Once again, the international photography world descended on the French capital for Paris Photo during November. This was the 25th edition of the fair but I was not alone in thinking that there was an additional, and quite frankly, a more important reason to celebrate: that the fair had actually pulled through.
Just a few weeks after the 24th edition last year, the first after the pandemic, it was announced that Paris Photo and the art fair FIAC would have to compete for their dates at Grand Palais Ephémère, and soon there were rumors about hostile takeover bids from Art Basel. As it turned out, FIAC was ousted, while Paris Photo remained, with, I was told, its future secured up until and including 2027.
When I spoke to Françoise Paviot, who serves on the Paris Photo exhibitor committee this summer, she commented, "Paris Photo received spontaneous support from the entire profession, one could even say from a community, which was not the case for the FIAC fair." And practically everyone I spoke to during the fair stressed just how important the community was to them personally and the photography world as a whole.
The 25th edition brought together 183 exhibitors from 31 countries, divided into the main sector, the Curiosa sector with focus on emerging artists, and the book sector.
Several exhibitors told me that they felt that the fair was a lot more international this year, not just in terms of works on offer, but also the visitors who came from all corners of the world. And there were a lot of them: 61,000, up 5 % from last year.
There was a pre-preview for special guests of bank sponsor J.P. Morgan on Tuesday night. The fair was slightly less attended on the Thursday, due to a nationwide transport strike, but the visitors were back in full force the next day--so many of them, in fact, that it was difficult to move, never mind see anything.
Last year was the first edition of the fair to be held at Grand Palais Ephémère, an elegant temporary structure installed on Champ de Mars while the Grand Palais itself is undergoing refurbishment. While everybody I talked to last year were more than pleased to be back at Paris Photo after two cancellations due to the pandemic, some visitors were less than keen on the temporary structure. This year, many, especially exhibitors, told me that they would prefer to stay at temporary venue, as it has much softer acoustics than the Grand Palais.
Mask wearing was not compulsory this year making communication a whole lot easier, not to mention recognition of friends and colleagues. Since last year, there has been the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, energy and food crisis, inflation, strikes, and austerity measures. There was therefore a fair amount of concern among exhibitors as to how the fair was going to work out for them. Some told me that this had been their best fair yet, while others felt that they could have done with a few more sales.
Frish Brandt at Fraenkel Gallery was one of the many who spoke to me about the importance of Paris Photo for communication within the photography community. 'I spoke to a colleague a few days ago, who said, 'I didn’t realize until I didn’t have a booth here just how much Paris Photo is about conversation.' I see Paris Photo as the central square in the photo world, with gallerists, publishers, curators, collectors etc. coming together, which means that anything can happen."
As in previous years, Fraenkel Gallery switched their works on display during the fair. Brandt told me, "It’s always difficult to decide what to bring to Paris Photo so we bring too much. This year we brought 16 crates from California. We think we know what will go up in the booth, we make maquettes with little pictures, but it’s never the same when we get here. The sense of scale and place changes. We change the works to make it interesting for the visitors as well as ourselves. Each piece is an invitation to a conversation. So putting up a new work changes the conversation. And this is a very smart audience."
Frankel Gallery had done well this year, "We have sold a little bit of everything and we show a lot of one-offs. We sold a major Bernd & Hilla Becher piece and an important Sophie Calle piece. The first two days, nobody asked about the Nan Goldin piece we had on display. And then everybody was asking about it! We sold the Adam Fuss and the Christian Marclay. We always do well with Hiroshi Sugimoto and Richard Learoyd. The Peter Hujar prints have been very popular, and they’re relatively small so we have kept changing them. And we recently presented a Hujar exhibition at the gallery, curated by Elton John, and published a book as well. A lot of people have told me that they’re really happy about this year’s edition. They like the venue because the sound is a little softer. People are working harder to do better booths and I think that makes the experience of the fair that much more rewarding."
