PARIS APRIS JAMMES: REVIEW OF PARIS PHOTO, THE PARIS AUCTIONS AND MAJOR EXHIBITS
PARIS: POST-JAMMES SALE
In mid-November the focus of the Photo Art World, particularly this year, shifted to Paris. Paris Photo--the largest photography fair in Europe, three photo auctions, and some spectacular museum and gallery shows turned the spotlight on this otherwise cold and rainy city.
Paris Photo has matured and developed into one of the premier venues for this market in the world. In its first year (1997) the show took up only one wing of Le Carrousel du Louvre and had only 45 exhibitors. Last year it took over both wings and had 85 exhibitors. This year there were 80 booths, but exhibitors took bigger space, leaving some dealers on the waiting list.
Held this year from November 17 to November 21, Paris Photo was a sparkling combination of bustling dealer booths and two large-scale theme exhibits--this year focusing on fashion in photography.
While it is inevitable to draw parallels to AIPAD's February show in New York City, this show is quite different in tone, style and execution. It is frankly more exhilarating for an attendee, but perhaps less profitable for an exhibitor. Housed in the sky-lighted and much more spacious quarters of the Carousel area with its wonderful high ceilings, the show seems to soar in more ways than one over the more staid, claustrophobic (because of the low ceilings at the NY Hilton) and predictable New York event. Paris' noisy, more boisterous crowds also struck more of a note of a large party than the normal restrained flow in New York. Dealers were serving up champagne and dessert wines in the booths, as well as the main course on the walls. It was fun and people were truly enjoying themselves.
There is also little of the repetitious quality of the NYC show; after all, how many Sally Manns, Ansel Adams, Tom Barils, etc. does one really want to see--no matter how fine the photographer? While the emphasis is very much on the contemporary photography scene, Paris celebrates "Viva la Difference!" And much of the contemporary work is more experimental--closer to the cutting edge. I can't recall seeing the same contemporary work twice, although I saw relatively rare vintage material replicated several times--to the chagrin of several dealers. There were actually three Rudolf Koppitz Bewegungsstudie's at the show. Howard Greenberg's copy was perhaps the best of the three to this observer, but it was another copy that sold first. And two dealers (NY Gallery Michael Senft and Paris dealer Marion Meyer) both showed variants of Man Ray's Trompe l'oeuf and pictured the similar (but different) images in their Paris Photo catalogue listings.
There were a few booths that presented the work of only one photographer. Paris dealer Serge Plantureux exhibited extremely rare work by Raul Hausmann, French Dadaist extraordinaire, including two self-portraits. It was Hausmann who once remarked: "I am not a photographer, I am an abstract painter." Most of the work shown were nudes, but the important piece "The Wood Demon", a photo of the roots of a tree with the background painted in India ink, was a magical departure.
Meanwhile Karl Lagerfeld left his rather large ego for the TV cameras stalking him at the Fair and chose to show the photographic work of a relatively unknown Japanese modernist Iwao Yamawaki, an architect who left Japan in 1930 for the Bauhaus school in Germany. Some of the work was intriguing, but in typical Lagerfeld style, there were no prices to be had.
Zur Stockeregg assembled what they called "44 photographic masterpieces from 1900 to 1950" under the title "Essence", in order to celebrate the gallery's 20th anniversary. And it was a pretty impressive group. By the way, prices on those Herbert Bayer's that failed to go in Christie's NYC auction are now double the reserves (about a half million dollars a piece for the top ones).
I found myself intrigued by the work of Hiroshi Osaka at Picture Photo Space Inc.'s booth, whose eye-stopping large-scale nudes were some of the most successful new contemporary images at Paris Photo.
Rik Gadella, the show's director, kindly took time out of his insane schedule to talk about the show and its future. He feels the show has "confirmed photography is being taken seriously," noting "it is a landmark year for photography in general." And he pointed out that "the show is the only real European venue for photography."
Gadella also feels the show is finding its audience: "Many of the young people who hadn't bought anything in the past were back again--and this time buying! It's exciting for us to expose a whole new group of people to photography collecting. It's easier (meaning more reasonable) to start in photography than other fields of collecting, such as paintings."
Many of the dealers confirm this. London dealer Michael Hoppen praised the show as "the premier photography show in the world." Hoppen claimed with some reason, "If you have something on the walls that is truly unique, it will sell." To prove the point, he himself sold a full wall of variants of Robert Doisneau's "The Glance" and was doing well with a broad mix of vintage and contemporary prints.
American Edwynn Houk told me that it took him several shows to find the right mix for the show. He noted he sells mostly reasonably priced contemporary to the largely French audience, and when he does sell a more expensive vintage piece, it is usually to a German or American buyer, or to a museum. He said he's seen a major increase in attendance since the show began and agreed the show has had a significant effect on exposing and educating the French market to photography collecting.
