Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Hopefully, New Yorkers will get a similar opportunity to hear Frank when the show comes to the Met in September (here).
Heritage Auction Galleries
Total Lots: 186
Pre Sale Low Total Estimate: $3042000
Pre Sale High Total Estimate: $4488000
Total Lots Sold: 118
Total Lots Bought In: 68
Buy In %: 36.56%
Total Sale Proceeds: $2384690
Here is the breakdown (using the Low, Mid, and High definitions from the preview post, here):
Low Total Lots: 55
Low Sold: 38
Low Bought In: 17
Buy In %: 30.91%
Total Low Estimate: $425000
Total Low Sold: $233440
Mid Total Lots: 114
Mid Sold: 68
Mid Bought In: 46
Buy In %: 40.35%
Total Mid Estimate: $2163000
Total Mid Sold: $1060000
High Total Lots: 17
High Sold: 12
High Bought In: 5
Buy In %: 29.41%
Total High Estimate: $1900000
Total High Sold: $1091250
76.27% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above the estimate range. There was only one surprise (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate) in this sale: lot 173, Newly Occupied Tract Houses, Colorado Springs, 1968 by Robert Adams at $20000.
Complete lot by lot results can be found here.
1334 York Avenue at 72nd St
New York, NY 10021
Monday, March 30, 2009
Hans P. Kraus, Jr. (here): Hans Kraus had his usual assortment of top quality 19th century material on display, with a few images leaking over into the early 20th century. There were excellent portraits by Julia Margaret Cameron, Clarence White, and Gertrude Kasebier, as well as a pair by Edward Steichen. There was also an amazing Fox Talbot ladder scene. For our collection, the two Fox Talbot floral photoengravings from 1858 (Compound Leaf and Truncated Fern below, priced at $40000 and $25000 respectively) were the best fit. You had to really get up close to see the extreme detail captured in the prints.
Stephen Daiter Gallery (here): Daiter had mix of artists, with multiple works by Andre Kertesz, Barbara Crane, Ken Josephson, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Aaron Siskind, and Paul D'Amato on display. We continue to look for superior New York abstracted images by Kertesz for our collection, and this image below is a fine early one (Rooftop, New York, October 31, 1943, priced at $18000).
Stepher Bulger Gallery (here): Bulger had a solid mix of Kertesz work among other items in a varied display: a distortion, some color Polaroids, and an interesting portrait of collector Andre Jammes on the table stand. Most memorable however were the works by Allison Rossiter (Untitled Lament, Kodak Velox f4, expires October 1940, 2008, below, priced at $2800 and already sold). Rossiter takes old, expired photographic papers (some as old as 1915 or so), and then uses developer in a painterly way to create unique abstract forms, including any random chance artifacts resulting from the aging of the medium.
Vintage Works (here): Vintage Works always has its signature room of bins for browsing, and this show was no different, with a small anteroom in the booth dedicated to bins; there were also some excellent Southworth & Hawes daguerreotypes hiding in this room. On the exterior walls, there was a dense mix of images, including work by Dorothy Norman, Josef Sudek, Ilse Bing, Andre Kertesz, Aaron Siskind, and Francois Kollar (among many others). Our favorite, which we have seen several times over the years, was the vintage Steichen Maypole, from 1932, a multiple image (below, with "price on request").
Galerie Johannes Faber (here): Johannes Faber had a tightly edited group of well selected pictures on display. Josef Sudek, Rudolph Koppitz (portraits), Frantisek Drtikol (nudes), Edward Steichen (fashion) and Drahomir Ruzicka were all represented by strong images. There were also three excellent Paul Wolff still lifes. The best image in the booth was the small, crisp Karl Struss flower from 1930 (below, $8500). Struss didn't make many flowers, so this print also has the advantage of being a scarce commodity.
Rick Wester Fine Art (here): Rick Wester went with a booth dominated by 5 big beautiful Irving Penn images, in a mix of platinum and silver. There were also two Meghan Boody color works on one exterior wall, and a large black and white Mapplethorpe calla lily on another. The other walls held a mix of work; the small Callahan multiple image dye transfer from Provincetown, 1979 (below, priced at $18000) caught our eye the most.
Deborah Bell Photographs (here): Deborah Bell's booth was a mix of her gallery artists, with Marcia Resnick, Mariana Cook, and Susan Paulsen getting much of the wall space. There was also a selection of terrific works by Louis Faurer, and a Blumenfeld and Kertesz or two thrown into the mix for good measure. The most memorable however were the Gerard Petrus Fieret 1960s images mounted together on one page (there were two sets of four, each set priced at $7500).