Directly across from Fraenkel's booth was that of Vintage Works/Contemporary Works and Galerie Francoise Paviot, who partnered for a second time since 2019.
Alex Novak of Vintage Works, Ltd., who was sidelined most of Paris Photo with Covid (only making it in on the first day and last half day) told me that he decided to focus this time on women photographers, and devoted his outside walls to them.
"We had two contemporary pieces by Claudia Kunin that got a lot of attention, including a short video of Nadar's balloon and a large print of her Adam & Eve image. Claudia was at our booth for much of the show too."
"We also had contemporary pieces by Lisa Holden and Betty Hahn, along with 20th-century masterworks from Imogen Cunningham, Ilse Bing, Laure Albin-Guillot, Barbara Morgan, Dorothea Lange, Helen Levitt and Germaine Krull, along with 19th-century images from Julia M. Cameron and Amelia Bergner.
"I thought we sold the two great iconic and early printed Cunningham's (Two Callas and the Unmade Bed) on the Tuesday bank night, but the couple who had put them on hold demurred later. But we did sell the Helen Levitt of Boys Playing on a Pediment to fellow exhibitor Thomas Zander, who now represents the estate. We also sold the fabulous Fresson print of a Magnolia blossom by Albin-Guillot, which was in our closet, and had heavy interest in the Ilsa Bing NYC view, some of the Krull images and the two Cunninghams, which had been selected for the Elles x Paris Photo 2022 fair path, along with the Albin-Guillot, Magnolia.
"We also sold three Andre Kertesz images (we represent the Estate, but two were our own prints), a great Vilem Reichmann, Nude, and a 19th-century Charles Aubry, Tulips (the latter went to the Rijksmuseum). We have another important American museum, which placed our spectacular Eadweard Muybridge 19th-century mammoth print: Clark & Moore, Merced River, Yosemite, CA on hold.
"If the Muybridge eventually sells, we may still come out a little ahead. Considering that I wasn't there for most of the show, we did okay, largely due to my hard-working associate Pascale Jacquemin and the great audience of Paris Photo. I thought the show was well done and looked better than in many previous iterations. It's unfortunate that RX lost the FIAC spot to Art Basel, but I am happy that they retained it for Paris Photo. Hopefully we can continue to do the show for the next couple of years, if health allows. It's always a pleasure to share the booth with our friends, Alain and Francoise."
Galerie Francoise Paviot had a very good show. Alain Paviot told us, "But this 2022 edition has been very tiring due to the extra large volume of visitors. The result though is positive and around the same level as last year. We sold our classic photographers, including Charles Nègre, Brassaï, Wols and Man Ray, and our contemporary artists Jocelyne Alloucherie, Christian Maillard and Barbara Steinman. The only regret will be not having had, with the daily crowd, the opportunity to visit more with some of our friends and clients.
A major draw for the booth was an amazing vintage print of Andre Kertesz's Pipe and Glasses.
Paviot noted, "Our virtual catalog for the Paris Photo show remains open and several photographs are still available or under negotiation."
You can link to the Paviot's online catalog here: http://www.heuresmusicales.com/flip_book/e.paviotfoto_Catalogue_B24/.
A number of galleries were showing works by Ukrainian artists, including Suzanne Tarasieve (Paris), who was showing a solo presentation of Boris Mikhaïlov's rarely shown project "The Theater of War".
I was also very impressed by the booth of another Parisian gallerist, Alexandra de Viveiros, who was showing a selection of works by artists from the Kharkiv School of Photography. De Viveiros told me, "My presentation was actually planned before the war broke out. I have been working with the artists from the Kharkiv School of Photography for several years now. Since the mid-70s, artists of the school have treated the photography in an unconventional way, developing a personal aesthetic by defying the social taboos of the representation. Their experiments created an iconography that went against the codes of social realism glorifying the repressive state during the Soviet era. They show the reality of everyday life as well as the fragility of bodies often depicted naked, disobeying the official prohibitions.
