Thursday, September 30, 2010

Auction Results: Contemporary Art, September 27, 2010 @Sotheby's

The results for the photography buried in Sotheby's Contemporary Art sale earlier this week were decidedly ho-hum. The Buy-In Rate for photography was over 30% and the Total Sale Proceeds for the photo lots missed the Total Low Estimate by a decent margin, with particular softness at the higher end.

The summary statistics are below (all results include the buyer’s premium):

Total Lots: 24
Pre Sale Low Total Estimate: $230100
Pre Sale High Total Estimate: $329700
Total Lots Sold: 16
Total Lots Bought In: 8
Buy In %: 33.33%
Total Sale Proceeds: $194750

Here is the breakdown (using the Low, Mid, and High definitions from the preview post, here):

Low Total Lots: 11
Low Sold: 10
Low Bought In: 1
Buy In %: 9.09%
Total Low Estimate: $52700
Total Low Sold: $42250

Mid Total Lots: 13
Mid Sold: 6
Mid Bought In: 7
Buy In %: 53.85%
Total Mid Estimate: $277000
Total Mid Sold: $152500

High Total Lots: 0
High Sold: NA
High Bought In: NA
Buy In %: NA
Total High Estimate: $0
Total High Sold: NA

The top photography lot by High estimate was lot 245, Elger Esser, Saone, France, 2001, at $30000-40000; it was also the top outcome of the sale at $56250.

Only 68.75% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above the estimate range, and there were no surprises in this sale (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate).

Complete lot by lot results can be found here.

Sotheby's
1334 York Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Auction: Photographs, October 8, 2010 @Phillips

Phillips continues the Fall Photographs season with its massive various owner sale on the 8th. It's a broad mix of material, with special attention paid to Ruth Bernhard and Harry Callahan, and yet another installment of Mapplethorpes from Lisa Lyon. Not too many unexpected standouts in this sale, but plenty of diversity to dig through. Overall, there are a whopping 410 lots on offer, with a total High estimate of $5451700.

Here's the statistical breakdown:

Total Low Lots (high estimate up to and including $10000): 260
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): $1669700

Total Mid Lots (high estimate between $10000 and $50000): 138
Total Mid Estimate: $2742000

Total High Lots (high estimate above $50000): 12
Total High Estimate: $1040000

The top lot by High estimate is tied between two lots: lot 47, Robert Frank, Trolley-New Orleans, 1956/1970s, (image at right, top, via Phillips), and lot 64, Richard Avedon, Brigitte Bardot, Hair by Alexandre, Paris Studio, 1959, both at $100000-150000.

The following is the list of the photographers represented by five or more lots in this sale (with the number of lots on offer in parentheses):

Ruth Bernhard (26)
Harry Callahan (20)
Robert Mapplethorpe (12)
Horst P. Horst (9)
Andre Kertesz (9)
Irving Penn (9)
Herb Ritts (8)
Peter Beard (6)
Henri Cartier-Bresson (6)
Sally Mann (6)
Vik Muniz (6)
Arnold Newman (6)
Ansel Adams (5)
Walker Evans (5)
Robert Frank (5)
Lee Friedlander (5)
Helmut Newton (5)
Erwin Olaf (5)

A few images that caught my eye for our own collection include:

Lot 78, Harry Callahan, Eleanor, Chicago, 1949
Lot 159, Edward Steichen, Foxgloves, France, 1926
Lot 299, Adam Fuss, Untitled, 1995 (image at right, bottom, via Phillips)

The complete lot by lot catalog can be found here.
October 8th

Phillips De Pury & Company
450 West 15th Street
New York, NY 10011

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Auction: Important Daguerreotypes by Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, October 7, 2010 @Christie's

Christie's follows up its various owner Photographs sale with a single artist sale of daguerreotypes by Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey on October 7th. His images follow the typical 19th century Grand Tour, documenting monuments, vernacular scenes, and architectural details in Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jerusalem. There are a total of 74 lots on offer, with a total High estimate of $2978000.

