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Current News             Issue Archive             Article Archive E-Photo Newsletter   Issue 52   1/13/2003

Paris Photo: Part One

Perhaps I am getting jaded after all this time, but I felt that some aspects of Paris Photo were getting a bit "mature." I was not as excited by the material as in past years, especially the vintage items, which were largely very expensive by today's market standards.

But then maybe I am getting a bit weary, because when I met Christie's Amanda Doenitz, she just about bubbled over with enthusiasm for Paris Photo and the work on exhibit. Perspective is very important.

I suspect that there was indeed a similar amount of exciting material--even if at very stiff prices. The dollar's drop from its high of last year made everything look 20% more expensive even if there was no increase (a rarity unfortunately) in the "real" price of an item. I find myself selling much more to Europeans now than at any time previously, because my prices are now usually well under European dealer prices.

When I had visited Amsterdam the previous week for Sotheby's auction there, a taxi driver told me how a little gas station had hiked their coffee during the guilder-to-euro conversion from a half guilder to one and a half euros (about triple the cost). He may be lucky. I have seen plenty of cafes in Paris now selling small cups of café for 2-1/2 to 3 euros. They call it euro-inflation or euro-creep. The governments say it only amounts to an overall increase of 2%; everyone else says it has had at least an 8-15% impact.

Likewise some of my most reasonable sources were selling the same identical image this year for 2-1/2 times the cost of last year's price. Fortunately most dealers realize that this will not fly, although there was one notorious try at this at auction (more on this in the next newsletter). Part of the problem is the drop in the dollar and rounding up in the conversion to euros. And part of the problem is simply a dearth of good material being available. Some of the problem is greed at the source as families, estates and originating dealers see higher prices at auctions and elsewhere as a cause to raise prices to gallery or higher levels. And some is a lack of understanding of the changing dynamics of the marketplace. Business has slowed down in the U.S. but some of the European sources have not quite got the message yet, although the last set of auctions in Paris should have been a wake-up call.

Perhaps the other cause of my jaded view was the numbers game that Paris Photo continues to maintain. It seems to get more and more ridiculous each year. Clearly the show's attendance appears to have dropped off slightly post-9/11 in 2001 and 2002 (as has most shows), but the show organizers say that attendance is soaring--going up another 5,000 this year to over 40,000 people. But they count people going through each day multiple times. If you go out to lunch and come back, you are counted again. It is a silly game that serves little purpose except one-upsmanship. It is clear, however, that Paris Photo gets more attendance (not necessarily buyers) than any other photography show.

Certainly Americans were in short supply again this year, but the Europeans were filling in, and--for once--actually buying a little. Most dealers that I talked to did pretty well, especially if they kept their prices in line.

The Polaroid collection exhibit of Ansel Adams' work, mostly unique Polaroids that he made from the 1950s through the late 1970s, was an interesting take on Adams as an "experimenter," although the primary reason for the exhibit might have been to help market the collection for the company.

On the show floor itself, exhibitors displayed a broad array of material--both contemporary and vintage.

Several Americans were back exhibiting, including NYC gallery owner Julie Saul. Saul exhibited large color work by Didier Massard.

Alain Paviot displayed a good copy of Charles Marville's Bois de Boulogne album, as well as some interesting Brassai's.

Csaba Morocz actually put up two different exhibits during the show. The first was Austrian between-the-wars photography and the second was Rene Groebil's sensuous and yet intelligent "OEuvres," a series of studies of his wife on their honeymoon.

Lawrence Miller Gallery exhibited work by Helen Levitt, including a 1944 film by Levitt and James Agee called "In the Street."

Krisal Galerie displayed the work of Philippe Pache, which largely consisted of incredibly expensive life-size crotch shots in full color.

Hans Kraus exhibited a number of paper negatives, as well as a fine display of images attributed to Ross & Thomson. One fantasy scene I particularly liked.

Spanish bookseller and gallery Kowasa Gallery showed some very rare fressons by Jose Ortiz Echague, as well as a very scarce group of Middle Eastern material, including some James Graham. Thanks again, Hubert, for bringing me a copy of the Clifford book. Kowasa's bookstore can be found on-line at: www.kowasa.com .

I didn't quite know what to make of Edwynn Houk Gallery's exhibition of Francesca Woodman, one of my favorite contemporary photographers. Woodman committed suicide and her work is quite scarce and expensive. It was a shock to see a whole booth devoted to Woodman, but then a second shock hit me when I learned that all of the haunting images were being made now, well after her death.

