Female Photographers at Paris Photo 2017, Part 5 of 5

This is Part 5 of our summary report on Paris Photo 2017.

Part 1 of the report (here) explains the rationale behind the decision to feature only female photographers this year and includes an explanation of the format used in the detailed slideshow below. So while it is certainly possible to jump directly into any one of the individual reports, start back at the beginning if you want to understand the context. Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 is here, and Part 4 is here.

Purdy Hicks Gallery (here): Like much of her work, this image by Awoiska van der Molen is a subtle study in tonal gradation. The crumbling rock wall is roughly textural, every surface indentation capturing delicate variations of light and dark. Priced at €10500.

Purdy Hicks Gallery (here): Sandra Kantanen’s spare landscape of tree branches is more than just a refined vision of misty nature. Up close, the image begins to break down into dense grids of minuscule digital lines and foggy areas of blurred erasure. The effect is 21st century painterly, with the artist’s digital mark making spilling out from the dripping leaves. Priced at €6500.

Shoshana Wayne Gallery (here): Using tiny strips of 16mm film as her medium, Sabrina Gschwandtner sews intricate patterns of imagery into celluloid quilts. In this recent work, images of hands (in various forms) stutter across the passing frames, each colored stripe precisely arranged into interlocking triangular geometries. Priced at $16000.

Shoshana Wayne Gallery (here): The boredom of these children is literally gold-plated, as seen in Yvonne Venegas’ images of the lives of Mexican luxury compound dwellers. Fancy suits, gauzy bows, and perfect curls fill out a moment of lavish decadence, where the kids are short on patience for the ornate meal. Priced at $5000.

Galerie Esther Woerdehoff (here): Iris Hutegger’s barren black and white landscape is given life by her intricate sewn overlays. Dense networks of tiny thread lines colonize the rocky foreground like moss, bringing textural complexity to the grainy scene. Priced at €15000.

Camera Work (here): Modernist clarity infuses this sublime 1938 Texas grain elevator by Dorothea Lange. The structure is flattened into a single plane, the uniformity of the white sky focusing our attention on the angled roof lines and the repetitive horizontal striations. Priced at €15000.

Stephen Bulger Gallery (here): Sanaz Mazinani’s works take image fragments and turn them into elaborate geometric patterns reminiscent of Islamic ornamentation. This circular work intermingles two protest narratives – political revolt from Cairo and fair housing unrest in Toronto. The juxtaposition of the two mixes separate realities, smartly jumbling the imagery (and the underlying messages and issues) into a single integrated design. Priced at €5500.

Flowers Gallery (here): Finding anonymous vintage portraits and then interrupting them with brightly colored embroidery is Julie Cockburn’s signature approach. Here she starts with an amiable looking young woman from the past and overwhelms her with floating colored dots, obscuring her with playful abstraction. Priced at €4600.

Flowers Gallery (here): This series of images by Scarlett Hooft Graafland brings a surreal brand of magic to the landscape. A lone woman stands in the knee deep water with a long bamboo pole precariously balanced on her head; in three separate scenes, the pole shoots off in angles that seem to defy the normal properties of balance and weight. The improbability of the stylized performance keep us looking. Priced at €9000 for the set of 3 prints.

Danziger Gallery (here): This booth was a solo show of modern prints from Susan Meiselas’ famous Carnival Strippers project. The artist followed various small time New England carnivals in the mid-1970s, making images of both the dancers and the customers. Some of the best pictures in the series pull back the curtain to life backstage, where the women wait, smoke, play cards, and get ready for their shows, all amid the cramped, humble circumstances of the occupation. Priced at €6500.

Silk Road Art Gallery (here): The Iranian photographer Shadi Ghadirian has built up a solid photographic career examining women’s roles in her country. In these two works, she starts with the form of the conservative full length chador, but replaces the woman’s face with a cheese grater or a slotted spatula. Using common kitchen utensils to stand in for real individuals offers a reductively incisive gender commentary. Priced at €10000/€12500.

Akio Nagasawa Gallery (here): Extreme darkness was the setting for the works by Sakiko Nomura on view in this booth. Sensual solarized nudes and florals linger in the deep enveloping black, forcing the viewer to strain to see them, and giving the scenes an elusive, fleeting quality. Priced at €3000.

Galeria Filomena Soares (here): This relatively recent (made in 2000) image by Helena Almeida continues her performative use of her body to investigate the confines of her studio. With a small mirror attached to the bottom of her foot, each step introduces reflections that disrupt our expectations. Priced at €70000.

Galerie Johannes Faber (here): Standing on a stool to peek into the billiard hall was the kind of things street kids did in 1929, and so Helen Levitt was there to watch them doing it. This vintage image feels full of anticipation and excitement, even though we can’t see what’s going on inside. Priced at €4700.

Galerie Johannes Faber (here): While many of Germaine Krull’s female nudes from the 1920s consider the sensual nuances of lesbian couples, this earlier nude from 1919 is all radical angles and brash confidence. The youthful athleticism of the pose pre-dates the inventiveness of 1920s Drtikol. Priced at €17000.

Galerie Paris-Beijing (here): More than a decade later, the impossible architectural constructions of Beate Gütschow continue to retain their visual power. Mixing the tactile surfaces of plausible reality with flights of urban fancy, her pictures of almost-futuristic non-places represent the early stages (2005 for this work) of the Photoshop revolution. Priced at €20000.

