Perspective Paris Photo 2015: Michael Lee/Lee Gallery

Editor’s Note: Each year we ask one perceptive visitor to Paris Photo to collect his/her impressions for an additional perspective on the fair itself and the overall experience – we certainly don’t claim that our summaries are the only intriguing slice of the material on view. Photography dealer Michael Lee from Massachusetts-based Lee Gallery (here) is back again to give us his thoughts; his summary from last year can be found here. The comments and opinions expressed here (in the text and in the slideshow captions) are his own.

While I agree with the publisher of this site that we must not let the terrorists change our lives, I needed to rewrite my review of Paris Photo week. Rather than focusing on market commentary, I hope to highlight the efforts of my colleagues and clients who promote the great art of photography.

I was a very fortunate visitor to Paris this year. With two young children at home, I exited early and was up in the air when the tragic events occurred. I spent the evening before on the same block as the Bataclan theatre. As a friend astutely pointed out, this neighborhood is not the home of Paris’ wealthy or powerful, but rather a youthful and trendy district like San Francisco’s Mission or Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. This was a direct attack on the next generation, and it hit close. I am most grateful my friends were unharmed, and I have the deepest sympathies for the people of Paris and for the families affected.

This year’s fair was a typically elegant and vibrant gathering of photography’s great enthusiasts. There were quintessentially important works like Edward Weston’s “Nude on Dunes” 1936 – this masterpiece was purchased by a patron of the National Gallery, and it will hopefully end up where so many of his previous acquisitions are promised. There was a brilliantly fresh display of 70’s conceptual Japanese photographic works at the booth of Yumiko Chiba Associates, perfectly on trend with what the Contemporary market is looking at now. And if there was one macrotrend, it was the inclusion of almost every staple of a “Contemporary Art” fair.  Düsseldorf material by Gursky and Struth was physically the most obvious, but it was the mass inclusion of all of that scene’s favorites that stood out to me – Levine, Ghirri, Tillmans, Ruff, Demand, Polke, Gersht, Ethridge, Welling, Shore, Fuss, Sherman, and so many Bechers.

I saw a few of the major museum shows, previewed Christie’s and Sotheby’s sales, and visited a few of the small French auctions. The great delight for me was reviewing nearly 100 Eugène Atgets in a sale room at Hotel Drouot with my colleague James Hyman. At the auction, a friend of mine took a wonderful risk and secured a striking picture of street pavers.

Hopefully my choices below will highlight both lessons from the veteran connoisseurs and fresh perspectives from the next generation.

Stephen Daiter Gallery – One of rarest of Edward Westons, this picture “Nude on Dunes” was taken and printed at the height of his career in 1936. It had all the bells and whistles a collector would look for: signed, mounted, clear provenance.

Yumiko Chiba Associates – Norio Imai, “M.M.” from 1974. The Pop muse Marilyn Monroe is photographed with instant film, the print then stapled to the board, then done again. A contemporary conceptual exercise, with a final product reminiscent of a calendar.

Harper’s Books – “Artists and Photographs” produced by Mulitples Inc., an early Marian Goodman production. A compilation of photographic work from pioneer artists – Bruce Nauman, Dan Graham, Joseph Kosuth, Mel Bochner, Robert Smithson, Ed Ruscha, Douglas Huebler and others.

Vintage Gallery – My only purchase in the fair. Geza Perneczky was a Hungarian born Fluxus artist living in Cologne, Germany. I am most grateful to Attila Pocze for introducing me to this artist. The piece is a fine example of photography’s usage in art beyond the picture itself.

Richard Saltoun – Gina Pane’s “Azione Sentimentale” is a haunting and disturbing example of 70’s Body Art. These 16 vintage photographs document what is arguably Pane’s seminal piece. A pioneering woman still deep in the shadow of Marina Abramović.

Stevenson/Yancey Richardson – Zanele Muholi. I was most drawn to this earlier self portrait. Direct and firm, it is more reminiscent of August Sander and the perfect starting point for her most recent series.

