Seventy-eight members from the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) participated in AIPAD's Photography Show 2004, the 24th such exposition. Held once again at the New York Hilton, the show continued to have a modest international flavor with its exhibitors from the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan.
Most of the dealers reported that they did better at this year's show than last year's event, which was plagued by a snowstorm and a bomb scare, but, according to AIPAD executive director Kathleen Ewing, traffic was virtually unchanged from the previous year's totals (about 7,500) even though an additional day was scheduled for the exposition. Other AIPAD sources claimed that attendance was actually down considerably, as much as 20%, from last year.
Despite the lack of additional traffic, at least a few dealers liked the extra day. As Mack Lee of Lee Gallery told me, "I felt that I had more time with each customer and there was less time spent trying to help two or three customers at the same time." Others, like Howard Greenberg, said "it was our slowest show in years."
Even though most dealers liked the extra day, most also felt that the show should close at least an hour earlier than it did most nights. Although expressing approval for the extra day, my booth neighbor, Tucson, AZ-based Terry Etherton, said, "Staying open until 8 pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday is not necessary. I would vote to reduce these hours." I would add a loud "Amen" to Terry's comment.
Clients that I talked to also seemed to like the extra day, saying that it gave them more flexibility and time at the show. Some indicated that they would have not been able to attend the show except for the Wednesday opening, because they were going out of town for the long Presidents' Day holiday weekend. Of course, putting the show at another time might resolve the latter problem without having to add the extra day.
A number of dealers reported that they had an exceptional show, including Lee Marks Fine Art, Barry Singer Gallery, Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Lawrence Miller and Scheinbaum & Russek, Ltd. Of course, a similar handful of dealers reported that they had one of their worst shows. However, most dealers reported that they had a decent, average show, but not an exceptional show. Most of the work sold seemed to be more in the mid-range from about $2,000-20,000 rather than at the low or high points. Very few six-figure images appeared to actually sell at the show itself, although that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Burt Finger from Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery reported "AIPAD was very good to us this year--much, much better then last year. We did well with contemporary color work by Chris Verene and Misty Keasler, but I must admit that the bulk of our sales were our gallery standards, Keith Carter and Jock Sturges. I think having the extra day was very important; however, I do not think that attendance improved. The advantage was spreading out the crowd, giving us more space in the booth to work and making things a bit less hectic.
Barry Singer told me he had his "best AIPAD ever", selling 50 images from his inventory. He told me the purchases were "across the board, but mostly vintage" images.
According to Paul Kopeiken, "It was my second best AIPAD. I sold 24 prints by one contemporary artist." Kopeiken felt he "had two of the best images in the exhibition: an important Lissitzky from Barry Friedman's collection (priced low at $95,000) and a vintage Bravo ($85,000), which I think I've sold from the Fair."
While I am not sure that I would call $95,000 "priced low", the Lissitzky print was certainly one of the most important in the fair.
Mack Lee of Lee Gallery said, "I was very happy with the show. I was impressed with the clientele and their enthusiasm. The taller walls and drapes over the top of the booths looked great, and it was a good way to start the year. I sold photographs by Brigman, Stieglitz, Strand, Dassonville, Brandt, Tripe, Evans, Watkins and Camera Work gravures."
Gary Edwards noted that his sales were "especially good on mainstream 19th-century albumen prints." Excellent Japanese, Egyptian, Greek and Italian images sold well. Edwards continued, "I also put up a 'sampling' of six hand-colored American salt print portraits, as an advertisement for a large collection that has been ten years in the making, and several people wanted to know more about the full collection. I also sold the entire group of 12 anonymous Russian constructivist stage sets of the 1910s-1920s period. There was much interest in vintage Francesca Woodman prints. I sold, as always, a number of vintage NASA prints documenting the 1960s era of lunar exploration culminating in the landing of July 1969. Of course they are more than documentation--they are also strong graphic representations of man's nature in its thirst for new technical and physical achievements. However, the most unusual, rarest, and most expensive space exploration pieces did not sell, but did set several potential buyers to thinking."
