Archive for November, 2010

Paris Photo, the Photography Fair of the Month

November 20, 2010

Paris Photo 2010 © Delphine Warin - Paris Photo 2010

Held every year in the month of November the Paris Photo fair represents the commercial highpoint of Paris’s “Month of Photography” (le Mois de la Photo), a biennial festival created in 1980 when photography was coming into full bloom as an art form in its own right and continuing to gain grounds in the art market. (Just to give you an idea of how recent its institutional history is: The collection of France’s National Museum for Modern Art – better known as the Pompidou Center after its premises as of 1976 – was created in 1969 but only started acquiring photography in 1977.)

When the Dutchman Rik Gadella was asked what motivated him to launch a photography art fair in Paris in 1997, he answered that there was no other place in the world with as as many institutions dedicated to this art form. By that time indeed, Paris had several dedicated to the medium including the Maison européenne de la Photo (MEP) inaugurated by the City of Paris in 1996 and the Centre National de la Photographie (CNP, created 1982), the state ministry’s Mission du patrimoine photographique (1985) and the galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume (dedicated since 1990 to contemporary art), the latter three having since 2004 merged under the umbrella institution known as Jeu de Paume and located at the far end of the Tuileries gardens, next to the place de la Concorde.

A visitor of Paris Photo 2010 looking at photographs by André Kertesz © Delphine Warin - Paris Photo 2010

In 2010, photography in Paris continues to thrive and Paris Photo, since then acquired by Reed Exhibitions in 2004, has made an international name for itself attracting visitors not only from all over Europe but also from the United States, Australia, Japan and Israel, to name but a few. One hundred galleries and publishers thus gather to share their treasures in the temporary exhibition basement premises of the Louvre known as the Carroussel du Louvre.
This year’s spotlight is on Central Europe – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia – offering the opportunity to view work by historical greats as well as emerging photographers from the East. With the major retrospective at the Jeu de Paume several galleries have expectedly opted to display their stock of André Kertesz‘s photographs (Stephen Bulger gallery of Toronto had prints on sale for between 5 to 10000 USD, prints of his are also on offer elsewhere for up to 35 000 USD) alongside other vintage prints of noteworthy photographers from the East such as Brassaï, Robert Capa and Josef Sudek. The latter’s Untitled (Still life study) of 1952 just achieved a record €300 750 at Sotheby’s Paris photography auction yesterday, November 19th, 2010, which makes the asking prices of San Franciscan Robert Koch gallery appear very reasonable.

Galerie Françoise Paviot, one of Paris’s respected vintage photography dealers, reminds us that Larry Clark whose exhibition at the musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris is currently the centre of controversy, was certainly not the first one to produce potentially disturbing sexual images. Two black and white prints from 1946 by German artist Hans Bellmer show a mélange of arms, legs and adventurous fingers exploring bodily orifices (asking price: €6000 each).
This Parisian gallery is currently displaying two other rarities worth mentioning: a glass print by French 19th century painter Camille Corot, one of Claude Monet’s pictorial influences (asking price: €6000), and a printing-out paper work by Edweard Muybridge (approx. €25000) to whom Tate Britain, London, is currently dedicating an important retrospective tat is on view until January 16th, 2011. (NB: a printing-out paper is printing-out paper is paper that produces a visible image on direct exposure, without chemical development)
My personal favorite of the vintage prints is Louis-Adolphe Humbert de Molard‘s (1800-1874) calotype negative of a Farmyard Scene (1848) presented by Hans P. Kraus, Jr, from New York (asking price in the range of 80000 USD).

"Farmyard scene", paper negative by Humbert de Molard, exhibited in the booth of Hans P. Kraus, Jr. at Paris Photo 2010

Other prints by de Molard are currently on show at the France’s national library or Bibliothèque nationale‘s (BN) rue de Richelieu site in Paris’s 2nd arrondissement in the exhibition The origins of photography. The calotype in France (1843-1860)” on view until January 16th, 2011. The Bibliothèque nationale, by the way, was the very first institution in Paris to dedicate a part of its exhibition space exclusively to photography back in 1971.

