Paris Photo earns stamp of approval as “the Basel of photography”

Weak dollar and strikes in the capital did not deter buyers


“There’s a nice buzz,” said dealer Bruce Silverstein as the doors opened on the 11th edition of Paris Photo (15-18 November). Despite a falling dollar and strikes in the French capital, both of which contributed to a reduced attendance, “many determined people battled through”, according to London dealer Michael Hoppen. Mr Hoppen, who has exhibited at the fair for ten years, describes it as “the Basel of photography”.

There was general agreement from the other attending dealers (104 from 17 countries) that 2007 was “better than ever”, in terms of the high quality and the presentation of work in the Carrousel du Louvre.

Many reported good sales early on. Within an hour Daniel Blau had sold his most expensive work, the only known waxed salt print, Portrait Gustave le Gray, 1854, by Le Gray’s student Delaunay. It went for around E200,000 ($292,000) to “a well known French institution with a commitment to photography”, he said. Veteran collector Michael Mattis closed a deal with Mr Silverstein at less than the asking price of $22,000 for one of Margaret Bourke-White’s Goldminers, 1950, which once graced the cover of Life magazine, and was recently brought to light by her neighbours, who received it as a wedding present in 1953. Among other classics Edward Steichen sold well but, at the fair’s close, the priciest Steichen in the show, In Memoriam, signed and dated 1905, with a provenance traced to the futurist Gino Severini, remained unsold at E950,000 ($1.4m) at Galerie 1900-2000.

Other private collectors made purchases early on. These included a print by Nan Goldin, Ivy Wearing a Fall, Boston, 1973 (an edition is in the Guggenheim collection), from Yvon Lambert for $15,000; and a large untitled work by the 40-year old South African Zwelethu Mthethwa from his Gold Mine series, 2006, which sold at another Paris gallery Anne de Villepoix for E20,000 ($29,000).

Thirty per cent of galleries are new at the fair each year: “The fair refreshes itself with new blood,” said Mr Hoppen. Eastern Europe and Japan represented new trends. Czech artist Jitka Hanzlová, represented by Kicken (Berlin), won the E12,000 ($17,500) BMW prize with his Untitled (Hungry Fishes), 2004.

Italy was this year’s guest country with eight galleries in the main fair and another eight in the Statement section, dedicated to Italian landscape photography, funded in part by Unicredit bank. Established Italian photographers, such as Olivo Barbieri on show at Yancey Richardson, had already sold one of his Las Vegas views for $19,000 to “a private collector who works for a hedge fund”. Dealer Massimo Minini said his collection of artists’ portraits by Italian photographers was on display in the hope of interesting an institution in displaying it or accepting it as a gift.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Paris fair is “the Basel of photography”'