Stephen Bulger, who is head of the show committee and runs a gallery in Toronto under his name, said, " I did well--better with more expensive vs. less expensive items, and I am still doing very well with follow-up business." Bulger told me that he had a lot of attention for two photography groups, one from Dave Heath and the other from André Kertész. He expected to sell both to clients who saw them at the show.
NYC dealer Deborah Bell said, "I feel that the show went very well for me in terms of both on-the-spot sales and the 'bigger picture.' The photographs of Dutch artist G.P. Fieret were a big hit. Prices of works sold ranged from $4,500-9,000."
Johannes Faber from Vienna, Austria, said, "We sold our masterpiece, a vintage platinum print of Gustav Klimt (1914) by Anton Josef Trcka for $38,000 to an important private collection." Farber also reported that the gallery had sold a number of mid-level vintage prints at the show, but also noted that the first gum print by Heinrich Kuehn from 1895, "Torbogen, Tyrol", priced at $31,000, was still available.
Lawrence Miller told me, "We did extremely well at AIPAD, selling both vintage and contemporary, to both familiar clients and several new clients. A suite of Stephane Couturier prints from the Grand Palais did quite well, as did new work by DoDo Jin Ming, whom we will feature in a big show end of May. Vintage work we sold included Levitt, Metzker, Brassai, Lux Feininger, and hopefully the vintage Arbus of a Young Man at Pro-War Parade. We also sold two large groups of Aaron Siskind prints."
Richard Rosenthal stated, "I did pretty well at the show. I sold a couple of good 19th-century pieces and some interesting 20th-century images. I thought that the show looked good. I thought that the traffic was lighter, but more serious. I thought that the opening was very party-like and enjoyable."
Even though Vintage Works, Ltd., my own company, was up on the "dreaded" second floor, we had some really great neighbors with some powerful material, including Howard Greenberg, Terry Etherton, Joe Bellows, Michael Shapiro, Charles Schwartz and Janet Lehr.
As always, Howard Greenberg Gallery had some fine images up on the wall. Greenberg said, "We sold three very expensive photos although two were seen at my gallery the day before. I sold an oversized Frank of Rt. 285, a Weston platinum (of Tina Mondotti) and a Moholy photogram. Two in six figures. Not sold are a most gorgeous Weston platinum of "Tres Olas", which was overshadowed by the portrait, two terrific 4 x 5 Weston nudes, a great vintage Steichen of the "Triumph of the Egg" and the most distinguished Abbott exhibition print I've ever seen. Prices from 40-300k."
According to Terry Etherton, "One of my most interesting pieces was a stellar Timothy O'Sullivan from the Wheeler Survey of 1871, which includes O'Sullivan's boat, 'Picture', and the collodion coating tent in the boat in the foreground. A rare, important and quintessential image by O'Sullivan, priced at $22,000. The other stellar piece was a knockout print of Frederick Sommer's 'Paracelsus'. This was a stunning and rare print. Priced at a very reasonable $35,000 given the current Sommer frenzy in anticipation of a new monograph."
My own booth was across from Greenberg's and between Etherton's and Joe Bellow's booths. I sold several 19th-century master images, including a great Charles Marville street scene, an early Charles Negre salt print, a magical ethnographic albumen print of Siamese Dancers by Wilhelm Burger and a pair of fine Dr. John Murray paper negatives of India. Clients also scooped up a few 20th-century masterworks, including a rare and exceptional 1934 Marcel Bovis collage and several Laure Albin-Guillots. We had a lot of attention for the late 1970-80s vintage black and white work of Joel Levinson, which we featured on one of our walls, and a large 16 x 20 Naked Dunes by Brett Weston. The Charles Negre Modele Couche Vetu d'Une Chemise, 1848-1849, also received a lot of praise from 19th-century connoisseurs. This was perhaps the most important and one of the most expensive prints to be offered in the exhibition.
Of course, we also had plenty of lower priced images, so that we were even able to help a mother and her 13-year-old daughter choose a fine $300 photograph (the budget for this new collector) by Czech photographer Petr Helbich. It was a haunting image of forest and streaming light. We will soon have other Helbich images up on our websites.