Michael Hoppen Gallery had the photograph that truly tempted me, but I was a bit late (I only asked about it the day before the show opened). The image in question was a fabulous vintage print by Robert Frank, which Hoppen claimed to be the first printing of that image. It had great presence and a price tag to match, and was sold with three back-up buyers to boot. Who says there's a recession? Not when it comes to such images. Hoppen had a number of photos that provided eye candy, including the Gjon Mili image of Dancers that he featured in the Paris Photo catalogue, perhaps the most interesting Mili photograph that I have seen. Again with a price tag to match.

Gallerie Laurent Herschtritt had a great exhibition that was out of this world--literally. His displays of the Moon sold out quickly, as did the images of lightning. I just wish he could get Lewis Morris Rutherford's name right.

Howard Greenberg Gallery just keeps putting up walls with killer images. It is always a pleasure to see what they have brought. Likewise David Fleiss of Galerie 1900-2000 always puts up some stunning between-the-wars material. The father of this father-son team Marcel Fleiss says they will probably not change the name considering that they mostly sell vintage material. I bought a wonderful ethereal Man Ray of the Eiffel Tower from 1925, which just cleared licensing. The booth was very active. David had a great buy in the closet of all places: a very reasonably priced Manuel Bravo, Obrero en Huelga, Asesinado, perhaps the most reasonably priced important Bravo I have seen since he died. It was not a vintage print, and so David relegated it to the closet.

Michele Chomette may have had the top 19th-century images at the fair. But which one? She had two stunning Paul Emile Miot's, plus several other major pieces. Her 20th-century material was also pretty good. I didn't see any 150-euro pictures this year.

In my estimation, Hypnos Gallery showed some of the most reasonably priced 19th-century (and early 20th-century) work of the fair, and this material included some big names, such as Le Gray (possibly a unique view), Baldus, Watkins and others.

German dealer Daniel Blau had some nice salt prints up on his walls. Blau is producing a series of small catalogues.

The Di Maria brothers had some nice Misonnes and an American pictorialist by the name of R. L. Sleeth, who produced some very interesting work of NYC. But prices seemed higher than in NYC for both.

Outside of Paris Photo, there was some interesting action. The Orsay devoted the first permanent space to photography with the first exhibit drawing from its own collection. The two Henri Victor Regnault images were marvelous, as, of course, was the Charles Negre of the Stryge. The Atget that was chosen left me a little confused, considering that the museum undoubtedly has many other superior images.

Also during Paris Photo, Bruno Tartarin and Galerie Zero, l'Infiniti opened their new joint gallery space just off the Place d'Italie. The space is clean and the show was eclectic. Each dealer will alternate shows in the space, which is a nice idea.

Marc Pagneux had a fine 19th and 20th-century exhibition in his gallery near Drouot. I particularly liked his Imogen Cunningham of a Japanese Artist and Emmanuel Mangel du Mesnil's Pifferari with Repast.

Finally, there was a lot of buzz around Didier Dezandre's exhibition of an 1850s album put together by Roger Comte du Manoir, who was one of the many founders of the S.F.P. I had actually purchased two images from this album last June at Bievres that were by Comte Aguado. But Didier rebuffed other deals so that he could put together a show that would "put him on the map" so to speak. He researched the album and produced a very good catalogue of the work, and showed it at a friend's Paris antique furniture and glass gallery before and during Paris Photo. The material was quite erratic in quality, ranging from important and rich to washed out and boring. The best work was clearly by Aguado. Du Manoir himself came across as an average amateur that occasionally lucked out. He did not appear to be a very good technician, but that was the appeal to some. The material was rare, but, then again, you could say that about a lot of photography.

The best of the lot were very fine images, but Didier had put price tags on the work that were aggressive to the extreme. I reviewed the material just before the show opened with collector Michael Sachs, who had a problem seeing what all the fuss was about. Frankly, except for one or two images, so did I. German dealer Daniel Blau scooped up the two best images of the show by making a deal with Dezandre, who broke his own promise not to sell before the opening (although he had apparently already done so even before the exhibition).

In typical fashion, not to be outdone, other dealers and collectors rushed over to the shop during Paris Photo to make small purchases. In the end, Dezandre did very well on his album that he had bought out in the French countryside at a very steep price. My congratulations to him on a job well done.

PARIS PHOTO: PART TWO--NEXT NEWSLETTER

Photo LA Coming Up This Week: a Preview

The next big photo fair up is Photo LA 2003. The 12th annual Los Angeles International Photographic Print Exposition, will be held this week, January 16th-19th, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica, CA. This is the 12th anniversary of the photography exposition, which has become a world-class event. Approximately 70 galleries and private dealers from over 30 cities, as well as galleries from Denmark, France, Canada, the Czech Republic and Russia, will exhibit thousands of images. Vintage Works, Ltd., one of our companies, will be exhibiting at the show and we will be bringing numerous masterworks. Look for us in booth 30. If we are slow in answering your email, this show will be the reason why.