Hemphill Fine Arts (here): I never seem to tire of Hiroshi Sugimoto's long exposure movie screen images; they always seem fresh and exciting. Hemphill had 5 of these strong images (3 drive ins and 2 interior theaters; one of the drive-ins below) and they held their own well against a barrage of colorful floor to ceiling dots by Colby Caldwell on an adjacent wall. Other booth highlights included some William Christenberry images in a box, and works by Tanya Marcuse.
Serge Plantureux (here): Serge Plantureux had an eclectic mix of mainly 19th century material on view, with Marville, O'Sullivan and Renard all represented. There were also a group of Karl Struss images, as well as some Rodchenko portraits and crowd scenes. I like the small Wright Morris contact prints hanging on an outside wall best (one of the images below, sold as a group).
Sepia International (here): Sepia had a dense wall of work, with a mix of artists including Linda Connor, Koichiro Kurita, and some contemporary tintypes by Michelle Kloehn. I continue to be interested by the work of Raghubir Singh, and there was a busy image displayed on the exterior booth wall that I enjoyed (a posthumous estate print, below, priced at $9500).
With 20 booths covered in Part 1, and another 25 reviewed here in Part 2, I think we canvassed the fair in enough depth to give other collectors who couldn't make it to the show a feel for what was on display. As always, if you think we missed something important, that's what the Comments section is for.
Friday, March 27, 2009
I had originally planned to try to give a report on each and every exhibitor, but this turned out to require more time than was available. So while these summaries do not cover every single booth, I think they do capture most of the high points (with sincere apologies to those who were omitted). In most cases, we'll discuss the major artists represented in each booth, often focusing on specific works (with prices). For each booth, we've taken a picture of the most memorable work or works we saw in the display. This may not have been the most expensive or best known image; it was simply the one that we found most enticing. I have also provided links to every gallery, so you can follow up as appropriate.
Let's get started...
Weston Gallery (here): The Weston Gallery from Carmel, CA, has the single best image in the entire fair for me, an exquisite Edward Weston nude of Bertha from 1927 (below), priced at a whopping $425000. The booth also contains a few images we have seen before, either buy-ins from the auction of the Weston collection or at the gallery over the years. These include the Alma Lavenson waterlily, the Margaret Bourke-White trumpets, and a pair of Robert Mapplethorpe black and white flowers. There is also a selection of Ansel Adams prints, and a corner display of 19th century work.
Danziger Projects (here): James Danziger has also gone for the mixed bag approach, with a busy booth full of work by his gallery artists. There is an excellent Tanyth Berkeley full body portrait of Grace out front, and three superb Seydou Keita portraits inside. There is the requisite Obama image (now famous due to Danziger's sharp detective work), as well as a soft Julia Margaret Cameron portrait hung high on a shelf (and easy to miss). For our collection, we very much enjoyed the Chuck Close hydrangea image (below); unfortunately it is being sold as part of a set of three images (a calla and a sunflower are the other two, priced at $25000 for all three) and not available on its own.
This concludes Part I of the AIPAD 2009 summary. I'll be at the show this afternoon gathering the details for Part II on Monday.
UPDATE: Part II is now available, and can be found here.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I arrived about 5:30 to find a generally small and sedate crowd. Unlike the caricatures of past art fairs as something akin to Wal-Mart at midnight on the day after Thanksgiving, there was no life threatening stampede to get to the art and no knife fights between collectors over prized prints. It was all very civilized; even the bar was satisfyingly empty (shot at right; 2 hours later, this same bar was 10 people deep and overrun.)
My evening was primarily spent socializing with dealers and gallery owners, especially those from out of town who I don't see face to face as often. While there were plenty of collectors around, I noticed a few glaring absences of major players I would have expected to see (perhaps they will visit at some other time). I saw quite a few auction house specialists and staff, met some museum curators I didn't know, and got introduced to a couple of old guard players who have been around the world of photography for decades. I also very much enjoyed seeing NY Times photographer Bill Cunningham at work in the crowd. Since things didn't really fill up until after 7:00, the early part of the evening was very low key. As an aside, try and get a look at the small, handheld AIPAD calendar given to the gallery owners; it has some hilarious images of dealers' faces superimposed on 19th century images.
