Booth by Booth Highlights from Paris Photo 2014, Part 1 of 5

As I sat roughly shoehorned into my redeye flight from New York in advance of yesterday’s elegant Paris Photo opening, I found myself pondering the impenetrable question of what I was really trying to accomplish at this year’s fair. Paris Photo has clearly secured its place as the premier event on the art calendar for photography collectors; it’s bigger, broader, and better presented than any other photography fair out there. An undeniable smorsgasbord of photographic delights awaited me inside the dazzling glass atrium of the Grand Palais, almost certainly too many to absorb in any one visit, so unless the idea was simply to have a leisurely photographic stroll, taking in the sights as they say, I had to develop an attack strategy or the elemental process of looking would quickly become disorienting and overwhelming.

So far this year, I’ve already attended five art fairs (ADAA, Armory, Independent, AIPAD, and Frieze New York), I’m in Paris this week, and I’m scheduled to go to Miami for Art Basel Miami Beach in early December. In each case, I have systematically visited every single booth in search of meaningful photography, gathering highlights like shells on a beach (some to be pocketed for further inspection later, others to be flung back into the water after a fleeting moment of thoughtful recognition and enjoyment, to be found again by the next searcher). With my own personal collector’s hat on, I have of course looked for specific works that would fit into our collection, either images that had stubbornly eluded us for years or perhaps new discoveries that would add to the visual dialogue that we already have going. But in a broader way, I have also fed an insatiable (some might say obsessive) desire to see and be surprised.

I have long ago given up on the idea that an art fair can be thoughtfully “reviewed”; such a volume and diversity of imagery, even when intelligently curated on an individual level, yields few identifiable patterns or insights beyond bland generalities. My approach has therefore evolved toward trying to break down the tendency toward aggregation and to look at each booth as a stand alone entity, scouring the back corners and side walls for the elusive lightning strike of recognition – that one picture that sizzles with something different, from the fresh and new to the unexpected and unknown. It is these undeniably subjective moments of excitement that I have tallied here, with the hopes that my enthusiasm will flow through, giving readers unable to wander the hallways a feeling for what was hiding here. If we’re honest, as usual, there is a wealth of forgettable photography on view, but it’s those transcendent moments of smiling, head shaking discovery that make all the searching worthwhile.

Like last year, this summary report is divided into five slideshows of image highlights, roughly organized by physical location in the Grand Palais; this first segment chronicles the booths found at the far left of the fair (from the perspective of standing at the entrance) and each subsequent report (over the next few days) will tackle an adjacent chunk of territory. Gallery names/links are followed by notes and comments on the work featured, including the artist/photographer name and the price of the work (typically in euros or dollars) where available.

So let’s begin:

Galleri Bo Bjerggaard (here): This booth was a solo show of the landscapes of the Danish photographer Per Bak Jensen. Light snow covers the ground like a frozen wave of ice, with thick white smoke blanketing the background. Priced at €10000.

Kalfayan Galleries (here): Hrair Sarkissian’s images of various private Ottoman archives (part of a solo booth show) are visually reminiscent of other famous library photographs, but carry the weight of the Armenian genocide. Priced at €28000.

Galerie Michèle Chomette (no website): This set of unusual nudes by Dora Maar (1936) was made by starting with negative images on acetate and then hand scratching the transparencies to remove certain areas. The result is a group of images that feel richly experimental, mixing abbreviated photographic bodies and gestural scrapes. NFS.

Document Art (here): Luz María Bedoya’s series traces the length of the Pan-American Highway in Peru, marking each seemingly anonymous location along the road with a distance in kilometers (North or South) from Lima. Hung as a single horizontal line, the desolate territory stretches out into a dusty panoramic continuum, dotted by an occasional human presence. Each print is priced at €3500, or as a set of 12 at €26000.

FeldbuschWiesner Galerie (here): Working in empty office spaces, Marleen Sleeuwits turns bland rooms into dense physical installations, cutting holes, reversing ceiling tiles, and marking space with tape. In this work, she attaches strips of mirrored paper to every inch of the interior, creating squared off geometries and cascades of shimmering reflected light. Priced at €12000.

Galerie Imane Farès (here): Starting with an archival photo album of hunting imagery and ethnographic portraits of indigenous tribesmen from the early 1900s, Sammy Baloji has interrupted the original album pages with collaged in contemporary images from the exact same locations, with war and rebellion now the norm. Seen together, it is a powerful and nuanced reconsideration of Congolese history. There are 60 works in the series, each individually priced at €6000.

Ilan Engel Gallery (here): A solo show of still life objects from Jean-Luc Godard’s archives, from gatherings of film canisters to hand written notes. Stephan Crasneanscki, priced at €8800 each. (With a distractingly ridiculous self portrait in the reflection.)

Galerie Johannes Faber (here): The soft glow of the floor and the fall of light and shadow make this one the better Heinrich Kühn nudes I’ve seen. In platinum, priced at €14000.

Galerie Magda Danysz (here): Evocative, shadowy silhouettes cast against a muted paper backdrop (this one has visual echoes of traditional Chinese paintings of mountains). Huang Xiaoliang, reasonably priced at €2300 each.

Tasveer Arts (here): Traditional textural clothing and three memorable looks leftward. Jyoti Bhatt, priced at €4000.

Danziger Gallery (here): New work from Hendrik Kerstens, turning transparent plastic tarp material into an elegant folded head covering. Priced at $28000.