"The earliest works I’m showing are by Evgeniy Pavlova, made in 1972, the most recent are from the series "The War" which Vladyslav Krasnoshchok started just after the war broke out. He started by photographing the devastation caused by the daily shelling of his hometown of Kharkiv, and the series has since taken him to other parts of Ukraine to document the new reality with its rapid and brutal changes. I am really pleased with the fair. We have had great response to the works and have sold 10 so far and we have had interest from Tate and the Victoria & Albert Museum."
Close by, IBASHO Gallery, Antwerp, was showing a mix of contemporary and vintage works around the theme of "Spiritual Japan". Martijn van Pieterson told me, "We are showing works by four contemporary artists, Naohiro Ninomiya, Nobuyuki Kobayashi, Mika Horie and Miho Kajioka, and a presentation of Eikoh Hosoe’s series "Kamaitachi" and of Ken Domon’s "Koji Junrai", as well as some pre-war prints and works by Hiroshi Hamaya.
"The response has been really great and as far as sales are concerned, this has been our best Paris Photo ever. I’m particularly pleased that all the artists have sold. People are perhaps a little more cautious than last year. Instead of making a purchase straight away, they put things on reserve and have a think before making a decision."
London-based gallery Huxley-Parlour made a colorful splash this year, with a solo presentation of Daniel Gordon. Giles Huxley-Parlour told me, "The walls of the booth are covered with vinyl wallpaper, designed by Daniel Gordon. It required meticulous planning. We sent the exact dimensions of the booth to Daniel in New York, he designed the vinyl wallpaper, sent the files to us and we had it printed in London. It was a bit of a gamble to do a solo booth of course but then I’ve never really believed in half-measures. Perhaps counterintuitive in these tougher times, I thought it would make sense to present something confident and bold, plus I have always wanted to do this with Daniel’s work. It’s been an average fair for us. We made some sales but could have done with a few more. There’s been a lot of interest, enquiries to follow up, so we will see. I think there has been a slightly subdued atmosphere at the fair, fewer buyers than what one would normally expect."
Elsewhere, The Music Photo Gallery, New York, was making a splash of different kind, a solo booth with Bob Gruen, focusing on the 1971 project, "Vain Victory. Women In Revolt: Six inches of throbbing femininity", a rare never-before-seen selection of videos and photographs, as well as ephemeral documentation of the underground hit written by Andy Warhol superstar Jackie Curtis, featuring Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn.
Director Sebastian Alderete told me, "Bob Gruen is famous as a rock photographer, with his iconic images of John Lennon, David Bowie, New York Dolls, and many others. He had never exhibited these images before so they lay dormant in his archive. Revisiting this work is to gain insight into the radical transformation that marked our modern culture with the beginning of the feminist and transgender movement in the United States in the early '70s. Max Kansas City, CBGB, Studio 54, were the main scenarios of the artistic events where rock and punk idols starred together with the enthusiastic youth bohemian of that avant-garde aesthetic & musical revolution."
"The project got a lot of attention, with many commenting to me that a culture that in ’71 existed in the margins of society, had 50 years later moved to the center of the public debate," Alderete told me. "The reception to the work has been really good. The goal of being here was to interest institutions, as well as making sales to private collectors of course. It was quite risky to focus on this project. The museum interest has been just great, and we are considering the various options, to show exhibitions, as well as making straight sales."
Icons of a different kind were on show at Fahey/Klein, Los Angeles. Nicholas Fahey told me, "The theme of our booth is the body and we felt it was important to get a spectrum of humanity. We decided to show a lot of the legacy artists we have been working with for many years, Herb Ritts, Peter Lindbergh, Bruce Weber and others, but also highlighting another artist we work with, Ruven Afanador. We are showing a body of work by him, focused on indigenous people of Colombia. Most visitors here haven’t seen his work before and the response has been just phenomenal. Sadly, we only have one copy of his book because we could have sold hundreds of them during the fair."
