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.