ART BASEL 42: A COMMERCIAL SUCCESS?; WESTLICHT BREAKS CAMERA RECORDS AND BRIEFLY DAGUERREOTYPE RECORDS FOR EUROPE; BEAUSSANT LEFEVRE SALE BREAKS DAG RECORDS; TOTALS OVER $2 MILLION WITH 83% SOLD RATE; LE GRAY SALE SETS 19TH-CENTURY PHOTO RECORD--BRIEFLY--AT OVER $1.3 MILLION TO TEXAS OIL MAN; BILLY THE KID TINTYPE SELLS TO WILLIAM KOCH FOR $2.3 MILLION AT WESTERN AUCTION MAKING IT THE MOST EXPENSIVE 19TH-CENTURY PHOTO; ART BASEL: AN ARTIST'S VIEW; AIPAD ANNOUNCES NEW SHOW DATES FOR 2012 AND MEMBERSHIP CHANGES; SECOND BENEFIT AUCTION FOR GEORGE EASTMAN HOUSE SCHEDULED FOR OCT. 3 AT METROPOLITAN PAVILION, NEW YORK CITY; AFTERNOON PROGRAM ON COLLECTING
IS PART OF THE ANNUAL SLOWEXPOSURES PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL, WHICH RUNS SEPT. 16-25, SOUTH OF ATLANTA, GA; EASTMAN HOUSE DIRECTOR BANNON TO RETIRE; PHOTO BOOKS: IMPORTANT TWO-VOLUME SET ON EUROPE PHOTOGRAPHIC HISTORY; PHOTO NEWS SHORTS; MAJOR COLLECTOR HOWARD STEIN PASSES AWAY DUE TO STROKE AND COMPLICATIONS
ART BASEL 42: A COMMERCIAL SUCCESS?
By Alex Novak
As usual I spent most of my June in Europe trying to rope in some bargains for my clients. This is a quick report on the action there during much of that month. I may take some of the events slightly out of order at times, but that will just keep you as jet-lagged as I was some days.
With record-breaking crowds variously reported at between 60,000 and well over 65,000, this year's Art Basel appeared to signal that the art market was nearly back to "normal" with "estimated" sales that were said to approach $2 billion. Now if we can only get the rest of the world to agree after the debt limit cliffhanger in Washington DC and the still unresolved European economic mess, but that's the real world. What we will report on is the "art world", quite a different story.
Gagosian Gallery alone claimed to have sold $45 million worth of artwork here, most in the show's opening 15 minutes. Those kinds of results are usually--let us say politely--"massaged and interpreted" a bit.
Talking with the photography dealers at the fair, the conversations did seem more down-to-earth. I got the feeling that most did ok, perhaps even a bit better than last year; some, of course, did a bit worse.
This year's Art Basel photography group had one change: Hans P. Kraus, Jr. decided to shake up his schedule and tried out the second edition of Masterpiece in London instead of taking his normal corner booth at Art Basel. That allowed Budapest's Vintage Galeria to slip into the group of photo dealers here, and Bruce Silverstein Gallery to claim Kraus's coveted corner real estate.
Steve Daiter was one of the dealers that told me he had done modestly well here--or at least better than the previous year. I helped by buying a Gyorgy Kepes of the photographer's wife Juliet with a peacock feather over her eye, one of the classic images from the New Bauhaus School period.
Helping the market out a little more myself, I also scooped up a photo in the Paviots' booth here that I had caught a glimpse of in Paris, as well as a Heinrich Kuhn and an Andre Kertesz from Rudolph Kicken. The Kertesz was not up on the wall. I also was blown away by the Hans Watzek Sailboat in Kicken's closet.
All three of those booths had some superb work up on their walls, as did most of the other photo dealers at the fair. I asked my friend, artist-photographer Paula Chamlee, to give you her impressions of the artwork at the fair from her perspective as an artist. Her article on the work at the show is further down, so don't miss it.
Suffice to say, some of the booths were stunning, particularly--as always it seems--the Kicken and Fraenkel booths, where I often found myself in front of pieces mumbling like a 60s hippy (that I was once and had hair too): "Wow! Man, what a fantastic, magical piece." I also thought that Edwynn Houk's booth was one of his strongest outing.
But as one dealer told me, the difficulty here is not that you don't make great sales, but that even when you sell over $200,000, you find yourself basically breaking even for an extraordinary amount of work and risk. While exhibit shows have been a trend for quite a while, the economics of these shows--at least for most photo dealers--are making less and less sense to exhibitors. The costs of exhibit space, shipping, hotels, travel, framing/crating, etc. are climbing out of sight, but sales and profits just aren't keeping pace. The only question is: What's the alternative?
For the high-end collector and curator, Art Basel is certainly worth a trip due to the generally high level of work shown here, even if it is a bit of a circus--maybe even BECAUSE it's a bit of a circus. But for dealers there may be more questions than answers, as there are for most exhibit shows today.
WESTLICHT BREAKS CAMERA RECORDS AND
BRIEFLY DAGUERREOTYPE RECORDS FOR EUROPE
By Alex Novak
After the Cindy Sherman set a new world auction record of $3,890,500 for a photograph for her self portrait at Christie's New York's contemporary auction this May, you might have felt that things would settle down for a while. That was not to be.
Even while I was busily packing for my trip to Europe, WestLicht's auction in Vienna managed to clobber a few more records.
First came the cameras. The highlight of the sale was also lot 1. The extremely rare Leica 0-series from 1923 had an estimated price of 350,000-450,000 euro. After a tough 20-minute bidding battle, which started at 200,000 euro, the camera finally sold for a staggering 1,320,000 euro or $1,900,000 with the premium. The bidder, a private collector from Asia, is the new owner of the most expensive camera ever sold at auction (and probably privately as well).
Another Leica, an MP2 in mint condition and with an opening price of 70,000 euro, was finally nailed down for a whopping and unexpected 528,000 euro, including premium.
From the Baringer collection two of the most light-sensitive lenses in camera history went for ten times their starting price. The Carl Zeiss Super-Q-Gigantar 0.33/40mm sold for 60,000 euro and the Carl Zeiss Planar 0.7/50mm went for 90,000 euro (including premium).
A KGB espionage camera was auctioned off for 36,000 euro including premium.
With 94% of the lots sold, the total turnover of WestLicht's 19th camera auction was over 4,429,000 euro or $6.3 million, which set a new world record for a camera auction.
The net profits from the Nikon Europe benefit for aid to Japan's Red Cross fulfilled all expectations and will be donated to Japan's earthquake aid for victims of this natural catastrophe.
But then the image side of this sale wasn't any slouch either. First up in the photography part of the auction were two French daguerreotypes. The 1842 Auguste Bisson daguerreotypes at what many of those in the photo trade thought were "reaching" estimates of 60,000-80,000 euro managed to sail right through the top end of those marks. The first lot 1001 brought 102,000 euro (about $147,000) with its buyer's premium and lot 1002 did even better at a whopping 120,000 euro (about $173,000). Those were both records for a daguerreotype sold in Eastern Europe, but even those were to soon be eclipsed in France.
A portrait of Egon Schiele by Anton Josef Trcka from 1914 was also auctioned off here for 60,000 euro (about $86,500) including premium to a European art dealer.
BEAUSSANT LEFEVRE SALE BREAKS DAG RECORDS;
TOTALS OVER $2 MILLION WITH 83% SOLD RATE
By Alex Novak
France had its share of fireworks too. At Beaussant Lefèvre, its own photography expert and a good friend, Pierre Marc Richard, put up his own collection for sale. Temporarily taking over Richard's spot as expert on this sale was Serge Kakou, who had been the expert at Tajan several years ago.
The work reflected Pierre Marc's eclectic taste and sharp eye, and attracted an international following to the auction. While condition was often an issue here (Pierre Marc's budget limited what he could buy for his collection), the quirky quality of the pieces drew spirited bidding on most lots, particularly the daguerreotypes. Once upon a time collectors in France did not appreciate the artistic qualities of the work by their fine daguerreotypists, but after the Musee d'Orsay show in 2003 and the highly successful auction of French photographer Girault de Prangey's daguerreotypes at Christie's in London, which set new world records for daguerreotypes (indeed for 19th-century photographs), that all changed. And the change was evident, not only in Austria at Westlicht, but here in Paris at the Beaussant Lefèvre sale.
I will only hit some of the auction highlights, particularly the pieces that reached 15,000 euro or higher, which put the lot into the "needing an export license" category. Prices below are without the buyer's premium, which added 23.97% to the totals here. You can multiply the euro hammer price by 1.78 to get the total price in dollars.
