Even though I have been a visitor to the annual Paris Photo fair for many years now, there is still something exciting about walking along the Seine from my hotel and seeing the huge French flag flying atop the glass vaulted Grand Palais from across the river. For a photography collector like myself, it’s the tinglingly familiar announcement of something wonderful to come.
Of course, an art fair is an art fair, and Paris Photo has many of the same galleries, panels, and work to be found in New York and elsewhere. But given its diversity and scale, along with its ability to reliably attract top curators, collectors, and photographers from all over the world, there is an energy to this photography fair that isn’t matched by any other. It is a place to see a wide variety of work and to connect with folks I don’t see regularly in New York, a mix of heads down looking and heads up talking.
As usual, I have tasked myself with selecting just one work from each and every booth at the fair. This forced choosing provides some good discipline in such a bustling environment full of distractions – I’m forced to enter each booth with fresh eyes and engage it with rigor, looking for something of merit to feature (perhaps representative of what is available or simply a “best”). This often presents itself as a selection of new versus old, a hand wringing Sophie’s Choice between recent work from known and unknown artists and vintage rarities unseen for years. Overall, my goal is to find a balance of both, with special attention to works that I haven’t seen recently in my New York wanderings. And while any one set of eyes certainly has its own sets of likes and biases (and mine certainly do), my hope is to provide something like a broad sampler of what was on offer, so we can then use it in conjunction with summaries from previous years to gauge larger trends and movements from year to 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 in the center of the fair (from the perspective of standing at the main entrance) and each subsequent report (over the next few days) will tackle an adjacent chunk of territory to the left or right. 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.
Edwynn Houk (here): Abelardo Morell has used his innovative tent camera to make plenty of memorable image/ground combinations, but this pairing of a pebbled path with a garden view at Monet’s Giverny seems particularly well matched. The white rocks take up the projected color landscape and break it into Impressionistic shards, with fallen petals further decorating the composition. Priced at $24000 in this size.
Stevenson (here): Two walls of the Stevenson booth were taken up with a large installation of works by Viviane Sassen. Drawn from the recent book Lexicon, the 31 images offer a sampler of Sassen’s visual ideas and tropes, including dark shadows, gestural intertwined bodies, and graves/coffins. Priced at €150000 for the set.
Karsten Greve (here): It must have taken the better part of a decade to gather up the roughly two dozen graffiti images by Brassaï on view in this booth. The images were made intermittently between the 1930s and the 1950s and the prints here range in size from intimate to larger and more bold. While many of the found figures replicate simplified and expressionistic faces, this hangman scrawl was one of the more unexpected symbolic motifs. Priced at €36000.
Christophe Gaillard (here): Rachel de Joode’s work has been evolving at a breakneck pace in recent years, moving from sculptural clay images, to three dimensional ceramic interventions, to images embedded in rocks, to new double sided imagery on view in this booth. This work acts like a roadmap of her thinking process, incorporating clay and skin, painterly surfaces and digital mark making, and laser cut edges and interrupting perforations. Priced at €4300. The gallery is also showing new work from Letha Wilson and Hannah Whitaker.
Henrique Faria (here): Luis Molina-Pantin’s colorful typology of giveaway coin banks from bankrupted Venezuelan banks tells a dual story of playful corporate image making and darker failed finance. It seems saving a céntimo or two just wasn’t enough to prevent financial collapse. Priced at $1500 each or $25000 for the full set of 28 images.
Kicken Berlin (here): This vintage Jaromir Funke image of paper layers and cast shadows is one of his best. The feathery leaves reach across the hard edges of light and dark, mixing spooky softness with crisp geometry. Priced at €200000.
Fraenkel (here): This new work by Robert Adams turns a cloudscape into a sparkling screen of mottled light. It’s delicately ethereal, like backlit cotton balls, and wholly original in a genre that has been investigated repeatedly across the history of the medium. Priced at $12000.
Nathalie Obadia (here): This typology of boys wrestling in the dirt has a timeless sculptural quality to its variations of intertwined arms and legs. A search for leverage leads to a twisted embrace, muscles flexed in controlled bursts of action. Luc Delahaye, priced at €24000.
M+B (here): Matthew Brandt’s newest works continue his investigations of imagery made with components of its subject, combining images of Hawaiian jungles with rolled up lace, which were then buried together in the loamy dirt for months at a time. The resulting pictures are rippled and patterned like snake skin, the colors bleeding out into acidic yellows and browns. Priced at $28000.
Daniel Blau (here): Nearly half of this booth was devoted to vintage imagery from Weegee. This picture captures Weegee’s dark sense of visual humor, juxtaposing the newspaper covered corpse on the sidewalk and the “Joy of Living” on the theater marquee in the background. Priced at €11000.
Mai 36 (here): Hung alone on a soft pastel green wall, this Luigi Ghirri image from the early 1980s is a symphony of quiet color. The pink stucco, the green door, and the patterned table cloth all come together in elegantly managed proportions. Priced at €15000.
Cheim & Read (here): Smartly hung against black walls in a hallway like booth (to minimize reflections), Adam Fuss’ new floral daguerreotypes shimmer and shine like pounded tin. Drawn from Taj Mahal carved reliefs, the idealized compositions continually shift between positive and negative values, bringing a sense of elegant depth to the space they inhabit. Priced at $40000.