Fahey was pleased with the fair. "Sales have been great and we have had a lot of traditional collectors who have been keen to see and buy some really special works by our legacy artists, and we have done well with Ruven’s work as well. We made most of the sales during the first days. After that it has been about talking to students, photographers--people who love photography. And it’s great to have those conversations."
On the subject of selling books, Peter Fetterman Gallery had brought an enormous stack of his book "The Power of Photography" and it gradually dwindled as the days went on. Fetterman told me, "The book is my love poem to photography and I decided to bring master prints of the images from it. The booth was absolutely packed from the minute we opened, till the show concluded on Sunday afternoon.
"This was my first trip back to Europe in over three years, and we reconnected with many clients in person who were happy to see us again and who added to their collections. We received much praise for our selection of works by Henri Cartier- Bresson. Sebastião Salgado, Sarah Moon, Willy Ronis, Michael Kenna, Pentti Sammallahti, Lillian Bassman, and the others of our gallery artists. Sales were brisk and plentiful and the fair had such great energy. It was elegantly produced and had the most wonderful 'esprit'. It was just so good to be back in Paris!"
Sales had also been brisk at the booth of Lumière des Roses, based in Montreuil, Paris. The gallery specializes in photographs by anonymous photographers and has a fanatical following of collectors who dash to their stand as soon as the doors open. I was particular impressed by a beautiful autochrome of a shoe and a glass collodion of the ruins of Paris after the fall of the Paris Commune in 1871.
Philippe Jacquier told me, "Paris Photo just gets better and better for us with every year. This year was the best. I don’t understand why. I haven’t noticed that people are worried about money but then compared to many other exhibitors, the images we sell aren’t so expensive. I think we sold around 90 % of the booth during the first days. Our clients know the rules. And there are only two rules. First one, the pieces are unique so if you want something, buy it now. Second rule, there are no discounts on the first day, only on the last. And if they wait, most likely, the piece is gone!"
Another booth that got a lot of attention was that of Parisian gallery Jean-Kenta Gauthier, not least because of the works placed in the center, a selection of pieces from Alfredo Jaar project "Real Pictures". It had no visible pictures. Instead, Jaar had placed the photographs in boxes, with texts describing the contents.
Gaulthier told me, "It’s a historical masterpiece, about presenting the Rwanda genocide. Jaar came back from Rwanda with over 3000 photographs and decided that despite the number, they were too new to fully convey the horror. That it was better to hide the photographs in boxes, and show texts instead. Preserving the images for the future, for a time when they could be understood properly."
Gauthier had conceived the booth as an exhibition. "It’s called "Real Pictures--An Invitation to Imagine", as a tribute to Jaar’s project. There are 13 artists here, including J.H. Engström, Daniel Blaufuks, Ethan Levitas, all works to trigger people’s imagination. To do that, you might want or need to treat the image differently. What I always say is, photography can be images but they are way more than just images, and I actually think it’s a mistake to reduce photography to just images. They are about imagination, history, memory, space, your relation to the world. I have been very pleased with the reception here and have made good sales as well."
As in previous years, Grégory Leroy (Paris) and Charles Isaacs (New York) were sharing a booth, to present an impressive selection of vintage work by Mexican photographers, including Rafael Doniz, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Antonio Reynoso, Kati Horna, Lazaro Blanco and Yolanda Andrade, who since 1977, has captured the vital street life of the Mexican people, including the LGBTQ community.
Isaacs told me, "Gregory and I have been interested in vintage Mexican works for about five years now. We find it really exciting. The work is great and it’s not that expensive. The reception has been great, and that includes museums, so we are really pleased. It has been a very successful week for us. As a whole, the museums buy small groups of works, because these artists are unknown to them. It’s mainly American museums who are buying, perhaps because it’s more important for them to diversify their collections. So Latin American women photographers really suits their needs. This year, Yolanda Andrade has been particularly popular and we have sold pretty much everything we brought. She’s 77 now and we have a lot of vintage work from her early career. But we have done well with Antonio Reynoso, Kati Horna and the others as well."