Bernheimer (here): This 2004 Annie Leibovitz portrait of Scarlett Johansson captures the young star just as she was gaining major fame. Coming off of her 2003 role in Lost in Translation, this glamorous reclining pose matches her seductiveness with plenty of tactile hot points – shimmery velvet, soft animal fur, and the sparkle of colored crystals. Priced at €19600.

Robert Klein Gallery (here): A blooming flowerbed in an abandoned house alludes to the stubborn power of nature in Gohar Dashti’s most recent series Home. The picture constructs a melancholy story of what is left behind when families flee the ravages of war and political unrest. Priced at €2400.

Baudoin Lebon (here): This recent work by Ayana V. Jackson immediately recalls the elegant Valpinçon Bather by Ingres, but re-imagines that famous nude with an African-American model. The photograph upends the centuries-long traditions of white (only) beauty, and asks the viewer to recalibrate them to include black bodies. Priced at €8000.

Galerie Le Réverbère (here): Painstaking, meticulous effort is the hallmark of this work by Emmanuelle Fructus. Found images are used as source material for pictures of men, women, and children, their bodies then cut out and reassembled in new “families” and arranged by gradations of color. The result is an engrossing recombination of history into endless permutations of shifting groups. Priced at €9000.

A few closing thoughts.

This exercise of placing a gender filter across the offerings of an art fair raises a couple of intriguing discussion points. First, when deliberately looking only at works by women, as a collector, did I find any less newness or innovation on offer? The quantitative answer is an emphatic no. In fact, we added more than 30 new artists to the Collector Daily artist index with these five summary posts (meaning that these photographers had never before been covered by us in any shape or form), more than we generally do at other fairs where we have balanced the gender coverage. So the conclusion is that by searching out the work by women, I most definitely evaded a rut of looking for and seeing pictures that I expect to see or have seen before.

Which brings me to a second, and somewhat thornier, point. While fair organizers like to tell collectors that an art fair is (or should be) something like a refined museum experience, we’re not confused – it is a bazaar, or a supermarket, or for lack of a better or more clever analogy, a business. And when I pressed a few gallery owners about why they didn’t have any (or more) work by women on the walls of their booths, several gave me versions of the same answer – we’re not here to make a historical argument or even to entertain, we’re here to sell work, and we’ve put up what we think (or hope) we can sell. The unspoken corollary to this line of thinking is that the work of women just doesn’t sell as well, which I’m not sure I believe.

Part of the issue is that work needs to be seen to be sold, and not enough work by women photographers (or artists of color, or other overlooked artistic groups) is being shown in these kinds of situations and venues. As a collector, often what I am looking for at an art fair is new discoveries – photographs that I haven’t been exposed to in my normal travels through the New York gallery and museum circuit. I want artworks to catch my eye, and then to let gallery directors use their knowledge, expertise, and connoisseurship to educate me about these pictures and artists (regardless of whether they are vintage or contemporary) so I can make my own trade-offs. But it’s pretty hard to discover the work of women artists if it isn’t on display – pictures hidden in the closet or left at home don’t do a very good job of gathering the serendipitous attention of distracted international collectors rushing by. So we’re back to gallery owners needing to show more work by women in order to actually generate the interest that leads to sales, in a kind of chicken and egg circular trap.

What this really comes down to is collectors exercising our voices in this community – demanding to see more work by women, and then speaking with our wallets. I guarantee that if enough collectors walk into art fair booths around the world and consistently wonder aloud where the superlative, important, ground-breaking, world-changing work by women is, more gallery owners will take notice and the mix will start to (slowly) change. While we might like to fault the gallery owners for not showing us an array of work better balanced by gender, we only have ourselves as collectors (and museum curators and accessions committees and people with money to spend) to blame – they’re simply showing us what we have implicitly or overtly told them that we want to see (and buy).

The good news here is that we as collectors have the power and influence to help push this issue in the right direction. My gender-filtered travels through the halls of Paris Photo have made this clear to me. If collectively we want to see more work by women at art fairs (and represented more broadly in the art world), we need to stubbornly keep asking to see it.

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Read more about: Annie Leibovitz, Awoiska van der Molen, Ayana V. Jackson, Beate Gütschow, Dorothea Lange, Emmanuelle Fructus, Germaine Krull, Gohar Dashti, Helen Levitt, Helena Almeida, Iris Hutegger, Julie Cockburn, Sabrina Gschwandtner, Sakiko Nomura, Sanaz Mazinani, Sandra Kantanen, Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Shadi Ghadirian, Susan Meiselas, Yvonne Venegas, Akio Nagasawa Gallery, Bernheimer, Camera Work, Danziger Gallery ~ 952 Fifth, Flowers Gallery, Galeria Filomena Soares, Galerie Baudoin Lebon, Galerie Esther Woerdehoff, Galerie Johannes Faber, Galerie Le Réverbère, PARIS-B, Purdy Hicks Gallery, Robert Klein Gallery, Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Silk Road Art Gallery, Stephen Bulger Gallery, Paris Photo

One comment

  1. Haydee Yordan /

    As a “woman” photographer I beg you to continue pushing this issue.
    Haydee Yordan

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