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Breaking Out at the AIPAD Photography Show

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 10, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014
DATE: April 10, 2008

There was "great energy" at last night's sold-out gala preview for this year's AIPAD Photography Show, according to the three ladies manning Pace/MacGill's booth today, and they'd be the ones to know. The 57th Street gallery boasts one of the best locations at the fair (it's the first booth you'll see), which they've filled with a selection of images by the late MoMA curator John Szarkowski as well as a few other vintage treasures.

©Patrick McMullan Photo -
Pace also boasts one of the fair's most expensive works, as far as ARTINFO could tell: Man Ray's Le retour a la raison (Return to Reason), a 1923 vintage silver gelatin print going for $900,000. That bested another top-tier highlight just across the aisle, a pristine vintage print of Edward Weston's Shell (1927), going for $750,000 at Edwynn Houk Gallery's booth.

The vintage dealers, according to Gitterman Gallery's Elena John, had been "waiting to see what would happen at the auctions" and were encouraged by the results. Gitterman is offering a Weston Nude Oceano (1936) for $400,000, which John says is much more pristine than the similar Nude on the Sand, Oceano (1936) that sold at Sotheby's for $325,000, smashing pre-auction estimates of $120-180,000.

But neither these iconic works nor similarly priced masterpieces by Edward Steichen and Irving Penn at San Francisco's Michael Shapiro Gallery had sold as of this writing, despite reports from several gallerists that vintage works are easier to sell at openings than their contemporary counterparts.

Virginia Zabriskie of New York's Zabriskie Gallery said she hadn't sold any of her contemporary offerings — charming costumed self-portraits by Japanese photographer and shapeshifter Tomoko Sawada — at the opening. The dealer explained that she's "not sure people buy contemporary work at openings," since it's "a lot more difficult to sell editioned work at an opening because it doesn't have the buzz of a unique work."

Aside from the exceptional prints like the Weston and Man Ray, the offerings generating the most buzz — or at least the most attention — seemed to be the contemporary ones, though everyone ARTINFO spoke with seemed confident about the level of interest in all the works, even if there were few early sales to report.

Some of the most innovative work could be found at Silverstein Photography's booth, where Bruce Silverstein raved about lawyer-cum-emerging artist Maria Antoinetta Mameli, an exhibition of whose work will inaugurate the gallery's new 20th Street space dedicated to promoting emerging artists and opening April 17. The gallery had three digital C-prints, priced from $2,500 to $3,500, each presenting a tiny black and red figure — a man on a bike carrying red shopping bags, a dog-walker with red leashes — on a swath of pristine white. Two sold opening night.

Also on view at Silverstein was a gorgeous 2006 print of water and ink meeting in a kind of midair explosion by Japanese newcomer Shinichi Maruyama, who'll have a solo show at the gallery in the fall, as well as an installation of six works by Zoe Strauss, an emerging artist who's made her name photographing the down-and-out in her South Philadelphia neighborhood. Strauss had her first solo show at the gallery last summer and will present another next December. Neither of these had sold as of this writing.

On the other side of the fair, Hasted Hunt is also showing some experimental work, most significantly the abstract creations of 30-something, German-born newcomer Andreas Gefeller, who works as a kind of human scanner. For Untitled (Office Ceiling) Düsseldorf (2007) for example, he painstakingly photographed every square inch of the ceiling of a giant office facility, then synthesized the photographs into a 58-by-110-inch composite. Not quite as monumental, but more lyrical, is the 50-by-50-inch digital C-print Untitled (Leaves), Düsseldorf (2007), which uses the same process to capture a sunburst of fallen yellow ginkgo leaves on green grass. These works were priced at $19,500 and $11,000 respectively. Neither sold during the preview, though several others of the artist's work did.

The gallery did sell, very early in the preview, the last edition of a quiet Erwin Olaf portrait that graces the cover of his new book, out this fall from Aperture, for $25,000, as well as four prints, priced from $6,000 to $10,000, from Italian fashion photographer Paolo Ventura's large-scale images created from circus-like dioramas.

