Paris-Photo: the best of classic photography and a spectacular installation by Douglas Gordon

Paris-Photo, the biggest fair dedicated to photography is held in the French capital for two decades now, and this year back again under the Grand Palais’ glass roof.

The true benefit of this mega commercial show is that it attracts the very best specialists in the field from all around the world.

Nevertheless, among the 170 participants, the contemporary photography on display is relatively uneven in quality.

But overall, the cornucopia of works on display satisfies. What’s more, the range of prices is very wide: from 800 euros for anonymous 20th century photos offered by the Belgian gallery Sorry We’re Closed to 2.8 million euros for a series of 70 prints by one of the greats of classic German photography, August Sander (1876-1964) at Johannes Faber of Vienna.

For Christoph Wiesner, the artistic director of Paris-Photo, the market for photography has stabilised. ‘Photography is a relatively new market.’ he explains. ‘Museum departments devoted to the field are a recent phenomenon. According to a study by Artprice, in 15 years prices  in this segment have risen by 46% against 36% for contemporary art, but photography is much less subject to speculation.’

And he adds about the new Paris-Photo: 

San Francisco dealer Jeffrey Fraenkel is a pioneer and one of the  famous professionals in the field.

His stand is a good reflection of the different directions that  the idea of”photography” can  take  at the present time. It includes prints by  stars  such as the American photographer Richard Avedon (1923-2004) who is the subject of a show at the Bibliothèque Nationale until 26 February (1). One of his large format photos sold for $200,000 before the stand was even unveiled.

The booth also includes vintage film posters that incorporate photography, starting from $1,100, as well as a Joseph Beuys installation from 1973 called ‘The Silence’ that uses reels from the eponymous Ingmar Bergman film. The most eye-catching work on the stand, however, is also the smallest.

San Francisco’s Eliesheva Biernoff (b. 1980) meticulously recreates the front and reverse of photos with paint on fine panels of plywood. You have to really examine the works up close to see that they are hand-made copies and not prints. Each miniscule photo requires around three months’ work and is a hymn to life at its most throwaway and to the most banal domestic scenes. They’re one on  sale for $28,000  and the Met in New York as well as the Yale University Art Gallery have already  purchased her work. 

Jeffrey Fraenkel lays bare his preparations for Paris-Photo:


The most spectacular installation, not to be missed, is on the first floor of the Grand Palais (second floor for american readers). This is where the artist Douglas Gordon (b. 1966) has created a 30m
2 environment presented by two of his galleries, Dvir (Tel Aviv) and Untilthen (Saint Ouen).

It is a dance of naked bodies photographed in fragments, designed as an enigmatic, alluring jumble, arranged through juxtapositions from the floor to the ceiling. The prints, limited to seven editions, are on sale for between $15,000 and $45,000.


The artist explains the genesis of his project:

The French gallery Caroline Smulders is exhibiting the archives of Gerard Malanga (b. 1943) a veteran of Warhol’s Factory, one of his original assistants, and who nowadays describes himself as a poet. A rare vintage print of the mythic band The Velvet Underground produced at the time of the shot is on sale for $5,000 as is a series of erotic female photos from the ’70s and ’80s.

In Paris two exceptional auctions coincide with Paris-Photo, expanding still further the volume of high quality photographic work on sale.

On 10 November, Christie’s (2) is selling 47 prints by one of the guardians of the memory of old Paris, Eugène Atget (1857-1927) ( see the recent post 🙁http://judithbenhamouhuet.com/report/photos-by-atget-collected-by-derain-a-piece-of-modern-art-history-comes-to-auction/) which belonged to the modern painter André Derain.

On 14 November (3) 160 lots are going under the hammer at Hotel Drouot. These prints, documentation and accessories form part of the archives of one of the French masters of drag in photography, the enigmatic Pierre Molinier (1900-1976), who fascinated the surrealists.


Today the photography market puts an extraordinary premium on vintage editions of famous shots by famous artists.

The rest of the market, irrespective of era (except works considered as belonging purely to the contemporary art market) remains relatively affordable.

Until 13 November. Grand Palais.www.parisphoto.com

(1)     www.bnf.fr

(2)     www.christies.com

(3)     www.joron-derem.fr

- November 9, 2016

Richard Avedon
Joseph Beuys
Joseph Beuys
Elisheva Biernoff
Richard Avedon
Douglas Gordon
Douglas Gordon hands
Gerard Malanga
August Sander
Larry Clarck
Molinier auction catalogue