Fairs France

Paris positions itself as photo capital

The most recent Paris Photo fair helped cement the city’s standing as a leading centre for art photography

Seydou Keïta's untitled silver print from around 1950, priced at €12,000, was sold by André Magnin to SFMOMA

PARIS. Despite early misgivings, Paris Photo’s move to the Grand Palais allowed the fair, which took place from 10 to 13 November, to accommodate international exhibitors such as Pace/MacGill, Gagosian and Fraenkel. This upgrade in the quality of works meant that prices also increased astronomically. Gagosian, for example, showed a photograph from Richard Prince’s “Marlborough Cowboys” series for $1.5m, while Leo Koenig and Springer & Winckler had a set of five photographs by Sigmar Polke, priced at €850,000, reserved by a French “institutional” collector.

“Paris Photo has become like a Fiac for photography. This is the first time the fair has shown photography like [other types of] art. I think photography will have a new reputation after this fair,” observed Thomas Zander, who sold two photos from Mitch Epstein’s “American Power” series for €30,000 apiece to Lausanne’s Musée de l’Elysée. Pace/MacGill sold pieces by Paul Graham and Irving Penn in a range extending from $30,000 to $180,000.

Museums were active at the fair. SFMOMA purchased a vintage Seydou Keita offered by André Magnin for €12,000. Priska Pasquer sold a negative from Shin Yanagisawa’s series of street photographs to Los Angeles County Museum of Art, while the Metropolitan Museum reserved a cyanotype by Julius Wiesner entitled Fristule de Diatomée for €3,000.

Some high-bracket deals were also concluded. For example, Gagosian sold Blue Cloud Wright by Richard Avedon for around $200,000.

“I came apprehensive—a new space, 30 more galleries, lots of light which is difficult for vintage—but business was great,” concluded New York dealer Robert Mann, who sold almost exclusively to Europeans. Few Americans made the journey because of the week of contemporary art sales in New York. Yet, where as Manhattan’s photography sales last spring were modest, the Paris sales were more dynamic, hitting €5.9m at Christie’s and €1.9m at Sotheby’s. Why the shift towards Paris? “Americans love coming to Paris—more than to London. And what works in Paris is the top of the range, like haute couture,” notes Christie’s specialist Matthieu Humery. “Another factor that should not be overlooked is that New York’s contemporary art departments have got their hands on the most ‘bankable’ sphere of photography: Gursky, Ruff, Prince and the like... which means that photography sales have lost their natural driving force,” adds independent specialist Grégory Leroy. “Paris, by contrast, has always focused on more traditional sales and so it has retained its heavyweights.”

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Comments

3 Jan 12
15:20 CET

JAMES CORDES, REDDING CONNECTICUT

Photography is grossly undervalued both as a collectible art form, but more importantly because photography is often the inspiration of other forms of art. I am an artist working with photography and have a thirty five year experience working with lenses and perspective. Its evident to me that as much as 75% of all work in paintings, portraits, landscapes, even abstract and contemporary canvases, on examination show they are derived from photographs. I contend that photography is the eye through which the modern age perceives the world and the original source of much of the art we see. James Cordes

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