Paul Kopeikin was one of few dealers to report sales early in the preview, though some of his came in his role as a collector: the Los Angeles gallerist confessed that he'd already bought two Kenneth Josephson prints from Etherton gallery. For his part, Kopeikin was proud to be showing only artists whose work didn't appear elsewhere at the fair. Causing some buzz was a sprawling Tara Donovan-esque image by Chris Jordan showing a million plastic cups (literally – it's the number used on U.S. planes every six hours) twisted into what looked like piping out of an Escher or H.R. Giger fantasy. Kopeikin also had several gorgeous 30-by-40-inch chromogenic prints showing lone figures on the beach against a black nighttime sea by Edgar Martins, as well as several of newcomer J. Bennett Fitts's sparse prints investigating landscaping in industrial parks, and Amy Stein's Howl (2007), which is even more stunning in person than it is online. Four Fittses, priced at $2,000 to $3,500 each, sold during the preview, which Kopeikin said was "better than a usual opening night," which he also noted tend to be slow for contemporary dealers, whose editioned works don't have the "you snooze you lose" quality of one-of-a-kind vintage prints.

Still lifes, particularly those modeled after or yearning for the resonant tranquility of the Dutch masters, can be found throughout the fair. New York's Yancey Richardson, which reported being "off to a good start" after the preview, had several different approaches to these, including three or four works by Sharon Core, who's gained attention in the past for re-creating the paintings of Wayne Thibaud in photographs, for which she whipped up cakes and other confections detailed to match the ones he painted. Nowadays she's painstakingly reassembling the still lifes of early American painter Raphaelle Peale in 17-by-23-inch chromogenic prints priced around $3,500. Also at Yancey Richardson are lovely, spare still lifes of abandoned, white-tableclothed dining tables by Laura Letinsky.

Another artist inspired by the Dutch, but whose work is anything but still, is Julie Blackmon, who's showing with Chicago's Catherine Edelman Gallery. According to the gallery, Blackmon's work refers to the Dutch expression "a Jan Steen household," meaning "one in disarray, full of rowdy children and boisterous family gatherings." For her digital photographs, sized 22 by 22 or 32 by 42 inches and ranging from $2,200 to about $4,000 (in editions of 25 or 10), Blackmon assembles various family members — the Missouri-based 40-something is the oldest of nine and has three children herself — into tableaux commenting on contemporary family life. Edelman declined to comment on how many had sold but emphasized that "with contemporary there's a lot of education involved" at openings.

Robert Burge/20th Century Photographs is offering a selection of D. W. Mellor's carefully sculpted, lovingly hand-printed, very Dutch-looking still lifes, but get 'em while you can! The paper Mellor's used throughout his career is being discontinued, so he's reluctantly going digital. An assistant at the booth told me that after the show, the photographer will take back the unsold analog prints and archive them.

In this digital age, Mellor's plight is not uncommon. At the booth of New Orleans's A Gallery for Fine Photography, gallery assistant Edward Hebert told me their artist Josephine Sacabo is having the same problem. Rather than go digital, however, she's gone the other route, reverting to the early-19th-century photogravure process, updated only slightly with 21st-century materials.

The gallery's artists Louviere + Vanessa, a New Orleans–based husband and wife team, are also experimenting with technologies of the past, creating orotones, or goldtones, in which an image is printed onto glass and backed with gold leaf. Smaller attempts featuring a dog-headed creature performing tricks are available for $2,500, and two larger, painterly images, one from Central Park, can be had for $7,500 (in an edition of 3). The gallery also has several non-goldtone works from the duo, which, though backward-looking in their sort of circus-like imagery, are inventive in their techniques. Each of these prints, priced around $2,500, involves handmade costumes, digital mastering, and a multi-step printing process culminating in a coating of wax and the artists' own blood. See them to believe them.

All in all, gallerists seemed pleased with the pace of sales so far, as well as with the overall quality of work at the fair. Michael Lee, the son of Lee Gallery owner Mack, said the photographs at AIPAD are always the best of any fair's, with lots of the high-end vintage works available. "Anything you can break out is here," he said.

By Kris Wilton

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