My most well known visitor of the day? Actor Matt Dillon. My two assistants, the always-amiable Nigel Russell and my dear Belgium friend Anne Fourcroy, were in a tizzy about his arrival, but I did not even recognize him. Oh well. My thanks particularly to Anne for her kind help at the show.
At Joseph Bellows booth, he had on display some rare and exciting images from a collection, which he had obtained from the Photographic Society of America. The collection, which numbers hundreds of prints, was accumulated over a 70-year period. The huge and stark Fassbender prints were perhaps the best I have ever seen by this photographer, and Bellows sold the White Knight off the walls to a collector. A collector also bought two of the Mortensen images (including the rare Torso), which were equally spectacular. A vertical image by Misonne, which is a very rare format for this photographer, looked more Bauhaus than pictorialist; it too sold at the show. The huge prints by Rudolf Koppitz, including the highly sought after Movement image, were also stoppers. When salon images are this good, they are marvelous. It says something about the lack of oomph at this show that many of the images were still available, although Bellows did seem to do well enough with the group.
Further down the aisle was fellow I Photo Central dealer Charles Schwartz, who featured a diverse selection of fine material from a stunning Lartigue of Renee Perle in Necklace to rare Japanese ambrotypes, including a samurai warrior. He told me that his Japanese material sold very well at the show. Schwartz also had a very rare group of early 1850s Central Park Views by Victor Prevost on display, two of which you can view at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/result_list.php/256/Prevost%2C+Victor .
Michael Shapiro had some strong pieces up on the wall at several price levels. I even bought one--the photogram of Hands Cutting Film by Lionel Wendt. Another great item that sold was the Self-portrait of Eugene Smith with Camera. One of the top pieces that Shapiro featured was a very large Arnold Genthe Street of Gamblers, Chinatown. He also had two of Diane Arbus's top images, a Twins and Boy with Hand Grenade. Both were the later prints, but I thought that his prices for the images were reasonable, given the Arbus market right now. The only problem is whether they have sold yet or not. Shapiro did have some interest in them after the show.
Our other exhibition neighbor was Janet Lehr, who had top images from Coburn, Cameron, Man Ray and others up on her walls. She also showed some rare autochromes of American Indians.
Dealers on the second floor continue to complain about the lack of traffic and the client "burn-out" factor--what dealers like Howard Greenberg termed "the second floor effect." LA dealer and Photo LA organizer Stephen Cohen, who was on the second floor, also noted, "While the show looked good, it seemed dull, stilted and like a tomb with low energy and much less visitors. The difference in traffic between the first and second floors at the opening and the following days was the most extreme I have ever seen."
While dealers on the first floor pooh-poohed this idea, none talked about moving from their position there. One of the best suggestions that I heard to compensate for this difference in traffic and interest was to price each of the booths on the first floor about a $1,000 more than on the second floor. It would bring in more revenue (about $40,000) for the organization to promote more and help bridge the gap. The suggestion came from two different dealers, who both felt it would also help balance the dealer requests for the first and second floors. Perhaps some thought should be given to where exactly each booth is first before universally applying such a premium, but it is certainly an interesting idea. Closing off the first floor during the first hour each day was an additional suggestion to equalize traffic flow somewhat.
It is a shame, because some of the most interesting work from some of the most consistent dealers was featured on the second floor. If I was a collector, I might actually want to start on the second floor--better images and more willing dealers, who actually had more time to spend with clients.
An even more vital issue facing AIPAD is the lack of major contemporary members, who continue to stay away from the hotel-based show--even after the AIPAD Show went to slightly larger and taller cloth-covered booths last year.
While this year's show certainly looked as good as it ever did, many observed a distinct lack of "buzz" and excitement. Major New York dealer Howard Green said, "...We still have much work to do to have AIPAD be as attractive as an Armory or ADAA show. As much as we've improved, we are still not keeping up with the necessary glamour and hype of the other fairs. I believe this will perpetuate unless some radical moves are made."
Of course, most, if not all, of these problems and more might go away if AIPAD would change to a larger one-floor venue, but, at the moment, that does not appear to be likely in the next year or two.