Monday, June 15, 2009

August Sander: Selections @Richardson

JTF (just the facts): A total of 11 gelatin silver prints, with white metal frames and antique white mats, hung in the Project Gallery in back. Most of the prints are approximately 10x8, and were printed in editions of 12. The negatives were taken by August Sander in the period between 1914 and 1931, and the prints were made posthumously by his grandson, Gerd Sander, in the 1990s. (Installation shot at right.)

Comments/Context: The small group of August Sander portraits hung in the back room at Yancey Richardson provides some important historical context for the works by Hiroh Kikai which are concurrently hung in the main gallery space in front. Sander's exhaustive effort to document the German people is one of the keystone projects in the history of the medium, and Sander's straightforward frontal style, used to capture a broad taxonomy of people, has influenced generations of photographers since. It would not be an overstatement to say that nearly all of photographic portraiture after Sander has been in some way influenced by his approach.

The selections on view are posthumous prints of some of Sander's best known images, intermingled with some lesser known but equally captivating portraits. It's a tiny sample of Sander's monumental project, but the works provide resonance and contrast with Kikai's images of contemporary Japanese citizens. While both take a head on view of the subject, Sander often placed his full frame subjects in some kind of environmental context, while Kikai's 3/4 torso images have a repeated, non-descript background. Walking back and forth between the two rooms offers some compelling juxtapositions and echoes of style.

Collector's POV: The images in this small show are priced between $3800 and $5200, including the frame. There are three sets of Sander images floating around in the market at this point: scarce vintage or early August Sander prints, the first round of posthumous prints made by Gunther Sander in the 1970s and 1980s, and the most recent round of posthumous prints made by Gerd Sander in the 1990s. Prices for vintage images range from approximately $5000 to $100000 at auction, being highly dependent on the image itself (famous versus unknown). The posthumous prints by either son or grandson tend to range between $2000 and $8000. While the prints in this show were made recently, they are well crafted images, with subtle tonal ranges and delicate black borders. While they weren't made by the hand of the master himself, they offer a surprisingly good substitute for those who fall in love with a Sander image that is otherwise unavailable.

Rating: * (1 star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • People of the Twentieth Century exhibit @Met 2004 (here)
  • Art in America review, 2004, via American Suburb X (here)
  • Sander's Children at Danziger Projects, 2008 (here)

August Sander: Selections
Through July 2nd

Yancey Richardson Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011

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