Here's the simple statistical breakdown:

Total Low Lots (high estimate up to and including $10000): 1
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): $2000
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Total Mid Lots (high estimate between $10000 and $50000): 50
Total Mid Estimate: $1301000

Total High Lots (high estimate above $50000): 23
Total High Estimate: $1675000

The top lot by High estimate is lot 3, Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, 261. Paris. 1841. Etude de plantes, at $140000-160000. (Image at right, top, via Christie's.)
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While we are not daguerreotpye collectors, I particularly enjoyed lot 47, Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, 145. Rosette. 1842. Fabriques et palmiers for its densely textured architectural patterns. (Image at right, bottom, via Christie's.)

The complete lot by lot catalog can be found here. The eCatalogue is located here.

A Historic Photographic Grand Tour: Important Daguerreotypes by Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey
October 7th
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20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020

Auction: Photographs, October 6 and 7, 2010 @Christie's

The main event Photographs auctions occur next week in New York, with Christie's up on the 6th and 7th with a sprawling various owner sale spanning two days. Highlights include a group of Yosemite views by Carleton Watkins, another selection of American color photography from the Berman collection, and a deep roster of Irving Penn images. There are a total of 349 lots on offer, with a total High estimate of $6795500.
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Here's the simple statistical breakdown:

Total Low Lots (high estimate up to and including $10000): 189
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): $1193500

Total Mid Lots (high estimate between $10000 and $50000): 137
Total Mid Estimate: $3302000

Total High Lots (high estimate above $50000): 23
Total High Estimate: $2300000

The top lot by High estimate is lot 32, Diane Arbus, Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967, at $250000-350000 (image at right, top, via Christie's).
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Here's the complete list of photographers represented by five or more lots in the sale (with the number of lots in parentheses):

Irving Penn (23)
Ansel Adams (16)
William Eggleston (15)
Joel Sternfeld (15)
Diane Arbus (14)
Stephen Shore (14)
Robert Frank (13)
Robert Polidori (11)
Carleton Watkins (11)
William Christenberry (9)
Alec Soth (9)
Henri Cartier-Bresson (9)
Robert Mapplethorpe (8)
Man Ray (8)
Harry Callahan (7)
Frederick Evans (6)
Mitch Epstein (5)
Hiroshi Sugimoto (5)

For our own collection, I can imagine bidding on:

Lot 14, Margaret Bourke-White, Terminal Tower, Cleveland, Ohio, 1928 (image at right, bottom, via Christie's)
Lot 108, Lewis Baltz, Houston, Texas, 1973

The complete lot by lot catalog can be found here. The eCatalogue is located here.

Photographs
October 6th and 7th

Christie's
20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lee Friedlander: Recent Western Landscape @Boone

JTF (just the facts): A total of 65 black and white photographs, framed in blond wood and matted, and hung against mottled grey walls in the main gallery space and a smaller side gallery (44 prints in the main room and 21 in the side room). All of the works are recent gelatin silver prints on 20x16 paper, framed square. The images were taken between 2008 and 2009 in California, New Mexico, Wyoming and other Western locations and are uneditioned. An exhibition catalog is available from the gallery. The show was curated by Klaus Kertess. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: If you were to take a representative sample of traditional landscape photography greatness and compare these chestnuts with Lee Friedlander's recent landscapes, I think the most reasonable conclusion would be that Friedlander, even at his advanced age, is a bomb-throwing, rule-breaking subversive. His pictures disregard nearly every landscape convention and cliche on the books, throwing away the heroic long view, trading it for claustrophobic immersion in the roughness of the land.

While Friedlander's landscapes might be thought of as the anti-Ansel Adams (a thorough rejection of prettied-up grandeur), they remain rooted in a deep sense of American love of nature. His images have the immediacy of walking on foot, of bushwhacking through endless thickets and catching a glimpse of something glorious in the distance. They are human scaled, independent, self-sufficient, reminiscent of what you might have really encountered on a day hike with Muir, or Thoreau, or Whitman.