Some of the Europeans who sold vintage material reported that other dealers often bought the images, with perhaps only 40% going to collectors.
AIPAD Executive Director and Washington DC Gallery Owner Kathleen Ewing said with an envious tone to her voice, "the space was spectacular." She noted that New York City had no equivalent venue unfortunately. Ewing said that the "quality of the audience is very high and I'm impressed with the attendance. We've sold just a little bit of everything--a few expensive items and a lot of less expensive ones." Ewing also noted that the market for photography was still growing here: "This seems a more educated audience than in past years."
New York Dealer Julie Saul told me she was extremely pleased with the response for her artists and had sold multiple images in both the low and mid-range of prices.
And Vickie Harris of NY's Lawrence Miller Gallery told me she had "a sense the fair has been good for us. The traffic has been constant since the opening reception." She gave the show's sometimes inadequate lighting a backwards compliment by noting that "the bad lighting actually works well with the particular artists and work that we're showing."
She was not the only one to note shortcomings that will clearly need to be addressed for the show to continue as Europe's key photographic venue. One London dealer told me booths and lighting were still being set up in some areas of the exhibition halls just hours before the show opened on Wednesday, throwing exhibitors' plans right out the window.
But such headaches are perhaps inevitable and Gadella is already planning bigger and better things. He is launching two other shows around the themes of food and design, which he thinks will help to complement the photography show. He promises to seek out ways of using the venues to bring even more new blood into photography collecting.
And he has already picked out next year's show theme: "The Self Portrait".
This year's theme: "Fashion & Photography" was beautifully represented in the large scale installations from the private collections of Pierre Berge, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Claude Deloffre and Lothar Shirmer shown in the Salon, as well as the exhibition on fashion put up by the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie (more about this institution later).
For me there was only one thing missing at Paris Photo: its greatest promoter--Harry Lunn, who is still listed as honorary member of the show's exhibitor committee. It was Lunn who pushed the event as much as Gadella himself. So despite the noisy crowds, the halls sometimes seemed silent without his gruff voice and commanding presence.
AN EXHIBIT SCHEDULE NOT TO BE MISSED
If there was a "must-see" on the list of photography exhibits in Paris, it had to be "Une Passion Francaise" drawn from the photography collection of Paris Match Magazine Director Roger Therond. Taking up three floors of la Maison Europeenne de la Photographie and displaying 245 photographs, this show runs through January 9, 2000 and is itself worth taking a trip to Paris. Therond has an extensive collection of the entire pantheon of 19th and 20th century French photographic masters. His great Le Grays (some from the rare Egyptian series), Teynards, Tabards, Marvilles, Lartigues, Nadars, etc. were largely stunning in their condition and print quality. I was reminded of Sotheby's Philippe Garner's comment in the last newsletter about never having seen as fine a Le Gray "Grande Vague" as the one in the Jammes' sale. Well, he and you should visit Paris soon and see the one in the Therond collection. Considering Therond was born in Sete, it shouldn't come as a surprise. What is a surprise is the hundreds of other fabulous images--many of them from lesser-known artists, such as Marseille master Adolphe Terris. For more information on the museum go to:
And, if you can't make it to Paris (or even if you can), you'll want to place your order for the huge (and expensive but worth it) catalogue/book of this exhibit. I understand NYC book dealer Fred Pajerski will be getting in copies to sell soon. He can be reached at 212-255-6501 (leave a message if necessary) or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The "must" on the gallery circuit is the exhibit of 1850s Louis Robert calotype negative and positive pairs at Baudoin Lebon, which continues on to January 8, 2000. These are incredible rareties, and to see nearly a hundred of them in one place is just astounding. It will never happen again.
It was also at Baudoin Lebon's booth at Paris Photo that I was fortunate to see several other early French masterworks, including a woman's side portrait by Olympe Aguado (the rear version is the famous cover of the Waking Dream), a marvelous Marville and a great outdoor still life by Robert's mentor Victor Regnault.
Except for Baudoin, A l'Omage du Grenier sur l'Eau and Arnaud Delas' Hynos Gallery, there was little 19th century material worth speaking of, with the first two also showing 20th century images. It is a big gap that Gadella and the show need to fill and with more than just one player, but will there be an audience for it here? Delas did sell a Le Gray Chalon panorama at the show. And A l'Omage du Grenier sur l'Eau sold some wonderful and very large carbon prints of sculpture by Braun.