I made several visits to Michael Hoppen’s booth during the fair. There was a great and varied selection of works on display, a collage from 1950 by Kansuke Yamamoto, a large work by Thomas Mailaender, executed on white tiles, two haunting images by Ukrainian artist Boris Savelev, and I was particularly drawn by the images by Danish photographer Krass Clement, especially those from his project "Drum". The images were taken in 1991 in a no-thrills pub in Ireland and published in 1996.
Hoppen told me, "We have had a lot museum people here, and they tell me that they have the book but most have never seen prints from it. Krass has kept print sales at a very low level and has concentrated on his books. But his prints are simply extraordinary. I first saw them in 2005. The images in "Drum" have a strange ethereal quality; it’s like witnessing a play by Samuel Becket. Krass was a bit reluctant to show the work as first. Because does it make sense to pick a few frames from the series? In the book, you see these micro movements, which is absolutely genius. I have a few prints of my own from the series and they’re nailed to the wall so they’re not going anywhere."
Hoppen explained the concept of his booth, "It’s always a challenge to think of what to bring to Paris Photo. I try to create a different dynamic on the stand so that we don’t repeat ourselves. I never show something twice. This year we tried to counter the edition side of the photography market, by creating a stand with unique work, or works of under an edition of three, or vintage prints where we knew there were no more than three or four prints. Has it made a big difference to the way people see it? No, but it has made a big difference to me! I felt that too much of the business has drifted into the grey area where you wonder what exactly you’re looking at, is it a print made by the artist? Or by the estate? And then in a different size because it's commercially driven. Now we are thinking about what we should do next. That’s always the challenge, how to stimulate people’s interest. Great pictures stick in the mind. I can remember pictures I saw at the very first Paris Photo, like Harry Lunn’s stand. I can remember every single image as if they were in front me now. That’s the art of great art. And I think standing in front of a great photograph, instead of looking at it on a screen, makes all the difference."
Toronto-based Stephen Bulger Gallery showed a wonderful exhibition of historical and contemporary photographs by Canadian and international female artists, including works from the Estates of Minna Keene, Violet Keene Perinchief, Irene Fay, and Jill Freedman, in addition to Canadian artists Meryl McMaster, Sanaz Mazinani, Rita Leistner, Deanna Pizzitelli and Sara Angelucci, the gallery also showed works by American artists Alison Rossiter, Wendy Ewald, and German artist Claudia Fährenkemper.
Bulger told me, "I use the opportunity of Paris Photo to feature as many Canadian, and other makers, who I believe are under recognized. I haven’t been in Paris since 2019, and during that time we’ve started more than a few new artist relationships, so even with those tight criteria, I was only able to scratch the surface of my gallery’s program."
Bulger says the response to the booth had been very good: "I was very happy that each artist we displayed enjoyed considerable attention. By the end of the fair, I had discussed every single photograph we had on display with large numbers of people, and in a couple more days I will have answered all of the many follow-ups we were asked to provide. We had good sales, but I always hope there will be more. Most of our sales this year were to US and European museums, whereas in previous years, we had more of a balance between private and institutional buyers. I intentionally brought a number of works priced below 750 euro to generate some fun; however, it was our more expensive photographs that generated more of a buzz. Paris Photo is an amazing annual event that has become unrivalled in bringing together the community at large. Although I like the new location, and the building is easy to move in and out of for exhibitors, I look forward to returning to the Grand Palais in 2024."
London-based England & Co specializes in conceptual art and photography related to performance art from the '60s and '70s. Jane England told me, "We brought work by women artist and photographers, an area we are particularly interested in, and this year showed works exploring self-identity though personal performance strategies, by Anne Bean, Roberta M Graham, Susan Hiller, and Sue Barnes. This was contrasted with images by Rose Boyt of what could be described as Punk era "performative" fashion. In addition, we explored land art and related conceptual works from the relation to the idea of individual performance activity, with works by David Thorp and Howard Selina. And Surrealism entered our presentation with historic photographs by Roland Penrose and contemporary photo collages by Victoria Halford."