Lot 7, a unique set of three paper salt prints of statuary by Auguste Salzmann from 1863 went to a phone bidder for 16,000 euro ($23,000; about $28,500 with premium) over my own bid in the room. Likewise an English-speaking phone bidder took lot 11, a rare Le Gray albumen print from a paper negative of the Nile, for 42,000 euro (over $60,000; about $74,500 with premium). They had to beat Paris book dealer Jean-Claude Vrain, who was very active at this sale.
Lot 60, an anonymous 1850c full plate of a locomotive, was the first of the daguerreotypes to come up in the sale with an estimate of 10,000-12,000 euro. Many of the daguerreotypes in the sale had serious condition issues, as did this one, which had major wipes, low contrast, scratching and no original case. That used to dissuade many daguerreotype collectors, but new collectors are clearly changing their view. This lot gave us a better understanding of what was to come. Jean-Claude Vrain again entered the fray against a phone bidder. He drove the bidding up to 35,000 euro before ceding the piece to the phone. That is about $62,500 with premium--pretty steep for a very beat-up daguerreotype.
The very next lot, a half plate of the interior of the train station at Tours by Stanislas Ratel, was estimated at 25,000-35,000 euro. With lots of chemical staining, this dramatic daguerreotype had at least a chance at conservation, although a lot of collectors might have taken a pass at that estimate range. But not our two bidders: back again was Vrain and the phone, who battled all the way up to 130,000 euro hammer price (or over $231,000 with the buyer's premium and in U.S. dollars). Vrain was again frustrated by that phone bidder.
But Vrain wasn't to be deterred. Bidding against me, Paris dealer Serge Plantureux and others, Vrain took lot 65, a ¼ plate of the roofs of Paris by Charles Choiselat, for double the low estimate at a 20,000 euro hammer price. Then he took lot 68, a ¼-plate view of the steeples of Saint-Sulpice, probably taken from the studio of the photographer Frederich von Martens, again for double the low estimate at 20,000 euro. Each of these dags sold for over $35,500 with premium. Just a few years ago they might have sold for less than half that amount.
But the cherry on top was still to come. The very next lot was another view of the historic Saint-Sulpice church, but this time from the inside. A magical interior view which was solarized blue in all the right places, this 1844 full-plate daguerreotype was estimated at a too-reasonable 40,000-50,000 euro. OK, it wasn't in its original mount, but... The daguerreotypists were Choiselat and Ratel, who often worked together. My one-word note on my catalogue page reads: "Amazing!"
That set up a repeat of the earlier battles, and, unfortunately for Vrain, with the same result. The phone bidder, despite Vrain's increasingly frantic bids from the back of the auction room, still outlasted the book dealer, but had to pay an astonishing 190,000 euro hammer, over 235,500 euro with the buyer's premium, or nearly $340,000. That was a new auction record for a daguerreotype in France and in Europe proper. Only the Girault de Prangey's in London were higher.
While I won't say that the rest of the sale was an anticlimax, this certainly was the high point of the sale.
But we weren't completely done--with the auction or the daguerreotypes.
On lot 96, a ¼ plate of the Venus de Milo from 1840c by Alfred Donné, which just might be the earliest known photograph of the famous statue, dealer Serge Plantureux decided to challenge all comers including the phone bidders. Estimated at 5,000-6,000 euro, Plantureux pushed the bids up and up, until he finally nailed down the lot for nearly 41,000 euro or just a bit under $60,000, all in. He told me later that he had a major archive on the Venus de Milo, and that this would be a high point of that collection.
Lot 101 was a unique but odd lot of a Gustave Le Gray panoramic oil painting over several photograph prints from paper negatives of Baalbek, Lebanon. The 266 x 568 mm piece was interesting but needed conservation, and was estimated at a not-unreasonable 20,000-25,000 euro. Book dealer Vrain was back, waving his hat in frantic motion with his bids. It almost looked like he would get this one from the phone, but when the phone offered just a one-thousand euro increment over his 80,000 euro bid and it was accepted, he seemed deflated and had to retire from the field of battle. At just over 100,000 euro (nearly $145,000) with the buyer's premium the painting became the third most expensive lot in the auction. Only the two earlier daguerreotypes would also get up into that six-figure level.
Vrain tried once again on lot 125, a photo by Charles Marville of his assistant Charles Delahaye. Even though he pushed the final price to three times the high estimate, he still lost out to the phone bidder at the 15,000 euro hammer price.
Probably the real sleeper at the sale was the mysterious image of the English photographer Charles Thurston Thompson taking his own photo in a mirror. It was estimated at a mere 2,000-3,000 euro. It seemed like half the room and half the phone bank tried for this one. I saw bids from New York collector Michael Mattis, art buyer Timothy Prus, Paris dealer Denis Canguilhem (on a mobile phone) and many others--all unsuccessful in the end as a phone bidder took this one home at a 30,000 euro hammer price. All in with the buyer's premium that was over 37,000 euro or over $53,500!
While Vrain and his hat also failed to capture lot 143, the phone bidder still lost the 12,000 euro bid to a preemption from the Musee d'Orsay. The photograph was a very good Charles Marville cloud study.
As I've explained in the past, French institutions of all stripes can, after a final bid is made, stand up and declare that they are preempting the bidder and then buy the piece at that last hammer price. It may occasionally be frustrating for the bidder, but at least France is a country that actually seems to value its art and heritage enough to support and protect it. One day I would love to see a representative from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Library of Congress be able to stand up and declare that they preempt an auction bid because our nation's government values that art so much that it will provide the institution the funds and use this method to protect our heritage. I know, I know. You can all stop laughing now. Sad, isn't it?
Moving on to lot 145, an image by Paul Miot (or at least attributed to him) of an Easter Island statue (a small one) aboard the H.M.S. Topaze, sold to a South American collector for an Easter Island statue size price tag: 29,000 euro or nearly 36,000 euro with the buyer's premium (over $51,500).
Nadar's Hermaphrodite close-up sold to a single commission bid for a 35,000 euro hammer price. With buyer's premium the total came to over 43,000 euro, or over $62,000. American collector Michael Mattis told me later that he had purchased the piece, which was certainly the finest such print to come on the market in many years. Other prints have been rather poor examples.
With the buyer's premium the sale totaled just over 1,430,000 euro or $2,061,000 with only 17% going unsold (or bought in). It really didn't even seem like that many unsold, because most were scattered through out rather than coming in a long run. Except for a six-lot run from 117-122, most unsolds were simply ones and twos amidst the sold lots. Interestingly, 35% of the total sales came from just three six-figure lots.
I am happy for my friend Pierre Marc, and glad I could help out a bit, walking away with 11 lots for myself and clients.
LE GRAY SALE SETS 19TH-CENTURY PHOTO RECORD--
BRIEFLY--AT OVER $1.3 MILLION TO TEXAS OIL MAN
By Alex Novak
There was even bigger action to come in the Rouillac sale in Vendome, a few hours outside Paris. Auction expert Yves di Maria made it convenient though for most of us who previewed at his apartment in the Marais in Paris, which was a 15 minute walk from my apartment. Looking over most of the Gustave Le Gray's, which were the prime attraction, I could see that this was going to be an interesting auction indeed.
The Le Gray prints came from an album or portfolio that had forced the print mounts to be cut down back in the 1850s. They had gotten a bit dirty and had been sent prior to the cataloging for a simple cleaning. The print quality and tones were generally superb (especially on the top four lots), although there certainly were some weaker and problematic images in the group. Of the top four images, only the "Breaking Wave" had slightly more serious issues. It had what appeared to be an ink mark on the verso that showed through lightly and, in my opinion, would be difficult if not impossible to remove. It also had some old retouch which needed to be reworked, but that was not a serious problem.
Several American dealers and collectors were bidding in the auction--most by phone. Numerous European dealers and collectors were also at the auction and on the phone, including German dealer Daniel Blau. Then there were those "Middle Eastern" bidders, most likely representatives from Qatar, which has again been active in the European markets. Both Blau and I were actually at Art Basel while the auction was going on. I had taken a phone myself, always a difficult thing to do at the very noisy and busy fair.
The auction room itself was like a feudal castle with stone walls and heraldic shields on the walls. Some might say a fitting place for the battle to come.
There was a little action both before and after the Le Gray's. For instance, a very good Spanish album made over 21,000 euros just before the Le Gray lots came up. But the auction excitement was clearly about the Le Gray's, which had reportedly been in the continuous possession of a single family after having been collected by one of Le Gray's contemporaries, Charles Denis Labrousse, an interesting personality himself and a hero of the Crimean War.