In general, this body of work seems like a logical extension from The Desert Seen and Apples and Olives; there is a similar aesthetic on display, just applied to different subject matter on the ground. Nearly every image is some kind of blocked view, often with some specimen shrub right in front, poking its twiggy fingers right in your eye. The view is constantly frustrated, obstructed, obfuscated, to the point that we feel hemmed in, trapped by the forest, attacked at every angle by layers of trees and underbrush; perhaps we have forgotten how to feel comfortable in these natural surroundings. And yet there is a graceful elegance to these all-over compositions, the feeling of really being there and letting go a bit, becoming involved rather than watching safely from afar, seeing the beauty of the overlooked details - the tree bark, the leaves, the delicate snow cover.
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And then for just a fraction of a second, a glimpse of mountains appears in the distance, screened off by the branches. It's a double-edged moment: maybe it reminds us that all the effort of scrabbling through the inhospitable bush was worthwhile, that the land is indeed amazing, or maybe those mountains are just Friedlander's irreverent joke, a reminder that his pictures are anything but traditionally grand. I think the pictures can be read both ways: both intensely, dirt in your shoes human, and entirely ironic.
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A few quick thoughts on the show details. In many ways, the polished floor, dimmed lighting, hushed tone venue of Mary Boone seems like a mismatch for these pictures; the photographs are brash, full of life and in your face; they'd do just as well against a rough brick wall or plywood paneling, with a raucous, energetic, expressive conversation going on in the background. As always with the prolific Friedlander, there are a few too many images on view (the side room doesn't add much to what is already on display in the main gallery), and some tighter editing might have made the effect a bit stronger; the straight-line hanging encourages the pictures to blend together a bit too much. And finally, I think some of these works would be truly mind-blowing if they were enlarged to massive scale (say 40x40).

All in, Friedlander has once again demonstrated that he has an immense reserve of originality, and can find an innovative point of view for nearly every photographic genre. In these works, he has expertly deconstructed the landscape, reconnected to the perspective from the ground, and found satisfaction in the first-hand experience of being altogether insignificant.
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Collector's POV: The prints in this show are priced at $8500 each, which represents another step up in gallery pricing for Freidlander's newest work. Friedlander is represented by Janet Borden in New York (here) and Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco (here).
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A wide variety of his images are routinely available in the secondary markets, ranging in recent years from as little as $2000 to as much as $80000; at the low end of the price range, one can find later prints, broken up portfolios and lesser known images, and at the high end, vintage prints of his most recognizable images from the 1960s and early 1970s.
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Rating: ** (two stars) VERY GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Related books: The Desert Seen (here), Apples and Olives (here)
Through October 23rd
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745 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10151

Monday, September 27, 2010

Benefit Auction: George Eastman House, October 4, 2010

Just ahead of the upcoming photography auctions next week in New York, the George Eastman House is having the largest fundraising event in the museum's history, a massive combo live/online sale of donated photographic material (prints, books, and cameras). While most of the lots are estimated under $10000, the top lot is an Outerbridge still life at $100000.

There are two portions of the benefit sale, a live auction of 93 lots at Sotheby's on October 4th (catalog here, click on the appropriate tab) and an online auction of 223 lots at iGavel running between now and October 7th (catalog here). The printed catalog for the live auction gives ample billing to the donors of the works, but the lack of lot numbers makes it somehwat difficult to reference specific images. Estimates also seem to be missing from the live auction website, so find a hard copy catalog if you need/want this information; estimates for the online auction can be found in the individual lot details on the iGavel website or in the printed supplement to the live auction catalog.

While benefit auctions aren't a natural fit for our statistical price analysis (especially since results aren't usually reported publicly), it doesn't mean they can't be a great place to pick up unexpected bargains while supporting a very worthy cause. All in, these are a pair of sales worth checking out, and an important photographic institution that merits your hard earned collecting dollars.

