional vintage 20th century. Greenberg sold a multiple exposure of New York buildings by Steichen for well into six figures at the show. Senft displayed the best group of Man Ray’s, in whom he specializes. More on Man Ray a bit later in this report.

More American dealers had made the move to Paris Photo this year. Not only Hans Kraus, but Robert Klein, Alan Klotz, Bonnie Benrubi, Brent Sikkema, Griffin Contemporary, Rose Gallery and the New York Times Photo Archives.

The latter may have sold more vintage prints than any one else at this fair. The press photos flew off the wall so fast, that I think they ran out of red dots. Oddly enough, the New York Times archives are now located in San Diego!

Press photos have certainly come into their own, but I think that serious collectors and institutions should think carefully about this choice. However, it does always seem that people when given a choice will always prefer a "name" to a quality print in today’s market–something that I hope will change as collectors and curators become more sophisticated and confident in themselves.

There was, of course, much more at the fair. Contemporary work makes up most of this venue and many of the dealers focus on this even when they have much more. Edwynn Houk, for instance chose to show new work by Annie Leibowitz, a suite of large-format (very large) nudes entitled "Women."

But there was a lot more going on around the town.