This year's Photo LA was a much-improved version. High ceilings (for most of the hall) provided less claustrophobia and more openness. A larger number of dealers in mostly larger booths gave visitors the impression that this was a show to be reckoned with. Better parking and a more upscale neighborhood also helped. Attendance was up dramatically, according to Steve Cohen, the show's organizer. He expects the show's total attendance to hit close to 6,000 versus the 3,700 from the year before and the more normal 4,000+ from 1998. Many dealers, including my own company, Vintage Works, reported considerably increased business over the old Butterfield & Butterfield site. Cohen says his gallery had its best show ever and Henry Feldstein feels the show rivaled AIPAD for buyers.
Another nice touch was the non-photo dealer vendors, including Sotheby's, Gordon's, etc.
As Cohen says with only a "hint" of overstatement, "This show was spectacular. There was really no comparison to the shows at Butterfield's. It was ready to burst out, and it did."
Cohen says that he knew it was going to be a great show when the pre-sales doubled the previous year's totals. He credits the Internet and the new venue with a lot of the new attendees. But I also noted a lot of you, my e-newsletter readers, at the show and I appreciate the time some of you took to say hello.
The photographer lectures sold very well (Mary Ellen Mark's sold out early).
The downside: poor lighting in the back aisles where there was no overhead light made photographs on walls there difficult to view. The photographer lecturers were also held in pitch-blackness, making it difficult to find a seat and impossible to take notes. It also encouraged sleep instead of rapt attention. Next year turn up the lights, Steve.
For 2001 Cohen expects to shift some of the pieces around a little. He plans on moving most of the dealers into the high-ceiling main room and expanding the exhibit space towards the rear of the building. The smaller room may get an international photo exhibit and some of the non-photo dealer vendors. More photo collecting seminars will be added, because those this year sold out quickly. And the photographer lectures may get moved to a tented area. Eventually, Cohen feels, the convention center will add more meeting room space, which he will take advantage of.
What's next for Cohen? He's launched a new show: Photo San Francisco, which will be held at the Ft. Mason Herbst Pavilion from July 27-30 later this year. As Cohen notes: "San Francisco in the summer time is not a tough sale." He then quotes Mark Twain's famous quip: "The coldest winter that I ever spent, was a summer in San Francisco", while noting most collectors and dealers would love to escape the sweltering heat in their areas to do a show in San Francisco.
"We're going to work very hard on the show," says Cohen, who expects to duplicate his 60 photo dealers at this show.
Put it on your calendar. It's bound to be an interesting show. And Cohen is right: What's not to like about San Francisco.