Auction Results: First Open, September 22, 2010 @Christie's

The results for the photography buried in the First Open sale at Christie's in New York last week were generally solid, with the Total Sale Proceeds for the photo lots coming in above their pre-sale high estimate. The top lot Struth lent an important helping hand, with roughly $100K of over-the-estimate dollars to add to the pot.

The summary statistics are below (all results include the buyer’s premium):

Total Lots: 35
Pre Sale Low Total Estimate: $528000
Pre Sale High Total Estimate: $775000
Total Lots Sold: 25
Total Lots Bought In: 10
Buy In %: 28.57%
Total Sale Proceeds: $787875

Here is the breakdown (using the Low, Mid, and High definitions from the preview post, here):

Low Total Lots: 10
Low Sold: 7
Low Bought In: 3
Buy In %: 30.00%
Total Low Estimate: $69000
Total Low Sold: $78750

Mid Total Lots: 22
Mid Sold: 16
Mid Bought In: 6
Buy In %: 27.27%
Total Mid Estimate: $436000
Total Mid Sold: $380125

High Total Lots: 3
High Sold: 2
High Bought In: 1
Buy In %: 33.33%
Total High Estimate: $270000
Total High Sold: $329000

The top photography lot by High estimate was lot 134, Thomas Struth, Kunsthistorisches Museum III, Vienna, 1989, at $100000-150000; it was also the top outcome of the sale at $254500. The next highest lot by High estimate was lot 13, Vik Muniz, Marlene Dietrich (Pictures of Diamonds), 2004, at $40000-60000; it did not sell.

100.00% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above the estimate range. There were a total of 2 surprises in this sale (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate):

Lot 30, Cindy Sherman, As Marilyn Monroe, 1982, at $20000 (image at right, via Christie's)
Lot 194, Massimo Vitali, Lernpark, 2001, at $35000 (image at right, top, via Christie's)

Complete lot by lot results can be found here.
20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020

Bing Wright @Paula Cooper

JTF (just the facts): A total of 19 works, hung in the reception, small front gallery and the larger main space (split by a dividing wall). 9 of the works are from the Silver on Mirror series; they are each archival inkjet prints mounted on museum board, framed in silver with no mat. The prints are 50x40, in editions of 5, from 2010. Another 8 of the works are from the Silver Prints series; they are wax and silver leaf on silver prints, again mounted on museum board, framed in white and matted. These prints are 23x19 and are each unique, made in 2007. The show also includes a single full plate daguerreotype (unique) and a 12x152 scroll (silk and archival inkjet print mounted on paper, in an edition of 2+AP). (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: In a last hurrah before dismantling his wet chemistry darkroom (the world of digital processing having overtaken his old ways), Bing Wright decided to make one final dive into the realm of the silver print. This show represents the fruits of that exploration, two bodies of abstract, process-centric work that are literally images of silver.

The larger works on display were made by dropping crumpled pieces of silver leaf on a mirror. The angled plane of the mirror creates distorted reflections of the items that sit on its surface, and pure light bounces off both the silver leaf and the mirror itself, causing sparkles, highlights and bright flashes. The shards of leaf are alternately flat, wrinkled, crushed and ripped, creating a textured landscape of folds and shadows. In some images, only a few scraps of sliver leaf dot the surface; in others, a dense jumble of pieces make for more complicated compositions. In both cases, the works seem like elegant exercises in metallic tonality, a simple construction creating endless variations of scintillating silver light.

The smaller works on view have a more hand-worked quality to them. Wright started by dropping silver leaf on glass and then making photographs of the results, capturing both the top layer and the blurry shadows cast below. During the printing process, when the prints were still wet, he layered more broken scraps of actual leaf onto the surface. These shards of silver were allowed to age, often turning a tawny brown around the edges. The effect brings a kind of dated patina to the abstractions, the collaged real silver leaf adding an object-quality physicality. These works are much less sharp and crisp, more muted and tactile, with a stronger sense of random chance than meticulous control.