The first Le Gray lot was "La Reine Hortense, Yacht de l'Empereur Napoleon III, La Havre", which was a very strong image in a solid print. There are only a handful of prints known of this rare and early marine image. With active bidding it quickly sold for over five times its low estimate at about 155,000 euro with the buyer's premium, or over $223,000, which was actually a very reasonable price.
The next lot was the cover lot. With an "estimation on demand" notation, the dramatic silhouette of the "Bateaux Quittant le Port du Havre" was a sure winner. It is also another early image with about four other prints known. One can quibble about the old retouch that needed to be redone at the top in the cloud area or the scuffing on the back of the mount, but the reality was that this was a superb and magical piece that any 19th-century collector would kill for. It was drop-dead gorgeous. So the battle began. Phones and the rooms were engaged. In the end it was a Houston oil executive, according to the excited auctioneer, who took home this prize at a record-breaking--for a 19th-century photograph, as well as a Le Gray--and mind-numbing 917,000 euro or roughly $1.32 million with the buyer's premium.
OK, it is not Cindy Sherman's prices, but it ain't chopped liver either. It almost seemed natural for a Le Gray to once again be on top of the heap. It had several times in the past held the world auction record for a 19th-century image, even briefly holding the auction record for ANY photograph (at the first Jammes auction at Sotheby's London).
Numerous underbidders were rumored: Russian, French, or Qatari. German dealer Daniel Blau even told me rather disgustedly that HE had been the underbidder, but then it's hard sometimes to tell when Daniel is joking or not. All will provide photography cocktail party fodder for a while.
There were still a few more Le Gray fireworks. Lot 36, which was a very good print of "Le Said, Rade de Cette", sold for well over its modest estimate of 10,000-12,000 euro at about 49,500 euro with premium included. That would make it well over $71,000.
Lot 37, "La Vague Brisée", or the Breaking Wave, has come up several times before at auction. Good copies have sold for about $250,000+. This one sold for a lot more: about 372,000 euro or just over $535,000. Again, the photograph is heading to Houston.
Other Le Gray prints ranged from a mere 7,435 euro up to over 32,000 for the last lot of the "Entrée du port de Brest", which got preempted by the Bibliotheque National. Apparently it was a rare variant. Many of the other images had condition issues of various types, and many were not particularly rare. It does show you the great variability of pricing for Le Gray.
BILLY THE KID TINTYPE SELLS TO WILLIAM KOCH
FOR $2.3 MILLION AT WESTERN AUCTION MAKING
IT THE MOST EXPENSIVE 19TH-CENTURY PHOTO
By Alex Novak
After just getting used to the fact that we had a new world auction record for a 19th-century photograph (the Gustave Le Gray mentioned in the above article), along comes Billy the Kid, who shoots that record to bits just a week later. And oil is a part of the story again. It is also the highest selling price on a piece of Western Americana that has been reported, according to the auctioneer.
The so-called "Upham tintype" of Billy the Kid sold at Brian Lebel's Old West Auction, netting $2.3 million, including the reasonable 15% buyer's premium. Some earlier news accounts had inaccurately reported that the piece had hammered at $2.3 million and sold for $2.6 million with premium, but it had "only" hammered to $2 million. It had been estimated at $300,000-400,000.
The winning bidder was 71-year-old Florida billionaire and collector, William Koch, whose brothers, fellow billionaires Charles and David Koch, are politically active in conservative circles, funding various rightwing Republican candidates and anti-union campaigns. Their family made its fortune in the oil and gas business. However, William Koch, who reportedly has had some differences with his brothers, is better known for winning the America's Cup in 1992, sailing's top honor. Koch is also known for his extensive art and wine collections.
The underbidder was also an oil man from south New Mexico, who wanted to keep the tintype in the state where it originally was made (Fort Sumner, NM). It took 2-1/2 minutes from the opening bid to the fall of the hammer for the tintype to sell, with five bidders involved to $1.2 million and two bidders through the final stretch, all of whom were present on the floor. The fact that they all wanted to be there for the auction is truly an unusual circumstance.
The tintype is the only authenticated photo of Billy the Kid in existence today, and the object came down through one family and had never before been offered for public sale.
While on loan to the Lincoln County Museum in New Mexico, which was the only time it has ever been available for public viewing, rumors circulated that exposure to light had darkened the image beyond recognition. "That's simply not true," Old West Auction founder, Brian Lebel said. "We've all seen this image of Billy countless times, but when you hold the actual, three-dimensional tintype in your hands, it's a whole different experience." Other purported photographs of Billy the Kid (aka William Bonney and William Henry McCarty) have been reported, but none have ever been fully authenticated. "This is it," said Lebel, "the only one."
Several collectors and dealers, including Andrew Smith and Scott Hale attended the auction. As Scott Hale told me, "I held it. It was spectacular. Nowhere near as dark or unstable as some reported. The provenance is the authentication, coming from a gift from Billy's compatriot to the owner's family. Several pieces of family materials (including an equally fantastic tintype of friend Dan Dedrick, who was the original source of the Billy the Kid photo) were included in the same lot."
Hale went on to say: "Several photo dealers at the accompanying dealer show had great sales, and other photo lots in the sale were mild to strong as a result of casual buyers who had come only to see Billy and suddenly developed an interest in antique photographs. Compared to a $2.3 million tintype, a $200 albumen cabinet card looked like a steal. Though this may prove to be event/venue specific, I'd like to think that it will trickle over to other historic dealers and sales. Big color is cool, but small silver is precious. Regardless, the old adage remains true: quality will always have collectors."
Santa Fe photo gallerist Smith told me he tried to put his hand up to be able to say that he bid on it, "but they started at $550,000, and the price went up too fast!"
Hans Rooseboom, photo curator for the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, said in our discussion on LinkedIn: "For whatever reason photographs are being bought, it is always interesting to see a technique that has been held in such low esteem for such a long time (see what Helmut Gernsheim wrote on tintypes in his history) get such high prices. That does say something on the photography market.
"On the other hand, I think what this auction result indicates is that with tintypes it is still the subject that influences the selling prices the most. Civil War pieces are relatively expensive as well. Had this portrait been a daguerreotype or a salt print, it would certainly have been offered and sold much earlier or --if the owners did not want to part with it--at least been valued much higher in photo history circles. The fact that a tintype has now been sold for such an enormous price is significant. It will help to get this intriguing technique more recognition, and it may push prices asked for mainstream tintypes, so the consequences will be both favorable and unfavorable."
ART 42 BASEL 2011: AN ARTIST'S VIEW
By Paula Chamlee
To see works by other photographers and artists from around the world is a great stimulation and inspiration for my own work and for the simple pleasures of seeing, absorbing new things and re-visiting others. So whenever possible, we (my husband, photographer Michael A. Smith, and I) try to see museum shows and art fairs around the world in order to absorb what is inspiring, challenging, deeply moving and informing. This year, for the first time, we attended Art Basel.
In the world of international art expos, Art Basel is a "must see" event if you are an art maker, collector, curator, historian or lover of art in any way. From June 15-19, the city of Basel once again hosted this famous international art fair and reported record-breaking attendance of nearly 65,000 visitors from around the globe.
Although Michael and I have attended Art Basel-Miami Beach in Miami, FL, several times, this was our first opportunity to attend Art Basel, and we were in for a greater experience than we had imagined. In its 42nd year it remains the world's largest and most important art fair. With only 300-plus galleries selected for inclusion out of 1,800 submitted requests, the expo was an excellent mix of high-quality and diversity.
Michael and I had been teaching in Paris and so we took a pleasant three-hour ride on the TGV high-speed train to Mulhouse, France, where we were staying. We then took a local train for our 25-minute commute into Basel each day. As accommodations in Basel are booked very far in advance and are generally quite expensive, one can book hotels in outlying areas and still travel into Basel with ease.
The organization for Art 42 Basel had set up a kiosk-tent just outside the train station for visitors' easy access, providing all the necessary maps, brochures and general help to guide you to the main expo halls and the satellite shows in the city contemporaneous with the main event. They also directed you to the correct trams for each site--no small thing. There was plenty to see if your energy and concentration could hold up.
We worked diligently to see all that was possible from opening to closing hours, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. If you haven't been to Art Basel before, put comfortable walking shoes at the top of your packing list. The expo carpeting is thin (or missing) on the concrete floors. No large bags of any kind (even purses and computer bags) are allowed into the expo halls, so be prepared to carry things compactly in your pockets or in a small purse. The Swiss are as efficient as ever and will kindly check your things into a coat-check room and deliver it back to you very quickly even as hordes are descending on this room at closing time. You must observe the rules in Switzerland. I know; I lived there once.
