The Art Basel of photography
“Paris Photo is to photography what Art Basel is to contemporary art. You can find the whole world there.” The largest fair in the world dedicated to photography is taking place over four days starting from 11 November at the Grand Palais Ephémère, and San Francisco dealer Jeffrey Fraenkel, one of the greatest professionals in the discipline, is among the 149 galleries exhibiting there (as opposed to 180 in 2019 given the smaller size of the new site) (see another interview with Jeffrey Fraenkel here).
Carrie Mae Weems
He never misses it. While he exclusively displays photography, this comes in various guises, from names that are historic within the genre to conceptual artists. This is the case, for example, of one of his new recruits, Carrie Mae Weems, an African-American artist who is very high-profile across the Atlantic who also produces installations and videos.
The entire Armory space
Born in 1953, she features in the collections at Moma, among others, and is taking over the entire vast space of the Park Avenue Armory in New York for one day on 17 December 2021 (1). “It is perhaps because I didn’t think I had any that I became interested in the subject of power,” says the woman who, in her work, likes to play with stereotypes and celebrates the new participation of African-Americans and woman within the art world.
Thoughts on marriage
At Paris Photo, Jeffrey Fraenkel is presenting one of her self-portraits in black and white with its kitsch gold frame, wearing a wedding dress. Explicitly, she covers her mouth with tape. The photo, entitled “Thoughts on Marriage”, exists in three copies (on sale for 30,000 dollars).
Although the layout, generally speaking, is particularly tight this year, we can say that the 2021 edition of Paris Photo is of a good quality. The director of the fair, Florence Bourgeois, highlights that “despite the Covid crisis, two thirds of the galleries are, as usual, non-French. But for the 2021 edition for the first time we are also presenting an online platform that will be active until 17 November inclusive.”
One of the fair’s attractions is the new work from photographer Juergen Teller (born in 1964) at the booth of Parisian gallery Suzanne Tarasiève. Contrary to Carrie Mae Weems, he seems to be much more optimistic about marriage. He reveals his private life and the influence it has had on his creation in a video made on the opening night at the gallery.
“My life has been a paradise since I met Dovile Drizyte.” The superstar fashion photographer, famous for his provocative images with trash tendencies, and a favourite of the luxury world, offered photo-printed plates to each of his guests on the occasion of his marriage to this young woman. At Paris Photo, in editions of two copies, these shots depicting the close couple are on sale for 5000 euros. We also find paper prints, depicting snails “in action” in small format, in editions of 5 copies on sale for 6000 euros.
Portrait of Steve McQueen
In parallel, Suzanne Tarasiève are also dedicating an exhibition to him at their gallery until 4 December. Here there is a mixture of various works without any hierarchy, from a portrait of filmmaker Steve McQueen to intimate images of his wife. When we ask him about the nature of his work he prefers to dodge the question: “I don’t care about whether it’s art or not. All I know is that it’s published in magazines, books, and put up on big billboards and in December 2022 I will be occupying the whole of the Grand Palais Ephémère.” Here he reveals a scoop (see the report on Juergen Teller here).
A certain idea of intimacy
Since the early days of photography, artists have liked to immortalize a certain idea of intimacy.
The private dealer Adnan Sezer is presenting, in collaboration with colleague Bruno Tartarin, right near the fair at the hotel Pullman Tour Eiffel, a series of 33 prints beautifully named “L’origine du monde”, which conceal very little of a young woman’s most intimate area, dating from the 1870s. (On sale for 30,000 euros).
Adnan Sezer is developing an original offering that consists of collections or albums of old photos that are consistently the subject of a catalogue.
Like a Zola novel
They are also presenting 219 prints dating from 1905 to 1913, most likely made by an artist – who also sometimes drew on the photos – documenting Parisian life. “It resembles illustrations from a Zola novel, from the small trades that have vanished to shots of elegant people going for a stroll,” explains the dealer. (On sale for 100,000 euros). He adds, “this category of collection corresponds to a certain niche. We could describe it as ‘heritage photography’. The enthusiasts, museums and private individuals, are very motivated.”
That said, since the first records, set in the late 90s in the field of 19th-century photography, sales have noticeably slowed, with the exception of those concerning very rare pieces.
Archive of Modern Conflict
Currently, one of the biggest buyers of photography in all genres is Timothy Prus, curator of a collection created in 1991 and based in London: Archive of Modern Conflict (he did not wish to be filmed). This is part of the assets of the very wealthy Canadian David Thomson, who is also the owner of Reuters news agency. “We buy photos that allow us to understand what is going on in the world. Paris Photo is a very important show, especially for meeting gallerists who have come from far away, but the best opportunities can be found in the parallel shows like Photo Discovery (2) for example,” explains the man who oversees a collection of 8 million prints.
This photographic Parisian week coincides with numerous sales at auction. On 13 November the auction house Ader is presenting a catalogue listing 342 lots from across all eras.
It features 16 prints made by one of the greats of African-American photography, Gordon Parks (1912-2006). He said, “I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs.” According to expert Antoine Romand, “the shots come from the collection of a French journalist who collaborated with him during the 1970s and 80s.” Parks’ standing at auction has been consolidated considerably in recent years.
The record price for the photo-reporter went up to 21,135 euros in 2020 for a vintage print from 1952 which illustrates the famous novel “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison on what it means to be a black American (see the report dedicated to Kerry James Marshall here, who also references Ralph Ellison’s novel). At the Ader sale, a print of the same image, dating from the 1970s, is estimated at 5000 euros. Gordon Parks is less well known in France but the influx of an audience from abroad ought to attract new bidders.
In New York, Howard Greenberg’s famous photo gallery, which is also taking part in Paris Photo, is staging an exhibition on him until 23 December.
(2) Photo Discovery is a salon that is held on a single day, 13 November, in the Wagram room and is dedicated to vintage photography
Paris-Photo: from 11 to 14 November. Grand Palais Ephémère.
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