Beyond Gallery (no website): Front and back views of family members installed in an all-over grid on a rotting building, evoking the changing connections to the artist’s childhood home in Penghu, Taiwan. Shun-Chu Chen, as part of a solo booth show, priced at €12000.

Photo & Contemporary (here): A restrained architectural view of 1990s Beirut by Gabriele Basilico, where ancient and modern have been collapsed into a sculptural pock-marked urban frieze. Priced at €10000.

Tolarno Galleries (here): New work from Bill Henson (as part of a retrospective solo booth show), dark and moody as always, with an eye turned an eerie yellow. Priced at €30000.

Galerie du jour agnès b. (here): These 1980s swimming pool photographs by Gilles Rigoulet were surprisingly compositionally sophisticated. Legs fly in different directions, scale is upended and collapsed, and body parts interrupt angled views. This print, in the largest size, was priced at €4000.

Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs (here): This gorgeous 19th century Egyptian view by John Beasley Greene is staggeringly modern, with its flat compressed skyline and its single silhouetted palm tree. One of my favorites at the show. Priced at $45000.

Ben Brown Fine Arts (here): A 1965 working maquette from the Bechers, where the framework houses are still in situ. It’s rigorous and structured, but not yet entirely typological, almost as if they were scouting locations. Fascinating to see an example of the early evolution of their aesthetic thinking. Priced at €20000.

Robert Hershkowitz, Ltd (no website): This 19th century French farmyard view by Comte Olympe Aguado stuck out because of its powerful lines and angles. The gravel and grass create two striking bands of color and the buildings add a jumble of interlocked geometries. Priced at €28000.

Galerie Paris-Beijing (here): This well-curated booth is organized around the theme of censorship, and Ren Hang’s all-over installation of surreal and provocative nudes dominates an entire wall. The staged images are full of sexual deceptions and contradictions, flash lit tangled bodies made almost sculptural. Priced from €1100 to €2700 based on size.

Feroz Galerie (here): This Chargesheimer “lightgraphic” is a real, can’t believe it has survived treasure. An abstract swirl of crackled, gestural colored chemicals on glass (not paint), it became the basis for additional photogram experiments and iterations. Priced at €48000.

Galerie Eva Meyer (here): New work from Matt Lipps, continuing his investigations of repurposed imagery placed in the physical confines of glass shelving. The bold red backdrop adds further pop to the stylish glamour of these particular choices. Priced at $15000.

Henrique Faria Fine Art (here): 1970s tape interventions by the Argentinean artist Jaime Davidovich. This work smartly mixes a skewed photographic perspective with actual tape applications at the top. Priced at €20000.

Klaus Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs (here): This looking down microstudy of poppies is richly patterned, and a nice foil for other objective plant studies from 1920s Germany. August Kreyenkamp, priced at €29000.

Bernheimer (here): Horst nudes can often wander too far into overstaged stylized glamour, but this one (in platinum) stays truer to clean lines and pared down forms. Priced at $30000.

Galerie RX (here): Matching the sinuous curves of human bodies in motion with the hard edged geometries of cardboard boxes. Denis Darczaq, priced at €4500.

Stills Gallery (here): A standing street portrait turned into a grainy flow of light and motion. Trent Parke, in a solo booth presentation, priced at €7500.

East Wing (here): Documenting the trappings of reproduction, from sperm and seed banks to cryogenics. This image turns the rough markings from a stud harness into a textural study in green. Yann Mingard, priced at €8500.

Galerie Le Réverbère (here): Proof that simple photographic ideas can still be visually intriguing. Here a mirror has been installed among the waterways of an industrial warehouse district, creating angled reflections that break the architectural geometries into disorienting overlayers. Beatrix von Conta, priced at €1800.

Jenkins Johnson Gallery (here): This booth was a pairing of works by Gordon Parks and Roy DeCarava. DeCarava’s Graduation juxtaposes a billowing white dress with a weedy vacant lot, a trash pile in the gutter, and a rolling sanitation cart. Priced at $56000.

Part 2 of our summary can be found here. Parts 3, 4, and 5 are here, here, and here.

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Read more about: August Kreyenkamp, Beatrix von Conta, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Bill Henson, Chargesheimer, Comte Olympe Aguado, Denis Darzacq, Dora Maar, Gabriele Basilico, Gilles Rigoulet, Heinrich Kühn, Hendrik Kerstens, Horst P. Horst, Hrair Sarkissian, Huang Xiaoliang, Jaime Davidovich, John Beasley Greene, Jyoti Bhatt, Luz María Bedoya, Marleen Sleeuwits, Matt Lipps, Per Bak Jensen, Ren Hang, Roy DeCarava, Sammy Baloji, Shun-Chu Chen, Stephan Crasneanscki, Trent Parke, Yann Mingard, Ben Brown Fine Arts, Bernheimer, Beyond Gallery, Danziger Gallery ~ 952 Fifth, Document Art, East Wing, FeldbuschWiesner, Galerie Julian Sander, Galerie du jour agnès b., Galerie Eva Meyer, Galerie Imane Farès, Galerie Johannes Faber, Galerie Le Réverbère, Galerie Michèle Chomette, PARIS-B, Galerie RX, Galleri Bo Bjerggaard, Gallery Magda Danysz, Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs, Henrique Faria Fine Art, Ilan Engel Gallery, Jenkins Johnson Gallery ~ 521 West 26th, Kalfayan Galleries, Klaus Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs, Photo & Contemporary, Robert Hershkowitz, Ltd., Stills Gallery, Tasveer Gallery, Tolarno Galleries, Paris Photo

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