Fotograf Magazine

The AIPAD Photography Show New York 2015

In mid-April 2015, the AIPAD Photography Show in New York observed what is already its 35th edition. For years it has represented the most important among the art photography shows, although the younger Paris Photo has since overtaken New York in terms of the number of visitors (drawing nearly 60,000 last year, compared to 12,000 in New York), number of exhibitors (143 galleries and 26 publishing houses and bookshops in Paris as opposed to 89 exhibitors in New York), as well as the opulence of its venue – even the former army arsenal on Park Avenue, time-honoured setting of AIPAD, cannot rival the majestic palace on the Champs-Elysées. In addition, the prime galleries of global contemporary art, the likes of Gagosian or Thaddeus Ropac, do not participate in the AIPAD Photography Show – they have since been wooed by Paris Photo and its satellite, Paris Photo Los Angeles.

Despite all this, the AIPAD Photography Show still holds a prominent place in the art photography market. This is naturally due to the importance of its eminent organizer – The Association of International Photography Art Dealers, founded in 1979 with the purpose of bringing together the foremost photography galleries worldwide, committed to the observation of strict rules concerning the sale of photographs, such as the citation of authentic information regarding authorship, the date of negatives and prints, provenance, etc. Each candidate for membership, whether gallery or private dealer, must have a track record of a minimum of five years of successful operation. In addition, a recommendation from several members of the Association is required. At present, AIPAD lists 122 members, but only about two-thirds of those take part in the show itself. For some of them, particularly European members, it is too costly to be present in New York (this year, with the high exchange rate of the U.S. Dollar it was even more prohibitive than in recent years), and some New York-based galleries simply assume that AIPAD visitors will call on them anyway. Thus this year all applicants were accepted, although this came at the expense of the size of their alotted presentation space. As a result, even the most eminent galleries, such as Howard Greenberg or Edwyn Houk, did not have room for extensive exhibitions, a space allowing for a significant number of large-format photographs or multi-media installations by contemporary artists. On the contrary, alongside photographs mounted directly on the walls of their kiosks, many galleries offered dozens of additional pictures in passe-par-tout, stacked in a variety of stands and boxes.

The AIPAD show witnessed no hours-long queues for tickets as at Paris Photo, nor swarms of Hollywood stars like Paris Photo Los Angeles (though some did make an appearance – e. g. Jessica Lange and Blythe Danner). What the show did boast was a large number of collectors and curators of photography collections of major museums. These could pick from a truly formidable and varied selection of primarily classical photography. As usual, many galleries featured the same or similar photographs by the same photographers, varying in format, paper tonality and time difference between exposure and printing. And price, naturally. More than thirty galleries offered photographs by André Kertész, about twenty venues sold works by Henri Cartier-Bresson or Ansel Adams, while around half that number presented Sudek’s work. AIPAD does not primarily target younger enthusiasts on the lookout for new, progressive, and hitherto unseen art; instead it focuses on sophisticated collectors able to appreciate fine quality and the unique rarity of a particular print of a well-known photograph. Many visitors were thus thrilled by the stand of the San Francisco-based Scott Nichols Gallery, which displayed twelve different late prints of Ansel Adams’ iconic image Moonrise Hernandez, New Mexico, regardless of the fact that the artist had in fact intended to destroy these after discovering that he had used faulty photopaper. Others rejoiced in finding two uncommonly large prints of Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother at the stand of the Oakland dealer Richard Moore, a rare period print of the no less famous 1940 Weegee photograph of a crowd of people at the seaside in Coney Island offered by dealer Henry Feldstein for 150,000 US dollars, or a vintage print of Robert Frank’s Canal Street, New Orleans, sold by the Howard Greenberg Gallery for 275,000 USD. Czech artists – František Drtikol, Jaromír Funke, Jaroslav Rössler and Josef Sudek – were also among the highly sought-after classics of world photography, though none of them was represented by works of any extraordinarily fine quality. Several galleries documented the steadily growing prices of Josef Koudelka – for example the Chicago-based Stephen Daiter Gallery offered his 1968 photograph of a horse for 40,000 dollars. No Czech gallery participated in the show, but the works of Czech photographers of the younger and middle generations were represented for example by the Italian Paci Contemporary Gallery; apart from the intricately staged scenes by Sandy Skoglund (USA) the gallery alo featured a number of “gellages” (combination of gelatin and collage) and complex photography-and-glass objects by Michal Macků. The Beijing-based see+ Gallery featured photographs by Ivan Pinkava, Tereza Vlčková and Václav Jirásek. Much noted among the current international scene were the new large-format landscape fragments by Canadian artist Edward Burtynsky, the “Arbusian” portraits by Russia’s Nikolai Bacharev, catapulted among the established international photography stars mainly by the previous Venice Biennial 2013, or the witty paraphrases of famous portraits by Sandro Miller in collaboration with the actor John Malkovich, who transformed himself into notorious figures known from the works of Arbus, Avedon, Halsman or Penn.

Those who expected the AIPAD Photography Show to heavily feature a multitude of works from the field of conceptual or multi-media art must have been disappointed. Collectors of vintage prints, on the other hand, were reassured in the accent placed on the fine quality of original artists’ prints by the exhibition Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, 1909–1949, held concurrently at the Museum of Modern Art. As a Czech critic, I was pleased to see that among the 341 items of one of the most important private collections, acquired by MoMA in 2001, are featured an excellent representation of Czech avant-garde photography, with works of Jaromír Funke, Jaroslav Rössler, František Vobecký, Alexander Hackenschmied, Jindřich Štyrský, Jiří Lehovec, Jaroslava Hatláková and Adolf Navara. Many of these artists have been previously represented also by galleries which regularly participate at AIPAD.

Vladimír Birgus