The mighty tome that is the beautifully printed catalog published by Hatje Cantz for Art 42 Basel weighs in at 6 pounds, costs 50 euro, and is well worth it. It is free to VIP attendees. Needless to say, we picked up our catalog at the end of the day. It reminded us of what we saw and what we missed.
As most do, we entered at Hall 2, Floor 1 of the main building of die Kunstmesse (The Art Show), and were a bit overwhelmed. Galleries stretched to the ends of the huge building in all directions. We happened to enter where the Richard Gray Gallery was showing great modernist works by Richard Diebenkorn, Joseph Cornell, Brice Marden, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell, Georg Baselitz, Picasso, among others. We could have spent an hour there, but had to move on quickly.
At good art expos there is always the dilemma: Do we spend lots of time at certain galleries, or do we try to see everything? Balancing those competing agendas is a challenge. It is really impossible, so one has to choose. Art Basel lasts only five days and to do justice to all the art on display would take several weeks.
To the best of our abilities, we tried to have it both ways: spending a lot of time at certain galleries, and by necessity, quickly stopping at others where the works did not appear to interest us. We realize this was a poor compromise as some artists' works have much substance that is not readily appreciated without careful looking. And since I am an artist and I want to see everything, I never know when my imagination will be sparked with a new way to resolve something I'm struggling with in the studio, and I never know where my influences will come from. All visual artists share the concern of how form fits into space, and since the manner in which this can be resolved is virtually endless, it is important for me to see how other artists are resolving their works in ways that I consider to be successful, and also to see how new or unfamiliar materials and ideas are being used. Pushing toward things that are more demanding is what makes our processes interesting.
As we started in Hall 2, Floor 1, Michael kept a careful checklist of the galleries visited, as the huge expanse of sector after sector could be daunting and confusing. One can experience déjà vu endlessly without a map. Since I am easily absorbed in looking long and fully at works of art and could spend far too much time in each booth, Michael kept me systematically on course. After a previous large art expo where we did not remember which way we had turned in the seemingly endless aisles and spaces, Michael began checking off the galleries we had visited on the show's map. We found it an invaluable method.
The ground floor area was particularly inspiring to us as this was primarily for classical modern and contemporary works shown by many "blue-chip" galleries. It is a rare opportunity to see extraordinary works that will be going mostly into private collections and will perhaps not get to public museums for decades, if ever. Although museums were also making selections there, the fair depends greatly on the private collector. Quality in general was quite high. One could make notes endlessly of the great works one didn't previously know--or make digital snaps as many were doing for reference or to simply make their personal record of "awesome!" I preferred to make sketches and "memory-trigger" notes as it invigorates my imagination and forces me to look and remember more carefully.
The audiences for art are changing and galleries reflected this trend. Art Statements included 27 single-artist projects from young galleries around the world. There were lots of new artists, lots of "cutting edge" work. There is so much to see at Art Basel that it is necessary to go quickly past those works that are obviously of little personal interest. Because there is so much information and imagery available, I find that my skills of "sifting" have necessarily heightened. And as a painter friend succinctly noted, "A discerning mind comes with age."
The important photography galleries were also on this floor (Floor 1 of Hall 2) and were well located among the large painting and sculpture galleries, and were grouped in one particular central area. We found this to be an advantage so that we could visit all of the photography galleries at once and easily go back and forth from one to the other. One photography gallery owner did not like this arrangement and thought that it created a "photo ghetto," but we disagreed.
Among the photography galleries, Stephen Daiter Gallery of Chicago had an impressive collection of high-quality prints. Particularly notable were some unfamiliar works by André Kertész and Geörgy Kepes, as well as works by Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, among others. Daiter also showed several mixed-media collages that included photography by Kepes, R.B. Kitaj and Herbert Bayer. This work was inspiring and the intermingling of photographs with other visual arts added a positive dynamic and worked well in the booth.
The nearby photography booth of Galerie Françoise Paviot from Paris featured a fine selection of vintage and contemporary prints. We especially responded to prints by Gustave Le Gray and a unique and exquisite Man Ray enlargement of one of his most important rayographs.
Bruce Silverstein of New York mostly presented exemplary modern photographers including André Kertész, Edward Weston, Aaron Siskind, and Frederick Sommer--including a painting by Sommer--something very unexpected. Also prominently featured at Silverstein was a large contemporary photograph of thrown paint by Shinichi Maruyama.
At Edwynn Houk, New York, paint was also in evidence, although used much differently in two prints by Sebastiaan Bremer, where paint was applied over the photographs. These works contrasted with other works at Houk by Edward Weston, Robert Polidori, Vik Muniz and many other modern and contemporary photographers.
Rudy Kicken of Kicken Berlin had a large selection of high-quality works, mostly from Europe, and he also had the most inventive use of space in his booth--one could move in and around 24 carefully placed walls and experience intimate mini-galleries of varied and complementing subjects as well as a presentation of some very large prints. Amidst photographs by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Frantisek Drtikol and Renger-Patsch, was a memorable and gorgeous photograph by Heinrich Kühn.
Fraenkel Gallery of San Francisco showed high-quality works by modern and contemporary photographers, including Hiroshi Sugimoto and Adam Fuss. One of the outstanding selections was a very beautiful large print by Richard Misrach. It appeared to be one that was stitched from several negatives, but it was so confusing that even after looking at it for several minutes we could not quite figure out how it was made.
Sage Paris was also in this sector and showed Bill Brandt, Helmut Newton and Diane Arbus. Thomas Zander from Cologne had one entire wall filled with the 58-print series of Lewis Baltz's "San Quentin Point."
But many other art galleries were giving photography a prominent place in their booths: Galeria Helga de Alvear, Madrid; GDM, Paris; Borch Jensen Galerie, Copenhagen; Chert Gallery, Berlin; Vintage Galería, Budapest; Ubu Gallery, New York; Sprüth Mager Gallery, Berlin (which showed Andreas Gursky's big-print series "Oceans"); Kerlin Gallery, Dublin; Regina Gallery, Moscow; Galerie m Bochum, Bochum, Germany; Wilkinson, London; Galerie Neu, Berlin; Galerie Schöttle, Munich; Donald Young Gallery, Chicago; Esther Schipper, Berlin; Raucci/Santamaria, Naples, Italy; Galería Joan Prats, Barcelona--to name but a few. Clearly, photography continues to gain attention and importance among the world's art galleries and audiences, and these galleries kept the standards high. Most work was, of course, large and in color.
Other highlights at Art Basel: We were particularly impressed by some David Smith drawings at Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles. These were very inspiring and reflected the same sensibilities of some of my recent drawings with sumi ink and black oil stick on paper. My first exposure to David Smith drawings was at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York during a show from the Thaw collection of drawings. I was surprised to see how much the drawings I had been making recently were similar in rhythm and structure, which gave me some newfound confidence and encouragement.
Another piece I'd seen only in reproduction was one of Giacometti's most elegant and perfect of his early sculptures, an atypical smooth bronze torso reminiscent of the centuries-old Cycladic art.
At the booth of Mitchell-Innes & Nash, a perfect chair by Gerrit Rietveld (whose chairs we have long admired) consumed our attention for quite some time. Lucio Fontana seemed to be everywhere: at some 17 galleries. And there were more Joan Miró works than usual: he could be seen at 23 galleries.
An Anish Kapoor piece in alabaster, circles in a square, was exceptional. It was our second exposure to this piece and it still radiates something magical. Represented by 10 galleries, a wide variety of his works in various materials (those that could be contained within a gallery space) were exhibited. We had just seen and experienced his commissioned piece "Leviathan" for the fourth "Monumenta" at the Grand Palais in Paris, where he had created a mind-boggling and truly amazing work to fit the 13,500 square meter space under the 45-meter high glass dome.
Other inspiring and beautifully-made works included Sol Lewitt's panels of dark watercolors on paper with dense graphite markings and Albert Oehlen's large, lyrical charcoal drawings available at multiple galleries.
Edmund de Waal's small, delicate and ethereal ceramic vessels in groupings within custom-made boxes and vitrines felt like visual music--or a bit of Zen, like reading haiku. I am deeply impressed by the simplicity and power of de Waal's work. The structure and rhythm in his groupings stand for far more than what they are of.
Other memorable sculpture was by the ever-graceful and distinctive Barbara Hepworth (New Art Centre, near Salisbury, England), and an exemplary meditative mass of cut slate by Richard Long, which was somewhat more precise than many of his other circle constructions (Galerie Tschudi, Glarus, Switzerland). It is always a treat to discover great examples, some previously unknown (to us), such as an Alice Neel painting, an Emil Nolde watercolor, and to re-visit the ever whimsical and inspiring works of Paul Klee.