Walking around the booths, there were of course many of the familiar names we would expect to see at AIPAD. What was a surprise were the many absences of top galleries that we like to visit, at least a dozen significant players missing by our informal count. Here's who I didn't see: Kicken Berlin, Priska Pasquer, Pace/MacGill, Laurence Miller, Etherton, Fraenkel, Yossi Milo, Luisotti, Rose, Michael Hoppen, Fahey Klein, and Staley-Wise. The scuttle in the crowd was that there were quite a few last minute cancellations. Filling in were several non-AIPAD member galleries and dealers, some rare book vendors (with unexpected glass cases and shelves in their booths), and a few other randoms (AXA, George Eastman House).
The other notable absence was the lack of top tier contemporary photography. This is less surprising, as most of the big names in contemporary photography have migrated to large and famous contemporary art dealers, away from the photography specialist galleries that are the bread and butter of AIPAD. So while there is plenty of excellent vintage work and a solid showing of established contemporary work, there are no images by any of the following that we noticed: no Gursky, Sherman, Prince, Becher, Struth, Ruff, Hofer, Dijkstra, Tillmans, Soth, Van Empel, Crewdson, Beecroft, Esser, or Lutter. I did see a group of Sugimoto theaters, but that was it for him as well I believe. So if contemporary photography is your focus, you'll have to work a bit harder and explore more varied work from the next level down.
These caveats aside, there was still plenty to see and I got tied up in conversation most of the night. In one booth, I saw a gallery friend grab three little hamburger appetizers off a tray and I harassed her about hoarding her dinner. In the end, she was smart; I got distracted talking with people and didn't get much to eat.
I'll be back at the show later today with my game face on, gathering more systematic information for detailed booth reports (which will start tomorrow).
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Our plan is to visit the show tonight, as well as on Thursday and Friday, and to do our best to deliver a comprehensive report of what we find on view. Since there are over 70 top notch galleries presenting, this will take us several posts over the next few days (likely continuing into next week) to cover everything adequately (so many pictures, so little time). Bear with us as we work through each booth, reviewing what's being displayed, selecting highlights, and reporting what dealers had to say. Postings will be intermittent, but dense with information once they're actually up and available.
And by all means, if you will be attending tonight or later this week, make sure to stop us from our obsessive looking and say hello. I'm the tall one with the notebook.
Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street
Thursday, March 26 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Friday, March 27 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 28 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 29 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
$40 for the run-of-show (includes catalogue)
$10 student daily admission
Comments/Context: German photographer Frank Thiel was an unknown for us prior to seeing his work for the first time at the recent Armory show. We were impressed by several of the large scale photographs we saw there, and bought this book to get ourselves up to speed on his larger body of work.
Most people know the highlights of recent German history: the falling of the Wall, the reunification of East and West, and the movement of the capital from Bonn to Berlin. What is perhaps less well known to outsiders and foreigners is that the reunification of the city (and country) led to a massive construction effort, both demolition of the old and building of the new. In joining the two cities once again, the entire fabric of the urban geography has been recently remade.
Thiel has spent the past decade documenting the architectural transformations going on his city, making wall sized images of both wide angle and close up views of destruction and construction. His pictures are full of cranes, scaffolding, bucket trucks, and temporary curtains. What he has chosen to pull out of these scenes of activity are the geometric patterns that lie beneath the perfect facades, often only visible during the building process. There are grids of rebar, intersecting lines of pipes, walls of tile, and repetitions of windows and concrete framing. Many of these pictures are extremely precise, meticulously aligned abstracted images of form and space. Thiel has also focused his eye on the deterioration and decay found in many of the older buildings. A series of peeling paint images recall Aaron Siskind and Minor White, but on a larger scale and infused with a spectrum of soft pastel colors.
What I found surprising in these images is that they are not particularly harsh or critical of the transformations being documented, as one might expect in our current age of skepticism and environmental awareness. Instead, these works have a little of the old 1920s/1930s romance in them, a more positive view of the efforts of man to make awe inspiring buildings; many of the close ups are in fact quite beautiful. Even the destruction shots have an underlying sense of optimism, a feeling that this new world could somehow be an improvement on the old.
Collector's POV: Thiel is represented in New York by Sean Kelly Gallery (here). A show of new photographs will be on display at the gallery starting in May (and we will surely make a visit).
