Avedon, Fashion Photographs @Staley-Wise

JTF (just the facts): A total of 43 images, both black and white and color, hung in the entry, two small gallery rooms, and one of the back viewing rooms. 24 of the images come from the series In Memory of the Late Mr. & Mrs. Comfort: A Fable in 24 Images, made for the New Yorker in 1995. These works are Iris prints, all 17×24.5 or reverse, in editions of 16.

The other 19 images are gelatin silver prints or RC prints, mostly from the period 1948-1968, with a few more recent outliers. These works are framed in black wood with mats. They range in size from 8×10 to 20×24, and were printed in editions of 25, 50 or 75. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: This small show at Staley-Wise can be thought of as a companion piece to the large Avedon fashion retrospective now on view at the ICP (here); it contains some choice vintage gems, as well as an unexpected later color portfolio.

The black and white work combines a solid group of Avedon’s early elegant images, with a few more recent glamour shots. In the 1950s and 1960s works, Carmen jumps over curb with an umbrella, Dovima poses with elephants, Suzy Parker dons a huge flowing dress and cape, and Jean Shrimpton shows us her back and swirling hair wearing a slinky black evening gown. The later works have Lauren Hutton and Stephanie Seymour showing a bit more skin. A few of these prints have a wonderful soft patina, in contrast to the cool greyscale of the more recent ones.

The 1990s color portfolio seems less obviously Avedon, and more reminiscent of a more generic and dated brand of staged fashion photography. In a series of images, a model (Mrs. Comfort, wearing a dizzying variety of designer outfits) interacts with a skeleton (Mr. Comfort, also decked out in runway clothes). While a skeleton might normally be a sign of horror or terror, these images have a surreal domestic quality to them; not scary, just odd.

So if you didn’t get your Avedon fix at the ICP exhibit and find yourself wanting more, this show has a handful of surprises to help round out the story.

Collector’s POV: The images from the Mr. & Mrs. Comfort series are priced at $20000 each. Many of the vintage gelatin silver prints are not for sale. The ones that are available for purchase range in price from $15000 to $125000, with most between $20000 and $50000. I couldn’t find any auction history for the color portfolio; on the flip side, there are plenty of examples of Avedon’s fashion images in the secondary markets, mainly because the most well known prints were made in relatively large editions, and as such, come up for sale rather regularly. For the black and white works that are for sale, given recent sales outcomes, the prices seem appropriate for gallery retail.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Richard Avedon Foundation (here)
  • New Yorker, November 6, 1995 (here)

Avedon, Fashion Photographs
Through August 28th

Staley-Wise Gallery
560 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

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JTF (just the facts): A total of 25 photographic works, generally framed in steel and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the two room gallery space. The following works ... Read on.

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