Galleria d'Arte Maggiore dedicated their entire gallery space to a beautiful one-man show of Giorgio Morandi paintings and drawings. For us, it is always a great treat to contemplate the work of this Italian genius with his spare painterly style and endless variations of bottles and other similar still-life objects in subtle colors. Two paintings incorporating a bit of muted blue, green and purple, and two other very minimal untitled drawings were especially eloquent and memorable.
Floor 2 of Hall 2 was a space for more contemporary work. It was telling to see how quickly the crowds, in general, moved through this area. There was some very fine work there, though many things didn't entice for long and careful looking. Some work had great substance, some did not. Although this surely has been true of every period of art, thankfully, the less meaningful works have fallen away over time. In our contemporary art world, how long will it take before that "falling away" has taken its natural course? I do try to give contemporary works a really good chance and find out about the artist's intention, use of materials, context and so forth, but if the substance isn't there, it simply isn't there.
If you are thinking of making your first trip to Art Basel and find that contemporary is not "your thing," be assured that you'll simply have more time for a relaxing lunch, coffee break and a rest on this day. Not a bad thing. And who knows, some challenging contemporary works might stimulate your thinking in ways you didn't expect. Also not a bad thing.
For example, 100 Tonson Gallery from Bangkok, Thailand, featured an ambitious project by Rirkrit Tiravanija, described as "merging two typologies of his oeuvre: cooking-as-event and political drawing." The project invited audience participation: various artists covered every inch of the booth walls with their political statements in charcoal drawings during the show each day, and apparently some cooking was happening at various times, too!
Of special note also on Floor 2 was a section dedicated to 18 galleries who are publishers of limited edition prints and artists' hand-made books. We could have happily spent more time there. We were struck particularly by a very fine Donald Judd grid of woodcuts, variations on his box theme transferred into deep blue inks, which we found to be meditative and demanding at the same time. There were also some lovely prints by Ken Price in his inimitable style (Alexander Gallery, New York), and by Ben Nicholson and Jim Dine at Alan Cristea Gallery, London.
The Art Film program featured an important film recently made by Werner Herzog, "The Cave of Forgotten Dreams," but we unfortunately did not know about it in time to attend the scheduled screenings. A large variety of other filmmakers from many countries were featured on this program of curated events from June 14-19. Many galleries were also showing artists' videos in their booths in the main exhibition hall.
The adjacent building, Hall 1, was reserved for Art Unlimited, a space for 62 large-scale projects. This was a great and happy surprise. We expected this could go rather quickly, but we were wrong. This great hall was reserved for special installation works that were created especially for Art 42 Basel along with other huge installations from well-known and not so well-known artists, much of it contemporary and spanning five decades. We spent nearly the whole day in this giant, open hall looking at very fine sculptural works and many fine video works. Thankfully, some pieces were easy to see quickly and we could move on, or we would have needed another day.
Out of the video work, I felt that there were four very fine videos plus three others that were quite good, although we didn't have time to see all of them properly. And a few could be "gotten" in twenty seconds or less. I tried to look at these closely and in wide variety (and with an open mind, I hope), because I am also making films along with my other works. Too often I see video pieces that seem to fit the market requisites: It looks like something might develop, but it never does; or, something is filmed to be so strange and disturbing that it will satisfy your dark side or your very dark side. I find these to be short-lived in terms of their impact; therefore when I see videos with real substance, mystery, hidden meaning, imagination and great craft, I feel it is an opportunity for a meaningful, memorable and inspiring experience with the medium.
For me the really good videos seemed to be Belgian filmmaker Hans Op de Beeck's "Sea of Tranquility" (spectacular), Marianne Boesky Gallery; Lithunian filmmaker Deimantas Narkevicius's "Ausgeträumt," gb agency; American filmmaker Sarah Morris' "Points on a Line," Petzel Gallery; and Mexico City filmmaker Minerva Cuevas's "Disidencia," her multi-year project, kurimanzutto gallery. All were outstanding videos in their own way. There was also a Baldessari multi-channel video installation of an updated version of his 1968 appropriated American films, Marian Goodman Gallery.
One video was presented as entering a "no-space" and "digging into a kind of mental emptiness" so we exited the "no-space" and dug into some mentally challenging works instead. There is something for everyone. Other films seemed noteworthy, but needed more time than we could manage, such as "Kreppa Babies," Gallery Noire, by Italian filmmaking duo Masbedo who presented a five-screen rear projection social documentary. Next year, we will plan extra time for Art Unlimited.
Sculpture in Hall 1, Art Unlimited: The sculptural objects and installations were worth the whole day. Light and sound sculptures were presented in addition to the masses of stone, steel, onyx, clay, wax, bricks, cords, plastics, glass, copper, lead, wood, marble, paper, plaster, fabric, wire and other unidentified materials.
Particularly noteworthy were Carl Andre's "Napoli Rectangle" a 243-unit rectangle of squares of hot-rolled steel plates on the floor, Artiaco Gallery; Christian Andersson's multi-storied Stonehenge "To R.M. for EVER" which stood 800 cm high (26 feet), galleries von Bartha Garage et al; Dan Flavin's light tubes for barred corridors, Paula Cooper Gallery; James Turrell's "Joecar Blue" light projection, Almine Rech Gallery; Fred Sandback's "Untitled" ("Seven-part Right-angled Triangular Construction") of brilliant spatial relationships established with black acrylic yarn (a picture resembles nothing like being in the minimal, powerful space he creates), Annemarie Verna Galerie; Mario Merz's eight "igloos" of stone and metal called 74 gradini riappaiono in una crescita di geometria, Galerie Tschudi; a huge room of 101 strongly colored, yet subtle watercolor squares on white paper by Callum Innes combined with the words of writer Colm Tóibín, Frith Street Galleries; Austrian artist Ernst Caramelle's installation of wall painting and mirror that fascinated with engaging painted blocks of color on parallel walls setting up ambiguous spatial relationships and changing according to where you stood, galleries Mai 36 et al; Serbian sculptor Bojan Sarcevic's precisely worked, single monolithic block "He, 2011" of Persian onyx was very elegant and powerful, Modern Art, London. His equally beautiful companion piece, "She, 2010" was also on view at Modern Art, London, in Hall 2.
Photography was well represented in several spaces: Lewis Baltz's 84-print grid "Candlestick Point," Thomas Zander gallery; Vera Lutter, Gagosian gallery; Louise Lawler, galleries Yvonne Lambert et al; and Mark Wallinger's series "The Unconscious," galleries carlier gebauer, et al. There was a powerful one-person show by photographer Zanele Muholi from South Africa featuring her very sensitive large portraits of lesbians in South Africa who have been, or still are, victims of hate crimes. These were well-seen and well-made prints, from Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The extra large walls of Hall 1 accommodated Robert Longo's enormous and masterful charcoal on paper drawing of "Wailing Wall," Ropac gallery, 304 x 825 cm (12 x 27 ft.); equally accomplished and impressive was Alain Huck's "Tragedy or Position," four charcoal on paper panels at 271 x 400 cm each, (9 x 13 ft. each), Skopia Gallery; a photo-realistic woven tapestry "Lost Forty," an unbelievable expanse of 426 x 1475 cm (14 x 48 ft.) by Goshka Macuga, a Polish artist living and working in London, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.
On our fourth and last day, we caught an early train into Basel to see the Beyeler Collection, which is featuring a terrific Serra/Brancusi exhibition on view through the end of August. There was a large collection of works by Brancusi (approximately 40, even more than we had seen at a special Brancusi exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and many examples of his variations on a theme, and how those variations evolved over time. There was a gallery dedicated to many of Serra's black on white works on paper along with his monumental steel works. Serra makes his usual strong statement of force and power within a space, but especially powerful and impressive was a gallery with a 20-foot square steel plate suspended from the ceiling directly above the same size plate on the floor--intense!
Fondation Beyeler is located in the beautiful village of Riehen in the country on the outskirts of Basel, an easy tram ride. This spectacular private museum was founded by collectors Hildy and Ernst Beyeler and designed by Renzo Piano, and is a light-filled space that was carefully planned and executed in harmony with nature. Ernst Beyeler (1921-2010) was co-founder of Art Basel.