Ben Brown – Awol Erizku. I want to read too much into this photograph. I want to believe it’s a great constructed masterpiece. The bedding emblematic of some esoteric folklore. The tube TV a reference to 90’s media. The model posed to reference a Greek goddess but totally contradicted by the yellow blanket at the foot of the bed.

Howard Greenberg Gallery – Harry Callahan’s silhouette of Eleanor. Straight up why you buy vintage. A relatively common image, this mounted print has simply heavenly whites words can’t describe. Listed as printed late 50’s/early 60’s, I would reckon it being made at the time of his El Mocheulo Gallery show.

Robert Klein Gallery – Gohar Dashti from her new series Stateless. On the wall label next to this picture were Dashti’s prescient words “In every corner of the world, devastations of war, massacre, oppression, disease and death are the cause of widespread human disorders with no imaginable ending. When disasters force people to migrate, where will they be welcomed with open arms? Hoping for a better life, they struggle in never-ending limbo, a strange place with an identity that does not belong to them. Maybe it is at this point that only nature can be a safe haven for these refugees.”

Musee’ L’Orangerie – Gertrude Käsebier was the clear star of “Qui a peur des femmes photographes? 1839 a 1919”. This extraordinary gum print was loaned from MoMA’s collection. A gritty and modernist viewing of life’s underbelly and a far departure from the subjects a woman typically photographed in the previous century.

Yann Le Mouel – Eugène Atget. I see Caillebotte’s The Floor Scrapers in this atmospheric representation of Parisian workers. The commanding foreman looming over the workers on their knees and the arrangement of bodies makes this image a masterpiece in my mind.

Galerie Julian Sander – Alfredo Srur. Julian featured Srur’s work prominently in a large grid on the center wall of his booth. The series focuses on workers in an area called Cuiddades del Estes at the tri-border of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. This image shows a bridge referencing the heavens but loaded with traffic and the long commute to find work.

Galerie Julian Sander – A new iPhone app that Julian has spent years developing for his gallery. It’s a novel and immediate way of saving a work of art to your phone and then seamlessly connecting to the gallery. I have a feeling we will see Julian’s technology at every art fair soon.

Instagram/Susan Tarasieve – Juergen Teller, Kim Kardashian. Loring alluded to this, and one only needed Instagram to find it.

Sotheby’s – This Bernd and Hilla Becher typology sold for a nearly half a million dollars, likely some record and deservingly so. They were large early prints with an almost gooey surface. Water towers are the perfect form for a Bechers document, but I loved the mess of the surroundings at the bottom of each “portrait”.

Christie’s – Cahun is most well known for her self portraits, but this is precisely the type of picture I want in my house to terrorize my friends’ dreams. Unfortunately, the Shalom Shpilman sale never finished due to the Friday night attacks.

Hans Kraus – Charles Nègre. This was the most exquisite piece at the fair for me. Nègre retrofitted his camera to make the “tondos” or rounds in direct reference to popular paintings of his contemporaries. Despite being a church, the image is completely in vogue with current tastes in 19th century work. It would have fit perfectly in the Modernism or Modernity show two or three years ago at the Petit Palais. All that that aside, the tones are just outrageous.

Read more about: Alfredo Srur, Awol Erizku, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Charles Nègre, Claude Cahun, Edward Weston, Eugène Atget, Gertrude Käsebier, Géza Perneczky, Gina Pane, Gohar Dashti, Harry Callahan, Juergen Teller, Norio Imai, Zanele Muholi, Ben Brown Fine Arts, Galerie Julian Sander, Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve, Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs, Harper's Books, Howard Greenberg Gallery, Richard Saltoun Gallery, Robert Klein Gallery, Stephen Daiter Gallery, Stevenson Gallery, Vintage Galéria, Yancey Richardson Gallery, Yumiko Chiba Associates, Paris Photo

One comment

  1. Akos Czigany /

    Regarding image 4/17: Geza Perneczky not “was” but “is”. He is a living person (born 1936), and a bit better known as art historian and critic than artist.

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