Of the two, I preferred the Silver on Mirror images, as they had much more visual punch, especially from a distance, and up close, there was more rumpled tonal gradation to get lost in. A project like this can run the risk of seeming a bit too mannered, trying too hard to make something out of nothing. The best of the images here get beyond that trap and transform the humble materials into dazzling blasts of unexpected glint and glitter.

Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced as follows: the 50x40 prints are $10000 each, the 23x19 prints are $6500 each, the daguerreotype is $9500, and the scroll is $15000. Wright's work has not yet made it to the secondary markets in any significant way, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point. In general, I think the Silver on Mirror images will appeal to both collectors of contemporary abstraction, as well as those with a more scientific bent.

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

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Reviews: New Yorker (here), NY Times, 2000 (here)
Bing Wright
Through October 23rd

Paula Cooper Gallery
434 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10011

Friday, September 24, 2010

An-My Lê @Murray Guy

JTF (just the facts): A total of 17 color works, framed in white with no mat, and hung in the North (8 images) and South (6 images and 1 set of 5 images as one work) galleries and in the back office area (2 images). All of the works are archival pigment prints, available in editions of 5, and made between 2009 and 2010. The prints come in two sizes, 40x57 and 27x38; there are 12 works in the larger size and 4 works in the smaller size on display, with the set of 5 images also in the smaller size. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: An-My has built her photographic career around exploring the militarization of our world. Rather than taking documentary photographs of combat operations like a war correspondent, she has pointed her camera at unseen facets of the military, and investigated the kinds of imagery of war that we have become accustomed to seeing. Her recent work has explored realistic desert training camps and Vietnam re-enactments, asking layered questions about the nature of war, its downstream impacts and the way in which pictures are part of how we internalize and remember these moments.
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Her newest images come at military operations from yet another oblique angle, documenting the day-to-day reality of humanitarian and relief missions, training sessions, security details, and hospital services performed by military personnel. In contrast to our 24-hour news view of exploding bombs and constant intense action, these images have an overwhelming sense of the mundane; in most cases, not much is happening. Soldiers wait around, run through routine exercises, and perform a variety of important services without fanfare: they provide first aid training and fix teeth in Ghana, manage the distribution of supplies in Haiti, cut down trees and clear trip wires in the jungle of Indonesia, and practice putting out naval fires in Senegal. She deftly switches between the massive scale of the military machine (a ship moving through the Suez Canal) to more intimate portraits of individual soldiers and sailors (often women), at work but not idealized. Her pictures are a strong reminder of all the tasks the military performs that don't involve firing rifles and launching rockets, of the many down-time moments and quiet in-between times where straightforward, necessary tasks are getting done.
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Her image of a hospital ship waiting room in Vietnam, where a Buddhist nun and a Navy sailor sit together on folding chairs, is perhaps the perfect embodiment of the mood of this project. There are no obvious bad guys, no generals, no bombs and bullets, just an unexpected juxtaposition of cultures, thrown together by the sprawl of the military. An-My Lê's photographs don't shout at you, and if you blow by them too quickly, you'll miss their resonance. Her images are subtle and nuanced, showing us not the cleaned up head shot portraits of heroic soldiers, but those same folks straightening their ties and fixing their hair before the images are taken. These pictures are the back story to the one you see on the news, large scale vignettes of the unseen military, full of small contradictions and forgotten hard work.

Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced as follows: the 40x57 prints are $12000, the 27x38 prints are $8500, and the set of 5 images is $35000. An-My Lê's work has very little history in the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
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Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Review: Art in America (here)
  • Features: art21 (here)
  • Exhibit: MoCP, 2007 (here)
  • Book: Small Wars (here)
Through October 30th
453 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Auction Results: Post-War and Contemporary Art, September 16, 2010 @Christie's South Kensington

It was a lackluster start to the Fall photography season at the recent Post-War and Contemporary Art sale at Christie's in London last week, with only 2 of the top 7 photography lots finding buyers and the Total Sale Proceeds for photography missing the Total Low Estimate by a decent margin.