Early arrival at the museum (open at 10 a.m.) proved to be essential as it was exceedingly crowded by 11 a.m. The trek was most worthwhile as many pieces from the permanent collection were also on view: a particularly fine Rothko that simply manifested visible vibration in the combination and layering of its subtle colors. I've studied his work for some time and marvel to see yet another fine example. There were two stunning Van Gogh's we also had not seen before and several important Giacometti sculptures in addition to many contemporary works--Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Rauschenberg, Frank Stella and others. We're very glad our curator-friend, William Morrow, whom we had encountered at Art Basel strongly advised, "You must…" go see this exhibition and other masters in this beautiful and very special private museum, or we might have missed it.
It is enriching and informing for artists to know each other's work, whether it is to their taste or not, since we never know how these things will influence our work, but we simply keep absorbing what feels right and let the work take its course. Artists have always looked at and have been inspired by each other's work. This practice is one that is much easier for us in this century of instant information and image exchange from anywhere in the world. For artists and art lovers, attending Art Basel is one of the best ways I can think of to keep aware and vitalized.
The dates for Art 43 Basel will be June 13-17, 2012. Book hotels and flight reservations early (very early!) and don't miss this remarkable gathering of fine art, artists, gallerists, special events, presentations, and performances from around the world. It is an opportunity to have stimulating new experiences with the art and the people--and to get a peek and new insights into our changing, growing world of art.
About the Author
Paula Chamlee is a photographer and painter living in Bucks County, PA. Her photographs are collected in over 30 museums including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Art, Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and are in innumerable private collections. Six monographs of her photographs have been published. She has taught workshops in photography in the United States, Austria, Germany, Tuscany, France, England, Iceland, and Australia. She is co-owner of Lodima Press along with her husband, photographer Michael A. Smith, and they have published the photographs of many notable photographers.
Chamlee is currently working on her newest book, a series of photographs from Iceland and a series of her aerial photographs of the Texas Panhandle. Chamlee made her first film, "Flow", while in Iceland in 2006, and has a number of other films in various stages of production.
AIPAD ANNOUNCES NEW SHOW DATES
FOR 2012 AND MEMBERSHIP CHANGES
The AIPAD Photography Show, New York 2012 will be held Thursday, March 29 through Sunday, April 1 at the Park Avenue Armory.
AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers) also announced the addition of two new members: Paul Cava Fine Art Photographs of Bala Cynwyd, PA, and James Hyman Photography of London.
Deborah Bell Photographs, Barry Friedman, Ltd., and Tartt Gallery tendered resignations. Bell had closed her gallery at the end of June to join Christie's in their photographs department as VP, specialist, head of department in New York.
SECOND BENEFIT AUCTION FOR GEORGE
EASTMAN HOUSE SCHEDULED FOR OCT. 3 AT
METROPOLITAN PAVILION, NEW YORK CITY
George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film is organizing its second benefit auction of photographic objects, prints, and books, to take place in New York City at the Metropolitan Pavilion at 7 p.m. Monday, October 3. The Metropolitan Pavilion is at 125 West 18th Street.
Denise Bethel, senior vice president and director of the photographs department at Sotheby's New York, will again volunteer her services as auctioneer, as she did for last year's inaugural benefit auction, which raised more than a half-million dollars in less than two hours for Eastman House.
Among the works donated to the auction by artists, dealers, and collectors are photographs by Shelby Lee Adams, Richard Avedon, Roger Ballen, Carl Chiarenza, Mark Cohen, Barbara Crane, Walker Evans, Ralph Gibson, Robert Heinecken, Gertrude Käsebier, Andre Kertész, Robert Mapplethorpe, Steve McCurry, Barbara Morgan, Edweard Muybridge, Lori Nix, Victor Schrager, Cindy Sherman, Alec Soth, Lisa Holden, George Tice, Arthur Tress, Mitch Dobrowner, Brian Ulrich, Alex Webb, William Wegman, Michael Manheim and Jack Welpott. All items to be auctioned are donations; none are from the Eastman House collections.
The George Eastman House 2011 Benefit Auction will feature a two-day preview of the photographs, enhanced by live artist conversations moderated by Dr. Anthony Bannon, the Ron and Donna Fielding Director at George Eastman House. The conversations will feature Vito Acconci, Douglas Crimp, Arno Minkkinen, and Arthur Tress. They will take place on site at Metropolitan Pavilion between 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday, October 2, and between noon-1 p.m. on Monday, October 3.
The conversations are free and open to the public, as are the live auction and auction previews. Previews are 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, with a walk-through at 10:30 a.m. Monday. The live auction on Monday, October 3 will be preceded by a reception from 5-7 p.m. An online selection also will be available from September 26-October 7, which is organized again this year by iGavelAuctions.com.
The images feature a wide range of subjects, including iconic athletic figures such as John MacEnroe in action at the 1980 Wimbledon match, and the Kentucky thoroughbred racing legend Secretariat; artistic figures such as Frida Kahlo by Nickolas Muray and a street photograph by Bruce Weber featuring Richard Avedon in the act of making a photograph; social documentary topics, including an image of a child's dress entangled in a border fence between Israel and Egypt by Natan Dvir; plus two aerial images made by Pictometry on or around Sept. 11, 2011 of the Ground Zero site and the Statue of Liberty. Historic works will again be featured, by way of a photogravure by Frank Eugene, an ornithological study platinum print by American Photo Secessionist George H. Seeley, and several other examples.
According to iGavelAuctions.com, the 2010 online lots garnered more than 1,700 bids from an international audience of collectors. Coupled with the online component, the inaugural auction ultimately raised $650,000, making it the largest fundraiser in the museum's 64-year history. More than 300 people attended the 2010 live auction at Sotheby's. It was "the best attended auction of the season," according to Alex Novak of iPhotoCenral.com. The 2010 Eastman House Benefit Auction at Sotheby's New York was the auction house's largest charity auction in history.
"This was by far one of the best charity auctions ever presented," said Lark Mason, president and founder of iGavelAuctions.com and a retired vice president with Sotheby's. "George Eastman House's online auction was perfectly blended with the live auction component, collectively presented as a true auction exhibition at Sotheby's and with each photograph displayed with equal exposure and weight. And this is what garnered the international attention with bidders from the entire sphere of the photography world, including the United States, Europe and Asia, as they were all made aware of this sale and participated."
The challenge of the recession has required Eastman House to employ new fiscal solutions, such as this auction. Proceeds from the benefit auction help the Eastman House--the world's oldest museum of photography--maintain its extensive collections of photographs, camera technology, motion pictures and related literature, totaling more than four million objects. Eastman House also serves as an educational institution and center of preservation, offering degree-granting graduate programs in photographic and motion-picture film preservation on the site of the National Historic Landmark house, gardens, and museum.
As museums look for creative ways to raise funds, what is so impressive about this benefit is summed up by Eastman House's Anthony Bannon: "For more than 60 years George Eastman House has showcased and supported photography, and now, for this auction, we turned to the photography world to help the museum. We are overwhelmed by how enthusiastically all have embraced this effort."
To receive updates or an auction catalog, please email your contact information to email@example.com
or call 1-585-271-3361, ext. 293. Information about the venue is available at http://www.metropolitanevents.com
In addition to the generous donors of objects to the auction, sponsors of the George Eastman House Benefit Auction 2011 include iGavelAuctions.com, Sotheby's New York, Broadcliff Capital Partners and Kodak, with additional support from Photo District News, photograph, and Hanging Around Frame & Art.
AFTERNOON PROGRAM ON COLLECTING
IS PART OF THE ANNUAL SLOWEXPOSURES
PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL, WHICH RUNS
SEPT. 16-25, SOUTH OF ATLANTA, GA
By Alex Novak
OK, they (or I should say, Nancy McCrary) roped me into doing an afternoon with photography collectors and the photographer portfolio review at this, the 9th Annual SlowExposures Photograph Festival. The festival is held just south of Atlanta near Concord, GA, from September 16-25. But the more I learned about this long-running, influential and interesting non-profit program, the more enthusiastic I became. SlowExposures is an annual photography exhibit with workshops, portfolio reviews, satellite shows, collectors lecture, and a black-tie Ball--all designed to celebrate the rural South. The event raises money to benefit historically significant buildings and land in the area.
Some of my fellow participants will include famed gadfly collector, writer and curator John Bennette; noted art photographer Sylvia Plachy; curator, writer and publisher Elisabeth Avedon; gallery director Brenda Massie; photo museum curator Kevin Miller; gallery owner and AIPAD member Anna Walker Skillman; and professional photographer and designer Jerry Atnip.
If you are a photography collector (or are thinking about collecting), curator, consultant, photographer, dealer or gallery owner, it would be well worth your time (and a lot of fun besides!) to come spend a few days in mid-September in the rural countryside a quick drive south of Atlanta.