The booth had been well received, "We had a very positive response, with both a major US museum and an Austrian foundation reserving works by Anne Bean for purchase. We also placed an early conceptual performance photograph by David Thorp in a French foundation collection. In addition, we had other institutional interest from curators. Sales were quite good this year, to private collectors and institutions, so we are pleased although it would have been useful to achieve more."
England had enjoyed this year’s edition, "The fair had real energy and it was an outstanding edition of the fair. Paris photo attracts a really interested, intelligent and responsive audience, which makes for a great atmosphere. I think Florence Bourgeois and her team did a great job this year and really enjoyed participating again. There were some wonderful vintage and contemporary works throughout and visitors seemed to explore more of the main section of the fair, which was better for us. This wider circulation of the audience was much improved from last year. We also had some galleries with similar interests nearer to us this year which created additional traffic to our aisle from people interested in the works we show."
One of those galleries with similar interests was Budapest-based Einspach Fine Art & Photography. The gallery showed an impressive solo exhibition of the Hungarian artist Orshi Drozdik, with works from the ‘70s and ‘80s, focusing on the series Blink and Sigh (1977 – 1978), Pornography (1978 – 1979), and Individual Mythology (1976 – 1977). Gábor Einspach told me, "Besides the big interest from several institutions, including Le Bal, Jeu de Paume, Stiftung Reinbeckshallen and Berlinische Galerie, we sold works to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Verbund Collection and the Jan Michalski Foundation. In addition, we had an exceptionally high interest from important private collectors and many of them turned into a sale. And I’m pleased that we have received further enquiries since Sunday. We've been to Paris Photo several times in the last decade, but this was the most successful for us, and I think that the quality of the fair was exceptional."
London gallery Hamilton's sold works by Helmut Newton (£100,000) and Erwin Olaf (£50,000).
Hans P. Kraus Gallery (New York) parted with several works by William Henry Fox Talbot at €75,000 each and Dora Maar (€10-25,000).
Pace (New York) sold works by several artists including Irving Penn and Richard Misrach.
Howard Greenberg noted, "The Fair was excellent from several points of view: an excellent representation of international photography with quality presentations, great attendance even with the metro strike, robust sales with everyone I spoke to and perhaps most importantly a positive and high energy was in the fair throughout. So, by all measures, this year was a great success."
On a final note about this year’s edition, several exhibitors told me that while they had enjoyed the fair, they were sorry that some of their colleagues weren’t exhibiting, including Robert Hershkowitz who stopped showing there in 2019. Others who were missed included Kicken Berlin, Bruce Silverstein (New York) and Johannes Faber (Vienna). As for the latter, he had applied to exhibit at Paris Photo but when he was informed that he had been put on the waiting list, he asked to be taken off it. Instead, he was showing at exhibition called "Masterpieces" at Galerie David Giraud in the Le Marais district.
Faber told me, "I showed a selection of works by Austrian and Czech photographers, Adolf Koppitz, Heinrich Kühn. Madame d’Ora, Josef Sudek and Frantisek Drtikol, as well as European and American masters including Germaine Krull, Patrick Demachelier, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Irving Penn, Man Ray, August Sander, and Berenice Abbott. Sure, this was something of a leap into the unknown but it worked out extremely well and I sold works by Krull, Abbott, Demarchalier and others. In fact, I’m so pleased with the result that I will show at Galerie David Giraud again in November next year."
Next year's Paris Photo show is planned for November 8-12, once more at the Grand Palais Ephémère.
Michael Diemar is a London-based collector and consultant. He is also editor-in-chief of The Classic, a new free magazine about classic photography. He is a long-time writer about the photography scene, writing extensively for several Scandinavian photography publications, as well as for the E-Photo Newsletter and I Photo Central.