A selection of Ryan McGinley's black-and-white portraits, gallery Agnès B, Paris

Of course, much more recent work is also on display such as New York photographer Ryan McGinley‘s beautifully intimate yet classical black-and-white portraits on show at Paris gallery Agnès B or the selection of Tina Barney‘s high society portraits (the one in the middle is of late Mr. Leo Castelli, the godfather of the contemporary art market; asking price: $30k) tucked between Martin Parr‘s sarcastic-sweet British takes of modern life and Lee Friedlander‘s black-and-white urban landscape photographs of the 1960s/70s. All three are shown by Janet Borden gallery (NYC).

Tina Barney at Janet Borden gallery, NYC

Some of the best buys are to be made from the publishers. Toluca éditions is selling signed copies of Turner Prize Winning British artist Rachel Whiteread‘s book What Man Is Really Like (2010) made in collaboration with Ingo Schulze (text) and Naoto Fukasawa (layout). The book that includes 11 signed original c-prints is on offer for €7000.
Created in 2004, Toluca has also published works by Andres Serrano, Thomas Ruff, Bustamente, Candida Höfer and Moriyama among others and has already been the object of an institutional exhibition at Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City in 2009.

Filigranes éditions (Paris), Aperture (New York) and Actes Sud (Arles, France) were also present as was Steidl, the publishing company founded by Gerhard Steidl in 1972. The Institut de la Monnaie on Paris’s Left Bank is currently dedicating an exhibition in hommage to Steidl’s undertaking that is on view until December 19th, 2010.
At Paris Photo, Steidl is presenting a limited edition of Paul Graham’s American Night with two unique prints for €3000 and On the Road by Ed Ruscha and Jack Kerouac for €6800. Indeed, their low-key presentation contains at least two pearls upon closer looking:

Steidl's limited ed. by Paul Graham, "American Night"

Steidl's limited ed. by Ruscha and Kerouac, "On the Road"

Paris Photo is well worth exploring. Who knows what treasures you will find …

Yamamoto Masao, gelatin silver print and mixed media, 2003, at Robert Koch gallery (1200 USD for one of an edition of 40)


Nan Goldin’s photography among Old Master paintings at the Louvre

November 16, 2010

The Louvre has invited French film, play and opera director Patrice Chéreau to take a fresh look at its collection and hang his eclectic choice of “Faces and Bodies”. Chéreau took the liberty to introduce some of American artist Nan Goldin’s intimate color photography alongside works by Théodore Géricault (1791-1824), Théodore Chassériau (1819-1856), Tintoretto (1518-1594), Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) as well as works by Pierre Bonnard (1967-1947) and Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) borrowed from the musée d’Orsay for the occasion.

A small, ecclectic mix that provides a good reason to saunter through the Louvre’s collection of 17th and 18th century French paintings and admire François Boucher’s naked Odalisque‘s bottom – apparently his wife’s – painted in 1745 before viewing Siobhan’s naked one in a bathtub as photographed in 1992 by Nan Goldin.

The exhibition “Les Visages et les corps” curated by Patrice Chéreau is on view at the Louvre until January 2011.

A woof! of Europe at the Maison Rouge

November 6, 2010

“Investigations of a dog” at the Maison Rouge in Paris shows a selection of 40 artworks taken from five major European collections that have teamed up to found FACE, Foundation of Arts for A Contemporary EuropeNice! The humourous title is taken from Kafka’s short story in which the unnamed narrator, a dog, recounts a number of episodes from its past, in which it used quasi-scientific and rational methods to resolve basic questions of its existence. Initially presented at Foundation Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Automn 2009) and at Ellipse Foundation in Portugal (Spring 2010) some forty artworks from the five collections are on display at the Maison Rouge, in Paris’s Bastille area, until January 16th, 2011.

The founding members of FACE are:
– DESTE Foundation estabilished in 1983 by Greek art collector Dakis Joannou
– Ellipse Foundation established in 2004 by Joao Oliveira-Rendeiro with support from the Banca Privado Portugues
– Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo established n 1995 by Italian collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo
Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall founded in 1987, and
Maison Rouge, fondation Antoine de Galbert created in the year 2000

Mircea Cantor, The Landscape is Changing, 2003, Video, 22". From the collection of Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall. (Mircea Cantor was born in Romania. He lives and works in Paris)

November is the Month of Photography in Paris

November 6, 2010

Sixty photography exhibitions plus an excellent art fair dedicated to the medium are on in Paris this month – and in some cases beyond.