I will start with the photography collector program that I'm involved with. It will be held on Friday afternoon, September 16 beginning at 2 p.m. at the New Hebron Baptist Church, Concord, GA, with a photography approximation of the Antiques Roadshow. I think Nancy is calling it something like "Photo Roadshow". This will be for photography collectors who would like to bring their photographs for an informal evaluation and a little feedback on what they have.
Then from 3:00-5:30 p.m. we will gather together in the church for a Photography Collecting Discussion and Seminar. My plans are to make this informal enough to answer most of the group's questions about collecting, buying, donating, protecting, etc. It will also provide you with a framework and a lot of solid information to take back with you from the session that will help you focus and make more of your own collection, or help you start a collection that really speaks to your desires. This program is designed for collectors, art consultants and curators of all levels of experience.
The cost is $65 per individual or $100 per couple for the Roadshow and the Collecting Discussion and Seminar. Individual tickets to only the Collecting Discussion and Seminar are $50 per individual and $90 per couple.
The following events later that evening are also included with the purchase of one or both of these tickets: "Southern Memories; Part Two", the opening reception for a satellite photography show curated by John Bennette, from 5-7 p.m. at the Whiskey Bonding Barn, and the Collectors' Soiree at Split Oak Farm, 7 p.m. until closing. At the Soiree relax under the wide, candle-lit porches and gardens of a 1907 farmhouse. It's a casual, laid-back evening--stroll the grounds, take a dip in the pool, or cajole the horses to come up to the fence from their moon-lit pasture. Enjoy incomparable hors d'oeuvres (including the famous California tortillas) and a full bar along with the innovative and offbeat conversation and camaraderie that makes this evening one of the most anticipated events of the SlowExposures opening weekend (only for ticket holders, and comes with cost of the Collecting Discussion and Seminar).
Better yet, plan to spend the weekend in the country and join in the experience. If you are a collector, curator, dealer or art consultant and want to make a complete weekend of it, you might want to purchase what Nancy has called the "Complete Package", which includes the Photo Roadshow and Collecting Discussion and Seminar, Friday evening Collectors' Soiree, the SlowExposures Ball on Saturday evening, and Sylvia Plachey's talk, "Dancing with Ghosts", which is the Lunch and Learn photo slide show on Sunday after the Juror's Talk. The Complete Package per individual is $120, or per couple, $220. And remember that it all goes for a great cause.
The main juried photography exhibit at the R.F. Strickland Building, Concord, GA is also not to be missed with its 70 exceptional images of the rural South, which were chosen out of 745 submitted. The show's jurors were Elisabeth Biondi, Visuals Director at The New Yorker magazine, and Peter Essick, a National Geographic freelance photographer with 33 covers under his belt. They will both be there for that weekend and will give a talk on Sunday, September 18th at noon in the exhibition area.
In addition, for the photographers out there, Elizabeth Avedon headlines a workshop on creating personal, effective photo books. And an exceptional, intimate portfolio review with me, Brenda Massie, Kevin Miller, Anna Walker Skillman and Jerry Atnip will afford serious photographers an opportunity to sharpen their vision and work.
And then, finally, there is the serendipitous meeting and greeting--in a place that embodies an ineffable, genuine sense of place. To quote Nancy McCrary, the event's organizer, "It's authentic and real. We gather at receptions, at breakfast, at the Juror's Talk, and at the SlowExposures Ball. We laugh, trade stories, make new friends, and see some of the most startling, moving images imaginable that capture the American South. Come and share the experience with us."
The program schedule includes:
Friday, September 16th: Jurors award prizes. Show opens to the public at 1-5 p.m., R.F. Strickland Building, and is open for the entire weekend
Friday, September 16th: Collector's Afternoon: Photo Roadshow (ticketed event) at 2-3 p.m., the New Hebron Baptist Church, Concord, GA
Friday, September 16th: Photography Collecting Discussion and Seminar with Alex Novak (ticketed event) at 3-5:30 p.m., the New Hebron Baptist Church, Concord, GA
Friday, September 16th: Opening Reception, John Bennette's satellite show, Whiskey Bonding Barn (open to the public, free) 5-7 p.m.
Friday, September 16th: Collectors' and Sponsors' Soiree, Split Oak Farm (by invitation or with ticket to Collectors Program above) 7 p.m. until closing
Sarturday, September 17th: Portfolio Review, 9-3 p.m., Concord United Methodist Church, Fellowship Hall, (ticketed event)
Saturday, September 17th: Self-Publishing Book Workshop, 9-3 p.m., New Hebron Church, Concord, GA (ticketed event)
Saturday, September 17th: The SlowExposures Ball (ticketed event), R.F. Strickland Building, 7-11 p.m.
Sunday, September 18th: Juror's Talk (open to the public, free), noon, R.F. Strickland Building
Sunday, September 18th: Lunch and Learn with Sylvia Plachy on "Dancing with Ghosts": A pizza and slide show program, 1-3 p.m., R.F.Strickland Building (ticketed event)
Friday, September 23rd: Show opens to the public for second weekend (free), R.F.Strickland Building
Sunday, September 25th: Student's Reception
Go to http://www.slowexposures.org
for contact information, the complete schedule, event details, cost of other ticketed programs, registration form, directions, nearby hotels, non-profit support program, and show specials. Or contact Nancy McCrary at 1-706-647-8714, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
EASTMAN HOUSE DIRECTOR BANNON TO RETIRE
The director of George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film will retire next year on July 31, 2012. Dr. Anthony Bannon has held that position since 1996, previously serving as director of the Burchfield-Penney Arts Center, and director of Cultural Affairs on the campus of the State University of New York at Buffalo, both located in Buffalo, N.Y. His 15-year tenure makes him the longest-standing director in the history of the museum. An international search will begin in coming months, and Bannon will assist in the search process.
"I am totally invested in George Eastman House and its wonderful extended family, but I feel it is time," said Bannon, the Ron and Donna Fielding Director. "We have set into place a new and vigorous strategic direction, and it is time for new energy and vision to move that forward."
During Bannon's tenure the museum created three post-graduate preservation schools, alliances with museums and universities, an alliance of collectors clubs, and many of the most-attended exhibitions in the museum's 64-year history. The museum has also digitized its collections and has begun social-media campaigns to share its collections with the world.
Bannon led an effort to diversify the board of trustees, which now has more of a national focus with many members from outside the Rochester area. He also led creation of collectors clubs in large cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, and has initiated plans for satellite schools in photograph conservation in South Korea and Qatar. Under Bannon, the Eastman House auction last October at Sotheby's was the most successful fund-raising effort in the institution's history. This year's auction looks to be a repeat of that success.
Bannon plans to remain as George Eastman House Senior Scholar, a title appointed by the organization's board of trustees. He said he plans to continue working in the arts field as speaker, writer and consultant.
PHOTO BOOKS: IMPORTANT TWO-VOLUME
SET ON EUROPE PHOTOGRAPHIC HISTORY
By Matt Damsker
THE HISTORY OF EUROPEAN PHOTOGRAPHY, VOLUMES I AND II.
Vaclav Macek, editor. Published by Central European House of Photography, FOTOFO and Eyes On--Month of Photography Vienna, supported by the Department for Cultural Affairs of the City of Vienna. Hardbound, approximately 700 pages; ISBN No. 978-80-85739-55-8. Tel./Fax:+421-2-5441-8214; email: email@example.com
. Information: http://www.sedf.sk
. Cost is 99 euro per volume, plus shipping.
The immense task of chronicling a history of European photography calls for nothing less than encyclopedic rigor, and that's precisely how these two volumes approach their dense aesthetic universe. It is worth noting that, at this point, the project is focused on the 20th century and beyond, so these first volumes limit themselves to the seminal era of modernism, from 1900 to 1938, alphabetically moving from Albanian through Irish photography in Volume I, Italian through Ukrainian photography in Volume II.
Editor Vaclav Macek is well aware that defining European photography in the first place requires a point of view, and from the central European perspective of this project there has always been a struggle of perceptions, with the mainstream focus of European culture often reduced to a "map with a few big cities on it." However, this metro-centric reductivism is at best arguable, and Macek questions "whether it is possible to reduce Europe to a few metropolitan areas, where the decisive impulses are still taking place, followed by multiple echoes, that become weaker, the closer you get to the geographical outskirts of Europe…"
To him and to the contributors to this encyclopedia, "The transformation of Europe into a 'skeleton' deforms the picture of development…this book is clearly about the problem of hierarchy." That said, the anti-hierarchical approach thus taken is to catalogue, country by country, without favoring the obvious front-runners. We can ask whether it makes sense to devote 20 pages to Estonian or Portuguese photography and not too much more than 20 pages or so to French or British photography, but the issue of quantity versus cultural influence soon enough fade as we read these thoughtful and well-researched essays that are careful to connect the uniquely cross-bred socio-political and cultural contexts of each country to their photographic output.
