Robert Frank @Robert Mann

JTF (just the facts): A total of 24 black and white images, framed in black and matted, and hung in the single room gallery with a wall divider. The redesigned space has approximately the same wall area as before, but is much tighter and more intimate than the previous incarnation; the large bright window that looked out over Chelsea is now gone. The works in the show were made between 1948 and 1962, with a few vintage prints mixed in among a larger group of prints from the 1970s. All of the gelatin silver prints are 11×14 or reverse, and are not editioned. There are 8 prints from The Americans; a mix of other works span the time before and after the landmark book. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: It seems patently obvious that with all the attention surrounding the major Robert Frank exhibit at the Met (review here), it would be smart for someone to put on a well edited gallery show of Frank’s work to coincide with the show. Unlike the Pace/MacGill show (review here) which tried to take a more scholarly approach and was largely available only to museums, this show executes the task at hand quite well: it gathers a solid group of images from The Americans as well as a selection of works/variants from other periods and ties them together into a neat package, a selling show to meet the demand of those whose interest in Frank has been piqued by the recent flurry of activity.

The show strikes a good balance between images from The Americans, for those who want to purchase a classic image from the book, and other works of interest from across Frank’s career, for those who might be enticed to explore his artistic vision more deeply. There are early images from New York, London and Paris, and a series of artist portraits (De Kooning, Giacometti, Kerouac, and Kline) from the 1960s. I had forgotten about Frank’s image Platte River, Tennessee, 1961, an image of a man standing with his back to the camera in a winter cropped field, complete with a cow in the background; it certainly belongs among the great images of backs in the history of photography (images by Lange, Wessel and Sidibe also come to mind).

Overall, this show is a well executed foil to the show at the Met, a practical complement for those who have been inspired by the exhibit and might now consider a Frank for their own collections.

Collector’s POV: The works in the show are priced between $15000 and $120000. Frank’s work is routinely available at auction, where prices have ranged between $5000 and $600000 in the past few years, with obscure images at the bottom of that range, and iconic vintage prints from The Americans at the top. With this price history in mind, the prices in this show are surprisingly well matched to the realities of the market. While Frank isn’t a direct fit for our collection, I certainly enjoyed NYC on 33rd and 11th Ave, 1949, a view of cobble stoned streets and an abstract reflection in a car side mirror.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Exhibit review: WSJ (here)

Robert Frank
Through January 9th

210 Eleventh Avenue
New York, NY 10001

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JTF (just the facts): Co-published in 2022 by 5 Continents Editions (here) and Magnin-A Gallery. Hardcover (23.5 x 31 cm), 86 pages, with 45 color illustrations. Includes essays by Renée ... Read on.

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