The Thursday opening night preview and reception will be hosted by Joe Mantegna. Joe Mantegna, has appeared in numerous films including Liberty Heights, Searching for Bobby Fischer, House of Games, Alice, The Godfather III, Bugsy, and the cable original feature The Rat Pack, for which he was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe. His television roles include starring in First Monday and the miniseries The Last Don, for which he was nominated for an Emmy. Mantegna is an avid photo enthusiast and supporter of the arts. The preview will benefit the Photographic Arts Council of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has one of the major collections of photography in the United States Preview tickets are $40 each and ordering information is available at 323-937-5525. There will be no tickets available at the box office except on a "Will Call" basis.

Lecturers include photographers Debbie Fleming Caffery, Jock Sturgis, Lauren Greenfield, Bruce Davidson and Wim Wenders. The cost is $5 per lecture. Advance registration is highly suggested.

There will be on-site collecting seminars with leading collectors Manfred Heiting, Leland Rice and Michael Wilson. This is an opportunity to view the exposition with a small group led by an expert in the field. Seminar tickets are $65 per seminar and include a three-day pass to the exhibition.

Public hours for the expo are Thursday, January 16th, 6-9 pm (the special charity reception for LACMA at $40 per ticket), Friday and Saturday, January 17th and 18th, 12-7 pm, and Sunday, January 19th, 12-6 pm. Tickets for the event are $15 for one day and $25 for three days and can be purchased at the door. Readers of this newsletter can take $5 off of the one-day ticket, or $8 off of the three-day ticket by showing this page at the ticket booth.

For more information on the show, go to the I Photo Central Calendar of Events section at http://www.iphotocentral.com/calendar/calendar.php and click on the Photo LA banner.

Trying to Solve Its Woes, Sotheby's Sells NYC Headquarters and Hikes Its Premium Again

In an obvious effort to aid its serious financial problems, Sotheby's has agreed to sell its NYC headquarters for $175 million to RFR Holding, LLC. The Company will lease back the building, widely regarded as a white elephant and a drain on Sotheby's, from RFR Holding for a period of up to 40 years, which includes renewals. The building had been the brainchild of disgraced former Chairman A. Alfred Taubman.

Sotheby's president, William Ruprecht says that Sotheby's pursued the sale "as a means of financing to provide long-term liquidity for our business. It will also allow Sotheby's to pay down $100 million in short-term debt as well as antitrust fines, which strengthens our balance sheet." Ruprecht added: "Sotheby's expects to report a gain on the sale of the building in the range of $25 million, which will be amortized over the initial term of the lease as required by the relevant accounting rules."

I think if you do the math, you will realize how much "long-term liquidity" Sotheby's will get from this sale. This is still a company in need of a deep-pocketed buyer who can get them through this recession that our President keeps telling us is over.

In other action to shore up the embattled company and further bad news for auction buyers, Ruprecht also hiked the buyer's premium once again, effective January 10 (just in time for Sotheby's new photo auction in February). The hike is effective for all sales in New York, London and Geneva.

The buyer's premium will be 20% of the hammer price on the first $100,000/£70,000/SF170,000 and 12% on any amount over those levels. Previously, the buyer's premium was 19.5% on hammer prices up to $100,000/£70,000/SF170,000 and 10% on everything above those levels.

We will await Christie's and Phillips' non-collusive response.

Just as an aside, Sotheby's and Christie's can't seem to find my records for their court-directed settlement. Odd that, especially considering that they sent me papers noting my activity in the first place. Seems like the management of the two major houses want to continue to play hardball with all their customers. That's not exactly helping to build future goodwill.

Three More French Auctions in January, One in April

While I am not very enthusiastic to see any more auctions right now in the market, which has been flooded with them recently, I will mention three catalogue photography auctions set for late January in France, especially since they are interesting and run by three experts that I respect and value as good friends. The catalogues are available as noted below, and there may be charges involved when ordering from auction houses directly. Remember that France is six hours before Eastern Standard Time.

On January 22nd, Millon & Associates will hold a photo auction of 19th and 20th century material. Christophe Goeury is the expert and he can be reached at ChristopheGoeury@hotmail.com or at 33-1- 42-54-16-83. Remember to dial the international connection in front of this number (in the U.S. that is usually 011). The auction will be held at Drouot and can be previewed there the day before (or January 13-17 at the auction house). You probably will want to give Goeury your information prior to the auction, because this house is notorious for not calling bidders who reserve phones. His English is quite good. No credit cards accepted here.