Over at the Orsay Museum, the exhibit to see was the display on the Comtesse de Castiglione. An Italian aristocrat living in Paris, glittering lioness of the Second Empire, and Napoleon III's mistress, the "divine comtesse" later lived as a recluse, going out only by night, veiled in black. With Pierre Louis Pierson's help, she became her own photographer. Some 500 images celebrate her costumes, her body, and her attitudes, with a surprisingly modern approach. You might say she was the 19th century Cindy Sherman. The other related exhibit at the Orsay is "Theatre in the 1860s as witnessed by Eugène Disdéri". These two programs run through January 23, 2000.
AND THEN THERE WERE THE AUCTIONS
The November auctions provided the bookends to the week's activities.
Millon & Robert opened the week off. Its two big prints were from the 1930s. The first was a vintage Henri Cartier-Bresson print of the Carousel, 1934. It broke just over into its estimated range at 155,000 French Francs plus premium of roughly 11% (about $27,500) and sold to American dealer Lee Marks. The next print, another vintage Cartier-Bresson (Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues) sold for 60,000 FF plus premium. Overall the sale sold over $180,000 worth of photography and had a buy-in rate of nearly 50%. Some of the photographs that failed to meet their reserve include the cover lot Tabard (lot 234) a double exposure of the dancer Georges Pomies, 1928; Brassai's Le Faucheur, a bronze by Picasso (lot 38); and Ilse Bing's Bec de Gaz, Paris, 1934. All of these are still available on a private sale basis through auction expert Viviane Esders. You can reach her by email at: email@example.com
The Tabard and the Bing were the most tempting to me.
Next up was Piasa with gallery owner Michele Chomette as expert. This was a two-part auction with one part a "remainder" sale of the Dora Maar images from last year and the other largely a 19th century sale. The two cover lots created most of the action.
The Baldus Les Remparts D'Avignon (Avignon Floods) was a print that had serious condition problems, but was actually a gelatin salt print rather than an albumen print as was catalogued. American dealer Charles Isaacs underbid to two phone bidders, one of whom got the print for 125,000 FF, plus premium against an estimated range of 10,000 to 12,000 FF. Yes, it certainly was cheaper than the Jammes print that sold a few weeks earlier at 32,000 pounds sterling plus premium of 15%, but neither print was worth the money to this observer. Privately on this trip, I bought a smaller but absolutely beautiful print of this same image.
The second cover was the important Dora Maar Double-Portrait (Possibly a Self-Portrait). I had predicted that the price would be over six to seven times the high estimate. I wasn't wrong. Edwynn Houk, who had also picked up an earlier version of the image at a much lower price, rode this one down at 220,000 FF against an estimated range of 25,000 to 30,000 FF. You can also add the premium to that bid. As you can see, French auction estimates are largely useless.
Lee Marks also picked up Maar's Gamin au Coin de la Rue des Genets, Une Chaussette Rabattue sur le Pied, 1933 for 76,000 FF plus premium.
The late prints did surprisingly well.
Very little was bought in at this sale due to reasonable estimates and aggressive phone bidders. Condition was problematic on more than a few lots.
The final auction of "the week" was held on the Monday following Paris Photo. Etude Tajan's 334 lots were largely 19th century and the expert is the knowledgeable and sociable Serge Kakou. Tajan had rented Drouot's smallest room for the sale. It was frankly ridiculous and it cost the house bids from disgusted potential bidders who fled the stuffy jammed room (or hallway outside: it was that packed) to the bar across the street. There were plenty of passes on the earlier lots and only a few lots stood out on the rest. A Theodore Leeuw daguerreotype of a woman dressed in Arab garb brought 91,000 FF plus premium. John Cramb's Palestine in 1860 brought 95,000 FF from a French collector. A group of Henri Bechard prints brought 68,000 FF.
And then we came to the two Gustave Le Gray prints--the first seascape prints to come to auction after the Jammes sale and its startling price on the Great Wave. But this wasn't the Jammes sale and these prints weren't of the same caliber. They were a bit weak on color, had some development stains, light scratches, etc. The first was Brig on the Water. It brought a low 130,000 FF, plus premium. The second, a study of clouds over the water, was nicer but still only made 100,000 FF and was brought by French dealer Philippe Doublet. Doublet then walked across the street to the Cav Drouot and sold the print to one of those who had given up on the cramped room for double what Doublet had just paid for it.
A nice and very rare variant of Nadar's balloon basket brought 115,000 FF from a phone bidder. The negative apparently broke early on and very few prints of this image were made.
To add to the day's frustration, many lots were preempted by the French Foreign Ministry and later by the Villa de Marseille. The latter preempted most of the Adolphe Terris prints but finally ran out of money and the last few slipped by.
Oh, and before I forget, the Beaujolais Nouveau came in while I was there. It made the rain seem to disappear for a while. It's a good drinking average vintage, but it did perk up the day and the week.