There have been so many pictures made recently of the construction boom all over the world, as a collector, it is often hard not to get confused about which images belong to whom. And while a few of these pictures have echoes of Andreas Gursky in them, most have an authentic and recognizably different point of view (much less cool and detached, even though these are straight pictures), even though the subject matter may be similar. Thiel's work would fit very well into our collection, resonating with other city and industrial scenes we already own. The problem is that his work is universally way too large for our old Colonial home (low ceilings and small walls); we don't have much use for a mural sized image that won't fit through the doors. That said, I have very much enjoyed seeing more of Thiel's work and look forward to seeing a larger group of his pictures hung together later this spring.
In general, collectors are portrayed as insecure wealthy people who are looking for signals of quality from the other players in the contemporary market (context); they can't decide for themselves what is good, so they use "brand" as a proxy for quality, and follow the herd. Therefore, an artist's brand (rather than the work itself) becomes the driving force in the market (Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons as prime examples of this hype and celebrity driven approach).
Thompson goes on to place all of the other art market players (galleries/dealers, auction houses, museums, collectors, etc.) in this same branded hierarchy, all contributing to and influencing where an artist sits at any given time. Some explanation of the roles:
- Larry Gagosian is put forth as the ultimate "branded" dealer. His brand is so strong that it raises the prices of his artists meaningfully, by effective replacing the artist's brand with his own. Collectors (and museums) see his stamp of approval and feel confident they are getting the highest quality. All dealers and galleries array themselves against the above artist hierarchy, some focusing only on the recognized masters, some grooming established artists, others searching out and exposing emerging artists to the outside world. All are trying to create their own brands that define their value in the food chain, to help make collectors feel more comfortable. Art fairs are the ultimate meat (and money) market, where the brands of the galleries collide.
- Sotheby's and Christie's are seen as "branded" auction houses, where purchases at the high profile evening sales bring cache. The entire spectacle of the auction is designed to raise prices, but collectors use the events as ways to impress each other and draw on the brands of the houses (I bought this at Sotheby's or Christie's; it is therefore good). Again, a house like Phillips De Pury has placed itself in a different place on the hierarchy by selling the work of many more emerging artists.
- Even big time collectors become "branded", thereby increasing their power in the market. Charles Saatchi, Steve Cohen, and Eli Broad are just three names (among many, many others) that drive the market. If a gallery can "place" a work in one of these collections, it raises the value of the artist's brand. These collectors becomes arbiters of taste for other collectors (and museums) and get first choice ("access") to new output; their selections are followed and repeated, driving prices up. Collectors too align themselves in different places in the hierarchy; many collectors who once chased the trophy lots (perhaps in search of recognition, fame or a quick speculative flip) move on to search for the best emerging work. If they have a good "eye", their brand value as collectors increases.
- Museum brands are also vitally important to the underlying artist brand. A retrospective at the MoMA, Met or Tate Modern cements an artist's place in the hierarchy. A museum's stamp of legitimacy (whether via exhibit or a place in the permanent collection) does wonders for making collectors feel comfortable and for driving prices up (the lack of these hallmarks is also a sure signal of an artist either unknown or on the decline). While museum curators are for the most part independent thinkers, Thompson argues that the power of the branded galleries to influence the process of selecting which artists get what attention is too strong to underestimate.
- Critics are deemed to have only a small contributing influence in this mix, generally drowned out by the more powerful influences of galleries, museums and collectors.
Thompson then lays across this playing field the subject of prices for individual works, which are influenced (up and down) by the behaviors of all these players and strengths of their relative brands, all contributing to the location of the artist in the hierarchy (with the assumption that price and location are related). Psychology, momentum, scarcity, and adjacent reference points all come together to set current prices, which often seem to have little relation to any definition of "value" or "quality".
This book is full of statistical tidbits and surprising numbers, trying to quantify what is inherently a subjective enterprise, and many of these are unexpected and insightful. It also does a good job of making more transparent the complex economic relationships between various players (going into detail on auction house guarantees, dealer/artist contracts, etc.). Overall, while the market has changed meaningfully due to the changing economic conditions, the book's main points are still relevant and persuasive.
Collector's POV: As collectors ourselves, I found much of Thompson's analysis to be generally on the mark, even if I do think that collectors at the top end of the contemporary market are not necessarily representative of the behavior of all the collectors down the food chain (like us) - as an example, I don't think people who collect emerging work are as influenced by others as those at the top; by definition, they are trying to make their own way and find their own winners. That said, this book certainly made me think about how brands influence our own activity as collectors, and to what extent those brands change the way we view the photographs we ultimately add to our collection. We like to think we make our decisions based on our own personal vision of the best of what is available. How much of that world view has been spun by great marketing all around us? That's a hard question, worth pondering.