On January 24th, Pierre Berge & Associates (a new name in auctioneers for photography) will hold its 19th century (and some 20th century) photo auction. The interesting things here are the rare Frederick Fiebig calotypes of India and Ceylon and the very good Baldus images from a fine but broken PLM album. The expert is Marc Pagneux. Pagneux can be reached at marc.pagneux@image-culte.com or at +33-1-42-46-84-04. The auction will be held at Drouot and can be previewed there the day before (or early by appointment at Pagneux gallery near Drouot). Pagneux is just starting to learn English, but his wife Bridget has excellent English. I am not sure of the credit card policy of this house, but there is no indication of acceptance in the catalogue.

On January 25th, Galerie de Chartres will hold its 19th century photo auction. The key material here is an important group of positives and negatives by De Clercq. While previewing, I had the pleasure of having lunch at Auctioneer Jean-Pierre Lelievre's lovely apartment in old Chartres. His wife and family were delightful hosts. The expert here is Arnaud Delas. Delas can be reached at hypnos@hypnos-photo.com or at +33-1-45-44-99-71. His English is excellent.

I will be happy to provide expert advice and bidding for any clients. My charge is $250 minimum against 5% of the total hammer price. You can call me on my mobile this coming week at 1-215-518-6962 or by email at anovak@comcat.com . If you have never bid in a European auction, I would highly suggest that you also read my article The Insider's Guide To Buying Photographs at the I Photo Central website, which you can see at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/collecting/collecting.php .

Also coming up in April in Paris (sounds like an old song, no?) is the auction of the contents of noted surrealist poet and writer Andre Breton's cramped Montmartre apartment. CamelsCohen is the auction house, which will set some kind of record when they take over the entire first floor of Drouot from April 1-18. The Photography catalogue is 60 euros; the boxed set of all six catalogues (manuscripts, books, folk art, primitive art, modern art and photographs) is 280 euros. The auction house can be reached at 33-1-47-70-38-89 or at contact@camelscohen.com . The photography auction will be held over a three-day period April 15-17. The expert here is David Fleiss, who can be contacted at gal1900@club-internet.fr or at +33-1-43-25-84-20.

ANOTHER CATALOG OF NOTE

My friend French book and photo dealer Serge Plantureux publishes a thick catalogue usually once (or even twice) a year. The latest is nearly an inch thick and is entitled La Route de la Photographie: Cent Propositions pour une Collection. The 100 items are indeed fun and typically eclectic. The price is usually 30 euros plus postage (not inconsiderable considering the weight), but Serge will sell it for only $30 inclusive of shipping for readers of the newsletter that mention they saw it here. Serge and his assistants have decent English (as well as many other languages as well). You can call him with your credit card number at +33-1-53-29-92-00. His email is plantu@noos.fr .

New Special Exhibits Up On I Photo Central Website; Plus Addition of Over 175 New Photos.

We have just posted up over 175 new vintage photographs to I Photo Central and many are very important master works by top photographers. Included in the group are the following names: Aguado, Albin-Guillot (a significant portion of her archive), Asman, Atget, Aubrey, Baldus, Bing, Bourke-White, Bulhak (a very strong group), Cameron, Cunningham, De LaGrange, De Meyer, Drtikol, Du Camp, Dugdale, Durandelle, Walker Evans, Freiberger, Gething, Groll, Lauschman, Le Gray, Le Prat, Le Secq, Mangel du Mesnil, Marville, Misonne, Nadar, Negre, Penn, Petit, Pluschow, Puyo, Revesz-Biro, Ross & Thomson, Rossler, Sexton, Siskind, Steiner, Sudek, Tabard, Uelsmann, Von Gloeden, and Weston.

The Mangel du Mesnil is particularly significant, beautiful and rare. The Nadar is one of two recent salt portrait masterpieces that we have purchased. The Cameron may be a unique image of Hatty Campbell. The De Meyer is a lovely image at the height of his powers. The Negre's are wonderful images of the pifferari, plus another self-portrait. The Le Gray and Le Secq's are unique and very rare waxed paper negatives of important views. The Tabard and Steiner prints are negative prints that stun and amaze me. There is considerable treasure here in this latest group to go up on the site.

To see the newer additions, just go to the website's search page at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/search.php and use the drop down menu of the TIME FRAME OF POSTING to select the past month and then hit the SEARCH button to see these new additions.

We also recently put two more Special Exhibits up on the site: Maurice Georges Chanu: Paris and the Seine and Jan Bulhak: Father of Modern Polish Photography. They are well worth visiting to see the work of these little-known, but highly-deserving-of-your-attention photographers. You can see them and eight other special website shows at http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase.php .

You will also find an unedited and expanded interview which I had with Photographie International's publisher Jean-Luc Pons in the Collecting Issues & Resources section of the site at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/collecting/collecting.php . We covered a lot of important issues relating to photography collecting and dealing.

And we continue to change photographs on many of the on-line exhibitions and to update and add to many of the Collecting Issue articles.