Don’t miss:
Larry Clark‘s controversial exhibition at the musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (MAMVP)
André Kertesz‘s beautiful and well-research retrospective at the Jeu de Paume
– the photography group show at the MAC/VAL art centre, slightly off the beaten track in Vitry-sur-Seine, just outside of Paris (cf.
Manuela Marques at gallery Anne Barrault, 22 rue Saint-Claude, 75003 Paris (metro stop: Les Filles du Calvaire)
Sophie Calle‘s exhibition “Raquel, Monique” about her recently deceased mother (more info here) in a part of the Palais de Tokyo art centre otherwise closed to the public
– the Paris Photo art fair at the Carroussel du Louvre (next to the underground mall space at the Louvre)

You can download a complete calendar of events (in French) on the Mois de la Photo website.

The image of the poster was made by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz. To know more about him and his creative process I suggest you take 15 minutes to listen to him speak on

Le Mois de la Photo is on in Paris. In other words, November is the Month of Photography

Heads or tails? Regarding the Carmignac Gestion photojournalism Prize on show at the Modern Art Museum in Paris until Dec. 5th, 2010

November 6, 2010

The problem with coins is that they have two sides.
French asset management company Carmignac Gestion has awarded its recently created photojournalism prize to Kai Wiedenhöfer’s series of photographs taken in the Gaza Strip

Kai Wiedenhöfer’s politically committed work is daring and provocative. The German photographer’s images of severely scarred, defaced and crippled civilian men and women are, albeit highly estheticized, incredibly poignant.  Their frontal gazes are hard to ignore. Their scarred bodies and missing limbs really strike home. Compositional beauty and emotional content draw us into their real-life traumas. Lengthy display captions relating the horrifying narrative of plight involve the viewer-reader even further and draw us into a world so far from our own. Capturing the human devastation caused by air raids, bombs and shrapnell of armed conflict as politically divisive as the Gaza Strip is a provocative anti-war statement.
Carmignac Gestion’s choice stands out amongst the plethora of art prizes and awards, and from this point of view publicly rewarding his efforts is a welcome surprise. It’s good journalism and an audacious form of committment to free speach and the arts from an asset management firm. In fact, I’m surprised to admit that it’s a choice that actually made me want to find out more about this company – although I can’t say I have any assets for them to manage. That’s how I noticed that they’re also the sponsors of the Basquiat retrospective that’s the real crowd-puller at Paris’s Museum for Modern Art at the moment. Funny, but brands we don’t know get kinda drowned out in blockbuster exhibitions. Whereas this event, discretely hung in part of the basement space, really struck me.
Yes, it seems to me that while radio, newspaper and prime time TV chat shows are talking about the “censoring” of Larry Clark’s photo exhibition (another “upstairs” exhibition at the museum at the moment), this show arguably has far more disturbing content. While Larry Clark’s erotic images are to be viewed only by 18+ visitors, this basement show is open to all and only a small, barely visible warning at its entrance signals that the content may be a bit tough to handle for some.

Jamila al-Habash, 16 years old, hit by a missile while playing on the roof of her house. Gaza City, February 2010 © Kai Wiedenhöfer / Fondation d’entreprise Carmignac Gestion

Tails: It is fair to wonder whether pushing the limits and showing highly disturbing imagery constitutes a brave approach to corporate sponsorship or a calculated publicity ploy. I remember the uproar that Benetton’s “cycle of reality” campaign provoked. It started with a shot of a cemetary in 1991 at the outbreak of war in Iraq. The Benetton scandal reached its peak in 1992 when their ads showed news photos of a man dying of AIDS, a soldier gripping a human thigh bone, a man assassinated by the Mafia, a car on fire, a ship being stormed by emigrants… But that was Benetton, a high street fashion brand and the images were hung publically on billboards. The display of Wiedenhöfer’s work is far more discreet and its context completely different.
Also, when you look at Carmignac’s website you see that this isn’t a one-off stunt. They seem genuinely engaged with art of our times. Choosing to begin a photojournalism award in 2009 rather than a 100th contemporary art award was certainly an intelligent and rational choice but, to be honest, it doesn’t seem to me to be one driven by cynicism. Au contraire, there’s a grit that I like. It offers an interesting contrast to an (art)world of complacent platitude.

The remains of a house in the Abasan al-Saghir (al-Jadida). The blue number on the celling is number of the owner of the house. December 2009.

Heads or tails?
What do you think?