Issue #54  3/3/2003
AIPAD Show Survives Snow Storm and Bomb Scare

As if the economy and threat of war with Iraq were not enough, AIPAD exhibitors had to endure a major snowstorm and a bomb scare this year. But most exhibitors survived to come away with a sense of relief that they had made money under tough circumstances. Indeed, several dealers, including Stephen Cohen, Keith de Lellis and David Winter, indicated that they had one of their best shows ever at this year's AIPAD, although they were clearly in the minority. As at most shows, various people had various results, but many dealers had done much better at Photo LA just the month before.

Friday's snowstorm (six inches plus in most outlying areas) shut down most traffic to the show. On Sunday someone left a piece of luggage unattended and because of the orange alert status (not to mention a Jewish Orthodox group in the hotel at the same time), the police stopped all traffic in and out of the hotel for over an hour and a half. Many of the attendees were blissfully unaware of the situation, but dealers were being told quietly to "pick out your most important work to carry out with you if necessary."

Despite these problems, some work did sell very well at the show. What appeared to be selling best were modest priced images and contemporary work. I heard of few images selling for much over $15,000 at a fair that has seen a number of six-figure sales in the past. And attendance picked up and did well both on Saturday and on Sunday (despite the police lines roping off the area for most of the early afternoon).

Tom Halsted told me that Michael Kenna's work was flying off the walls in his booth at $1,000-$6,000 per image. He told me that he sold 21 Kenna's in all, helping Halsted Gallery have a very good show. It didn't hurt that Kenna attended the fair and helped push his work. Halsted also told me that several big items sold after the show.

Likewise Larry Miller had lots of red dots up next to a group of small vintage prints by Ray Metzker. I was tempted myself, although my favorite had already been sold.

Bonni Benrubi was another dealer with some interesting contemporary material. I particularly liked Abelardo Morell's large images of old books, which I thought were reasonably priced at $2,300 to $5,000. His "Wavy Pages" was at the top end of the spectrum but was my personal favorite. Benrubi also had some large tri-color photogravures from Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison for $2,500 each. These manipulated reality images by the ParkeHarrison's represent a bent view of the world with a fine sense of irony and humor; "Turning to Spring" was my preference in this group.

One of my favorite photos at the fair had already been sold by the time I got to see it. Stephen Daiter had a wonderful George Seeley image up on his wall with a red dot. He also had several other vintage prints that were enticing, including a Kertesz of Picture Hanging, Paris (1928).

Debra Bell had a number of great images, including a super Grete Stern from 1927 of a close up of a glass of water with leaf and piece of paper called "Vaso: Con Hoja Negra". She also sold a fine Izis multiple exposure image of fellow photographer Tabard. After the show, Bell also scored with a strong Blumenfeld that I was also admiring.

William Schaeffer had some amazing large daguerreotypes--both American and European. While he was one of the few people to show daguerreotypes, he did sell several of these at the show. His Manuel Bravo images were also quite strong, and he sold a great vintage "Approaching Storm" by Gilpin.

New member French dealer Serge Plantureux had some of the most interesting but controversial images at the fair. His huge bas-relief (a method of sandwiching two negatives together slightly off registration that resembles solarization) of a male nude attributed to Man Ray and a series of Louie Fuller dancing were exciting if expensive objects. I liked his catalogue for the fair entitled "Twelve Good Reasons to Come to Paris", illustrated with photographs that he had on exhibit. He probably has a few extra copies if you want to contact him at plantu@noos.fr .

Charles Schwartz had an interesting group of Japanese WWII propaganda images and Japanese pictorialist work from the 1930s. He will be putting up a Special Exhibit on line at I Photo Central and his own website shortly.

Paul Hertzmann and Susan Herzig sold a great vintage print of the iconic American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin. The vintage prints are quite scarce now.

At Vintage Works, we showed various masterworks on our walls and in our bins, including an important new find of De Clercq paper negatives that we had just received prior to the show. They were a good complement to the Le Grays and Charles Negres that we also had at the show. We got some nice comments on the Nadar of the French radical politician Pelletan, the Emmanuel Mangel de Mesnal image of a group of Pifferari with Repast, and Ludwig Belitski's perfectly photographed (in 1855 no less) salt print of glassware. In the 20th-century area, we had strong interest (and a few actual sales) in Ilse Bing, Walker Evans, Man Ray, Maurice Tabard, Eduard Steichen, Frantisek Drtikol, Irving Penn and Laure Albin-Guillot. Actually dealers were our biggest buyers at the fair, representing over half of our sales there, which clearly showed there were many bargains at the fair.

Despite increasing the size of the booths and the height to 10 feet (from eight feet), the bigger contemporary AIPAD members still took a bye from doing the show. Major galleries still missing in action included Julie Saul, Robert Miller, Pace/MacGill, Rose Gallery, Fahey/Klein, Fraenkel Gallery, Galerie Zur Stockeregg, Weston Gallery and others. Add important dealers Edwynn Houk, Kicken Berlin, Jane Corkin, Galerie Clairefontaine, gallery luisotti and Ricco/Maresca to this year's no-shows among the contemporary crowd. Ironic that most of the changes were prompted by comments from contemporary AIPAD members and that it was probably contemporary work that sold the best this year. Perhaps some of these leaders can be convinced to return and lend their prestige to next year's show.

The larger, taller booths did make the show look very attractive and several dealers, including us took advantage of the larger space to build more innovative environments. The lighting was also an improvement and worked very well. In fact, most observers thought that this was the best-looking AIPAD show yet. Credit should go to Show Chairman Charles Isaacs, who had taken a lot of flack on some of the show changes (some even from us). It is a tough job that is bound to engender some strong opinions and conflict, so a few bouquets to compensate for the bricks should be in order for Isaacs. Steve Bulger will take over from him for next year's program. With his nice-guy, low-key approach to working with exhibitors, Bulger should find it easier going now that most of the hard, controversial decisions have been made on the show.

Some of the changes under consideration for next year's program include increasing the length of the show from four to five days.

One other aside, the seminar program was not without its fireworks, as sparks flew on Saturday between Jeff Rosenheim, Associate Curator, Department of Photographs, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Peter Galassi, Chief Curator, Department of Photographs, Museum of Modern Art. Rosenheim had the temerity to suggest that perhaps MoMA should have offered some of the photographs it sold to the general public to the museum world first. Galassi exploded back that this wasn't the forum for this type of statement. Perhaps, but this observer thinks that Mr. Galassi doth protest too much given that he has sold off unique and important pieces at recent Sotheby's auctions.