Issue #26  3/1/2001
Photography Market Strong At AIPAD Show; Educational Program Adds Another Dimension to The Exhibits

The Association of International Photography Art Dealers held its 21st exposition February 15-18 at the New York Hilton. Business was brisk for almost all of the dealers we talked with.

Given the stock market's recent swoon during the show on top of the year 2000's long decline and the long Presidents' holiday weekend, many dealers were holding their collective breath. You could hear the audible exhales by Sunday night. Not only did the Photography Show and the market hold up, but also business was very healthy indeed.

Thursday night's opening reception proved to be a great jumpstart to the event, with many attendees actually buying rather than being there just to be seen or to socialize. That was a welcome change for exhibitors.

While Friday's traffic and business dropped off precipitously for most photo dealers, Saturday and Sunday's more than made up for the lack. If I had to make a recommendation to a collector, it would be to get to the show early on Friday. Dealers have more time for questions and many great images are still up for sale, although I have found some of my very best buys and images on Sunday just before closing.

Pretty much all types of work were selling: vintage and contemporary, 19th, 20th and 21st century.

At Vintage Works we even sold a large number of daguerreotypes, and both we and Edwynn Houk Gallery had lots of interest in modern daguerreotypes on exhibit.

Jerry Spagnoli was the daguerreotype artist of the moment. Coming on the heels of his Chuck Close collaboration, Spagnoli is hot. He is one of the few highly productive (that can mean just more than two dags a month on a regular basis) daguerreians out there with strong art credentials to boot. His floral triptych at Houk's booth was very interesting with its almost holographic feel, although it needed better lighting. His iconic hand image apparently sold at Houk. We too had lots of interest in Jerry's work, particularly in a wonderful ¼ plate of lightning striking the World Trade Center that I had bought from him about a year ago, plus another ¼ pl. of the same scene with the approaching storm.

NYC gallery owner Laurence Miller said, "Overall AIPAD was very good for us. Half our business was with museum clients. The artists we received the most interest in were Michael Spano, Ray Metzker, Lois Conner and Maggie Taylor. Metzker is, of course, for us a mainstay of our business, and among many sales is a $15,000 piece on reserve for a major museum."

Miller noted the "great opening night, where we did much business for a change," and then the "steady flow throughout the weekend." Miller also said that he saw "many new faces among the audience, and we made several sales to new purchasers. I did sense that many collectors, including contemporary art collectors, were NOT there this year."

Miller speculated the Armory show held the next weekend or the economy might have deterred some former attendees. Others suggested it might have been the long three-day Presidents' weekend timing of the show. But the lack of past attendees still did not affect most dealers' business.

"As for contemporary photography," Miller reported, "many people told me how they felt the show had become so much contemporary color. I did not see it that way. I still think it is a very traditional, conservative fair, with the emphasis on vintage, regardless of quality."

Miller made another general observation: "inkjet prints are now very acceptable to collectors. This was not the case three to four years ago, but now people like Maggie Taylor can sell well. It may also be that artists are now making poetic images using the new technologies, not just images that reflect new technologies---the 'process is everything' mode prevalent a few years back."

At Vintage Works, we too saw full acceptance of ink jet prints but only if the edition is well limited and well documented. Paul Cava, who we represent, produces prints by the latest archival ink jet process. These beautiful, largely unique works are often individually hand worked by the artist and have had an excellent reception.

But there could be some confusion soon, as several largely web-based vendors begin to sell large quantities of ink jet photo images at low-end, poster-type prices (see story below).

On Saturday and Sunday mornings (February 17th & 18th) AIPAD sponsored two educational programs.

Saturday's Symposium was held in conjunction with the Friends of Photography exhibition titled Beyond Boundaries: Contemporary Photography in California, which was installed on AIPAD's second floor.

Deborah Klochko, of the Friends, moderated Saturday's symposium. Panel members included Christopher Phillips (International Center of Photography, New York), Zelda Cheatle (Zelda Cheatle Gallery, London/NY), Nora Kabat (Ansel Adams Gallery, San Francisco) and Reena Jana (freelancer, Art News, The NY Times, Wired).

Klochko began the session by showing highlights from the Friends exhibition, and discussing how the exhibition came into being. The project began, she says, with an innocent question: What is the most compelling photography made in California in the last five years? Her exhibition, she admits, provides one answer to the question, pointing out the complexity of the question and its ultimate unanswerable-ness. California's size combined with its ethnic and aesthetic diversity guarantees that one, two or even three summations on its cultural terrain would never be enough. The title, "Beyond Boundaries," describes how California's creative communities, markets and audience reception in this global age defy any attempt to straightjacket and label them.

To drive the 'beyond boundaries' point home the rest of Saturday's panel presented slides of photographers from Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, China, Ireland, Germany, England and the U.S. Each of the photographers appeared to be grappling with boundaries of varying types. Their work pictured literal borders (i.e. shorelines where one country meets another through a neutral sea), or, in more conceptual terms, borders of gender or national identity. Photography itself was often pushed beyond its 'traditional boundaries' by incorporating film, video, painting and sculpture in these works.

On Sunday morning Professor Anne McCauley (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) gave an amusing lecture, "The Flesh Trade." The talk highlighted her research on early French photographic pornography. That research uncovered the interrelationship between fine art conventions, market demand, advertising, literature and fashion (another "blurring of boundaries" if you will), which she demonstrated through historical prints, paintings, photographs, letters and police records. In essence, McCauley built a profile of France's social values at a particular time in history, using consumers' tastes and the traffic of photographic pornography.

As one of many records, McCauley showed how these images encoded the private and public lives of a people and a society, and she noted the complexity of their historical context. She made some intriguing comparisons between the work of painters Ingre, Velasquez and Courbet, and photographers Felix Moulin, Auguste Belloc and other photographers. Some photographic images were exact imitations of paintings and lithographs of the day, from the model's pose to the use of props. Some photographs and prints carried stinging social commentary or outrageous comedy. Most showed how the conversion of an idealized, painterly notion of 'The Nude' into photographic reality yielded nothing short of crude nakedness complete with bulging bellies and dirty feet (which I, personally, find more interesting).