Peter Freeman (here): James Welling’s newest works are a colorful tinted riot of overlapping imagery, combining dancers, modern architecture, and woody landscapes. The best of the images force interlocking gestures of motion and stasis, balancing hard edges with soft natural lines. Priced at $35000.
Hamiltons (here): While Erwin Olaf’s previous hotel room nudes often had a demure sense of noir mystery, his newest nudes are more openly sexy. Fewer clothes, dewy skin, less narrative, and provocative poses push the images toward overtly glamorous Helmut Newton-style eroticism. Priced at €17000.
Alain Gutharc (here): This small overpainted beach scene from Jacques Henri Lartigue adds playful stylishness to a simple image. Priced at €500 and sent as a postcard in 1932.
Toluca (here): This elemental shadow study by Peruvian photographer Jorge Heredia creates slashing angles across the pattern of brickwork. From 1980, and priced at €4300. This booth was also featuring a new artist’s book from Roe Ethridge entitled Cigarettes and Apple.
Guido Costa Projects (here): While Boris Mikhailov’s sandwich images from the mid-1960s were originally displayed in a slideshow format, large scale modern prints are now being made of selected images. This work merges dancing ladies and rutting cattle with sharp wit. Priced at €55000.
Howard Greenberg (here): While there are always an embarrassment of vintage riches in a Greenberg fair booth, this Saul Leiter black and white image from 1951 was an unexpected discovery. The textures change moving from left to right amid the shadows, and the rumpled sheets and clothing add to the delicate undulations of light. Priced at €29000.
Rolf Art (here): Argentinian photographer Humberto Rivas’ empty city scenes are full of subtle detail and nuances of darkness. This one staggers up to the right, drawing us along with the insistent white of the line. Priced at €10000.
Hardhitta (here): Gregory Bojorquez’ portraits are full of energetic brashness, none more than this tattooed pair, with a handgun inked on one man’s hip like it was stuck in his jeans. Priced at €4700.
Beyond (here): Many of the large scale color works in this booth came from a recent series by Chen Shun-Chu, where dozens of images of plastic flowers were installed at the gravesites of his various relatives. They function as part honored remembrance and part art installation. Priced at €2000.
Bruce Silverstein (here): This early 1950s exhibition print is the largest Aaron Siskind work I have ever seen. Taking up most of a wall, it deserves to be hung next to a slashingly gestural Franz Kline painting from the same period, so the dark rocks and white negative space of the Siskind can be seen for their bold abstract innovation. Price on request.
Taka Ishii (here): Eikoh Hosoe’s entire 1971 series Simmon: A Private Landscape covers a wall in this booth, following the white faced performer as he disconcertingly interrupts daily life at the temple, in alleys, and in the countryside. Its clash of styles is memorably dissonant. Priced at €14000 each. There is also a drop dead gorgeous crumpled paper wall inside the booth which isn’t to be missed.
Yossi Milo (here): While most of Marco Breuer’s recent works have been investigations of breaking down photography one layer at a time in various ways, his newest pictures reverse that action and build up the compositions with painterly gestures of blue cyanotype. This particular work is full of overlapped layers of brushstroke-like marks. Priced at $12000.
Christophe Guye (here): This monumental Nick Knight fashion image of Naomi Campbell in white couture is unexpectedly painterly. The pigment print was allowed to dissolve in certain areas (it’s not digitally pixelated), creating gracefully fluid areas of white dots and a haloed effect of subtle curving color dilution. In a world of fashion crispness and perfection, it has an unexpected twist of softness. Priced at €115000.
Martin Asbæk (here): Inspired by 19th century medical phototherapy, Nicolai Howalt has made a series of works that both document the original lenses used by Niels Ryberg Finsen and then use those lenses to generate original light leak photograms. Together they mix the rigorously scientific with the sublimely ethereal. Priced at €8000 for the large equipment views, €2000 for the smaller light breaks.
Parts 2, 3, 4,and 5 of this report can be found here, here, here, and here.
Read more about: Aaron Siskind, Abelardo Morell, Adam Fuss, Boris Mikhailov, Brassaï (Gyula Halász), Eikoh Hosoe, Erwin Olaf, Gregory Bojorquez, Humberto Rivas, Jacques Henri Lartigue, James Welling, Jaromir Funke, Jorge Heredia, Luc Delahaye, Luigi Ghirri, Luis Molina-Pantin, Marco Breuer, Matthew Brandt, Nick Knight, Nicolai Howalt, Rachel de Joode, Robert Adams, Saul Leiter, Shun-Chu Chen, Viviane Sassen, Weegee (Arthur Felig), Beyond Gallery, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, Cheim & Read, Christophe Guye Galerie, Edwynn Houk Gallery, Fraenkel Gallery, Galerie Alain Gutharc, Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Galerie Daniel Blau, Galerie Karsten Greve, Galerie Kicken Berlin, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Guido Costa Projects, Hamiltons Gallery, Galerie Bene Taschen, Henrique Faria Fine Art, Howard Greenberg Gallery, M+B Gallery, Mai 36 Galerie, Martin Asbæk Gallery, Peter Freeman, Inc., Rolf Art, Stevenson Gallery, Taka Ishii Gallery, Toluca Fine Art, Yossi Milo Gallery, Paris Photo