Importantly, the various photographic examples make their case strongly, and are well-reproduced in four-color glory on quality matte paper, with clean, engaging graphic design, thorough annotation and footnoting that make each chapter easy to follow and encourages further independent exploration. One would expect nothing less from a grand project such as this, but that's not to be taken for granted. Still, the discrete, country-by-country format is challenged to present the sort of richly cross-referenced historiography we might pine for, and so these individuated chapters may lead us to wonder why Pictorialism, for example, played no role in Slovak photography when it was flourishing not so far afield. Ultimately and inevitably, quibbles and dangling questions are all but guaranteed by this encyclopedic approach, and they should be viewed more as an invitation to more scholarship and discussion, not as a systemic failure.
Thus, the sheer documentary and compositional power of such unfamiliar gems as Dutch photographer Emmy Andriesse's 1938 street view of two "Negro Students in the Quartier Latin, Paris" sweeps away any misguided sense we might have that only the likes of Atget, Brassai or Lartigue were doing great work in the City of Lights at that time. Andriesse was clearly drawn to an image of liberté-egalité-fraternité that outclasses the prevailing-class iconography of her French peers. Indeed, the two well-dressed students are viewed with a slant framing that suggests their exoticism on the Boulevard Saint-Michel while at the same time enhancing their noble bearing. It is an unforgettable photo.
It is no surprise that the power of these volumes resides in such discoveries, all of which remind us of the depth and richness of European modernism. Thus, the chapter on Romanian photography becomes almost emblematic of the trans-European essence of the medium, despite the myriad national borders and political winds that swept from every side.
For example, Etienne Lonyai's 1910 gelatin silver print of a dozing "Princess Marie of Romania," seated on a leopard rug , surrounded by domestic grace notes, is a brilliant study of royal languor, while Alexandru Bellu's 1900 image of "Peasants Fording a Stream" is equally beautiful at the opposite end of the social spectrum. And to its credit, the chapter reminds us that Romania's greatest artist--and father of modern sculpture-- Constantin Brancusi, also left us fine photographic documents of such seminal works as his "Endless Column" in Targu Jiu.
If anything, the triumph of this encyclopedia may well lie in the balance and restraint with which the various chapter authors make their cases, and in the sublimely well-chosen photographic examples that bolster each chapter. Indeed, the years of classic modernism were nothing if not deeply divided by political reality even as Europe's photographers began to cross-pollinate aesthetically. It takes an omnibus project such as this to connect us meaningfully and in context to, for example, the strains of surrealism and social realism that differentiated Spanish photography from its Russian counterpart. It seems, in fact, a near-impossible task, but here it is--the multiform world of modern Europe compressed into an entertaining, enlightening atlas.
Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published in the fall of 2005.
(Book publishers, authors and photography galleries/dealers may send review copies to us at: I Photo Central, 258 Inverness Circle, Chalfont, PA 18914. We do not guarantee that we will review all books or catalogues that we receive. Books must be aimed at photography collecting, not how-to books for photographers.)
PHOTO NEWS SHORTS
TANNENBAUM MOVES TO CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART
Barbara Tannenbaum has taken over as the next curator of photography for the Cleveland Museum of Art. Her appointment follows the 2010 retirement of the highly respected Tom Hinson, who held the post for over 38 years. That makes Tannenbaum only the second curator of photography in the museum's history. Tannenbaum was formerly the director of curatorial affairs at the Akron Art Museum and held the post since 2007. In this role, she was responsible for supervising curatorial and exhibition staff, collections management and the library. Before this post, she served as chief curator and head of public programs at the Akron Art Museum. Tannenbaum is well-published and has written extensively on photography and contemporary art. Most recently, she edited and co-published the book, "Detroit Disassembled", now in its third printing. She also served as editor and principal essayist for "Ralph Eugene Meatyard: An American Visionary", author and editor of "Ohio Perspectives: Five Sculptors" and essayist for "System and Sensation: Sol Lewitt's Wall Drawing" for the Akron Art Museum. The Cleveland Museum of Art's photography collection covers the history of the medium, which began in 1839. It is a carefully selected and balanced collection of over 5,000 images of the highest quality, representing many of the medium's major movements, including numerous inventive figures.
BLOOMBURY LONDON SOLD TO DREWEATTS
The Fine Art Auction Group, holding company for the Dreweatts and BCVA auction businesses, has acquired the London-based Bloomsbury Auctions business from Bloomsbury Auctions Ltd, consolidating the co-marketing alliance that has been in place between the two firms since October 2009. The acquisition of the Bloomsbury business is being effected through a newly-formed subsidiary which assumes all the current trade of the Bloomsbury Auctions business. Bloomsbury Auctions will continue to operate in tandem with Dreweatts and, working together, both will further expand their now integrated portfolio of services to the UK and European fine art and collectors markets. Bloomsbury Auctions Italia is not being acquired in the transaction and will continue to trade as Bloomsbury Auctions in Italy under a franchise arrangement.
MANG JOINS B&B IN L.A.
Lauren E. Mang has just been hired as the specialist in the photographs department at Bonhams and Butterfields in Los Angeles, under Judith Eurich. The auction company's next sale is Tuesday, November 1, 2011 in New York (56th/Madison Avenue) and the spring sale is in May 2012.
BAUDOIN LEBON GALLERY MOVES
Baudoin Lebon Gallery has moved as of August 1 to Carreau du Temple, 8 rue Charles François Dupuis in the third arrondissement of Paris. The new gallery is in the same Marais neighborhood and now has two levels. Its telephone numbers remain unchanged.
VANESSA WINSHIP AWARDED CARTIER-BRESSON PRIZE
Just a year after receiving the Descubrimientos PHE prize, British photographer Vanessa Winship has received the Henri Cartier-Bresson Prize, which is awarded biannually by the foundation. The jury, composed of seven influential figures in the world of photography, has awarded the prize for Winship’s upcoming project entitled “Out there: An American Odyssey.” The artist was given 30,000 euro to produce the new work. Once Winship has completed her American Odyssey project, the photographs will be exhibited at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in spring of 2013.
NEW 2012 EXPOSITION CHICAGO LAUNCHED
Former Vice-President of Art Chicago Tony Karman has announced the launch of a new fair entitled “Exposition Chicago”. The new fair will be held 2012 in the Festival Hall at Navy Pier, Chicago, IL, from September 19-23. The fair will consist of a hundred international galleries specializing in design, photography, modern and contemporary art, as well as new media. The event is supported by Art Expositions LLC, an organization run by Karman.
MAJOR COLLECTOR HOWARD STEIN PASSES
AWAY DUE TO STROKE AND COMPLICATIONS
Howard Stein, one of the top photography collectors in the world and a former chief of the Dreyfus Corp., died of complications due to stroke at his home in Southampton, NY at the age of 84.
Stein, who the New York Times called "one of the fathers of the mutual fund industry", served on the Presidential Task Force on Market Mechanisms, which investigated the market crash of October 19, 1987 and which later became known as Black Monday. It was an ironic appointment given that Stein himself had avoided the crash because he felt that stocks were overvalued at the time.
He worked for numerous liberal causes, including joining with John Gardner to create Common Cause, the citizens' lobby group, and acting as chief fund-raiser for Senator Eugene J. McCarthy's antiwar presidential campaign.
AIPAD dealer Lee Marks of Lee Marks Fine Art, LLC shared some of her observations of the man that she worked with closely for nearly 22 years as his photography consultant and friend. She had met Howard Stein in 1989 through the photographer Hiro.
"Howard was a very quick study. He seemed to sense quality and rarity almost intuitively and didn't shrink from paying for it...of course, and at times, after a bit of bargaining.
"Before discovering the Internet, Howard loved to look physically at the photographs in his collection. He devised a system of arranging them in themed groupings of five works, often assigning a quote to the group that gave it resonance for him. He was always fine-tuning these groups through new acquisitions or just re-installations on the chair-rail in his collection room.
"Shortly after he began collecting, he made a point of meeting and getting to know leaders in the field, whether curators like John Szarkowski, or writers, or dealers. He wasn't particularly social, in fact a little on the shy side in person, but he loved the telephone and would call someone up out of the blue and talk at length, grilling them about their mutual interests."
Stein is survived by his wife Janet; his daughters, Julia Stokien, Jocelyn Hayes, Jessica Levine, Joanna Stein and Jennifer Seay; and six grandchildren.
As Marks added, "He will be much missed."