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