Fotograf Magazine

AIPAD – the photography show 2007 in New York

The Association of International Photography Art Dealers, (AIPAD) was founded in 1979, when the market in photography was only just beginning to flourish, at a time when specialized photo-galleries began mushrooming (although the oldest European photo-gallery, the Fotochema exhibition hall in Prague, had existed since 1957), photographic events started to be held on a regular basis, museums purchased photographs for their collections more frequently, and the numbers of collectors were growing. With their base in Washington, today the organization brings together the most eminent photo-galleries and dealers from four continents, who are then bound to the observation of its regulations. For a period of at least five years, each new member must contribute significantly to the evolution of the art of photography by organizing high-quality exhibitions, publishing catalogues or selling photographs, with a guaranteed authenticity of all data on authorship, date, and the technology used. New members must be recommended by several extant members, and approved by the general assembly.

For 27 years, AIPAD has organized annual exhibitions, which until the emergence of Parish Photo ten years ago had no competition in terms of their significance among art photography fairs. At first these traveled. Once, for instance, AIPAD took place in parallel with FotoFest in Houston, while another time it was held in San Francisco. Since by far the greatest number of photo-galleries and collectors are based in New York, AIPAD has now for many years been held exclusively in the USA’s biggest city. New York, however, lacks any single venue comparable in quality with the exhibition areas in Cologne, Basil, Berlin, or Miami Beach, where the world’s most important art fairs are held. The AIPAD fair in New York was until the year before last held in cramped conditions in several rooms at the Hilton Hotel, and during the last two years it relocated to a somewhat more spacious but far more expensive venue, in the former Armory on Park Avenue.

In the middle of April this year, there were thus squeezed together 94 booths representing American, European, Japanese and Australian photo-galleries and private photography dealers. The AIPAD organizers did not take much of a cue from the outstanding organization of Paris Photo, where extensive promotional materials featuring numerous photographs were made available to the press, with hundreds of free tickets handed out for the opening ceremony and important guests given special tours of the museum exhibitions and collections by the curators, while the fair itself is accompanied by thematic exhibitions. In New York, considerably less is done in terms of promotion, and journalists are not given so much as a CD with reproductions of the photographs on exhibition. This is a pity, since in spite of the costly paid advertisements, including a full-page announcement in the New York Times, in its four days AIPAD managed to attract only about eight thousand visitors, which is to say approximately six times less than its Parisian rival. The organizers nonetheless argue that while in Paris most of the audience consists of young people who merely look at the photographs, in New York there are far more serious collectors present who actually buy photographs.

Paris Photo differs from AIPAD also in its greater stress on contemporary photography. Even though this year in New York there were a host of works by current popular artists, such as Nobuyoshi Araki, Edward Burtynsky, Bill Henson, Joel-Peter Witkin, Martin Parr, Bill Owens, Mona Kuhn, Douglas Gayeton, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Tina Barney, Clark & Pougnaud, or Loretta Lux, to a much greater degree than seen in Paris there were also represented 19th century works, classics of avant-garde photography, and interwar social and reportage photographs. Sometimes at prices which only a short while ago would have seemed beyond one’s imagination, but which have become ever more the standard, after the recent sale of a photograph of a moonlit lake by Edward Steichen for nearly three million dollars, and a large print of a Gursky picture of a supermarket for over two and a half million dollars. The Paris-based Galerie 1900/2000, for instance, offered Steichen’s famed 1904 nude In memoriam, rendered in a platinum print and gumbichromate process, for sale at $1,330,000 USD, and a large carbon print of Steichen’s Pictorialist photograph of Rodin’s statue of Balzac was available at the booth of New York dealer Hans P. Kraus for $1,220,000 USD. Some works by Man Ray, Tina Modotti, Edward Weston, André Kertész, Rudolf Koppitz and Diane Arbus were also priced in six figures. New York’s Bruce Silverstein Gallery, however, was also selling an original print of a 1950s vintage documentary photograph by the pioneer of subjective documentary, Robert Frank, at $125,000 USD.:: Most booths displayed a rich variety of classical and contemporary works at varying prices. There were only a few monographic booths dedicated to the work of a single artist, such as are quite common at Paris Photo (among the exceptions was the exhibition of the American photographer Ray K. Metzker at New York’s Laurence Miller Gallery; and extensive room was given by Berlin’s Kicken Gallery to large-format Pictorialist photographs by Heinrich Kühn).

As in Paris, there was a very visible increase in the prices offered by representatives of fashion and erotic photography, including Horst P. Horst (New York’s Staley + Wise Gallery exhibited a slightly damaged print of his 1939 Corset priced at $95,000 USD), Helmut Newton, Norman Parkinson, Jeanloup Sieff and Peter Lindbergh. The London-based dealer Eric Franck offered the unique opportunity to buy photographs from Josef Koudelka’s series Gypsies and Exiles – the artist has not been selling his work himself in recent years – in the range of $18,000 – 25,000 USD each; more than Franck asked for most of the photographs of his brother-in-law, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Franck also represents several other Czech documentary photographers, including Jindřich Štreit, whose photographs were available for $2500 USD, or Hana Jakrlová, whose work was priced at about half of that. Otherwise, with the exception of Pavel Baňka’s works at New York’s Alan Klotz Gallery, Czech photography was represented at AIPAD virtually only through the work of its classics and standard bearers: František Drtikol, Jaroslav Rőssler, Jaromír Funke, and above all, Josef Sudek. Contemporary German photography, for instance, fared much better, represented in a multitude of booths, while current Russian photography – Alexey Titarenko, Andrey Chezhin and Evgeny Mokhorev – was represented by New York’s Nailya Alexander Gallery. This time, there was no Czech gallery present among the exhibitors.

Even though once more the works of the most respected and most expensive contemporary artists, Jeff Wall, Andreas Gursky and Cindy Sherman, were missing among the current work, despite being amply represented at the art fair Art Basel/Miami Beach, the main current tendencies were present this time at AIPAD to a higher degree than any time in the past. It is evident that there is a lingering interest in technically brilliant large-format prints of descriptive vistas of urban landscapes (this year, Hong Kong and Shanghai had no rivals in terms of being the most frequently photographed cities, depicted by Edward Burtynsky, Michael Wolf, Stephen Wilkes, Michael Prince, Shi Guorui, and other artists), in modern portraits, nudes, landscapes, and subjective documentary, and in an imaginative use of the computer adjustment of images. For a growing number of museums, galleries and private collectors, it is no longer a matter of any importance whether the final look of the images was created by a traditional photographic technique, or by various printing processes.

Vladimír Birgus