The summary statistics are below (all results include the buyer’s premium):

Total Lots: 46
Pre Sale Low Total Estimate: £231000
Pre Sale High Total Estimate: £337700
Total Lots Sold: 34
Total Lots Bought In: 12
Buy In %: 26.09%
Total Sale Proceeds: £159813

Here is the breakdown (using the Low, Mid, and High definitions from the preview post, here):

Low Total Lots: 27
Low Sold: 21
Low Bought In: 6
Buy In %: 22.22%
Total Low Estimate: £83700
Total Low Sold: £61813

Mid Total Lots: 16
Mid Sold: 12
Mid Bought In: 4
Buy In %: 25.00%
Total Mid Estimate: £144000
Total Mid Sold: £73000

High Total Lots: 3
High Sold: 1
High Bought In: 2
Buy In %: 66.67%
Total High Estimate: £110000
Total High Sold: £25000

The top lot by High estimate was lot 160, David LaChapelle, Deluge: Museum, 2007; it did not sell. The next highest lot by High estimate was lot 14, Thomas Ruff, m. d. p. n. 28, 2003; it too failed to find a buyer. The top outcome of the sale fell to lot 20, Chuck Close, Self-Portrait, 1980, at £25000. (Image at right, top, via Christie's.)

79.41% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above their estimate. There was only one surprise in this sale (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate):

Lot 151, Larry Clark, Teenage Lust, 1983, at £8125

Complete lot by lot results can be found here.
85 Old Brompton Road
London SW7 3LD

Auction: Latin America, September 29, 2010 @Phillips

Phillips continues its 2010 series of themed sales next week with a selection of works entitled "Latin America". Vik Muniz is the standard bearer, with 6 of the top 10 lots by High estimate. Out of a total of 313 lots on offer, there are 74 lots of photography mixed in, with a total High estimate for photography of $643500.

Here's the statistical breakdown:

Total Low Lots (high estimate up to and including $10000): 60
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): $309500

Total Mid Lots (high estimate between $10000 and $50000): 13
Total Mid Estimate: $284000

Total High Lots (high estimate above $50000): 1
Total High Estimate: $50000

The top lot by High estimate is lot 161, Vik Muniz, Don Quixote in His Study, After William Lake Price, 1890 (from Rebus Series), 2004, at $30000-50000. (Image at right, top, via Phillips.)

The following is the list of the photographers represented by two or more lots in this sale (with the number of lots on offer in parentheses):

Luis González Palma (8)
Manuel Álvarez Bravo (7)
Flor Garduño (7)
Vik Muniz (7)
Sebastião Salgado (6)
Tina Modotti (5)
Nickolas Muray (3)
Mario Algaze (2)
Natalia Arias (2)
Carlos Betancourt (2)
Carlos Garaicoa (2)
Ernst Haas (2)
Graciela Iturbide (2)
Ernesto Pujol (2)
Mario Testino (2)

The complete lot by lot catalog can be found here.

September 29th

450 West 15th Street
New York, NY 10011

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New AIPAD Members 2010

Here's the list of new AIPAD member galleries for 2010:

Galerie f5,6, Munich (here)
M+B, Los Angeles (here)
Flo Peters Gallery, Hamburg (here)
Julie Saul Gallery, New York (here)
Vision Neil Folberg, Jerusalem (here)

Nan Goldin, New Work @Marks

JTF (just the facts): This is a actually broad group show, including the work of Katharina Fritsch, Robert Gober, Nan Goldin, Andreas Gursky, Martin Honert, Charles Ray, and Terry Winters, displayed across the gallery's three Chelsea locations. While there is a single Andreas Gursky photograph (a Dortmund soccer stadium/crowd) on display in one of the 22nd Street galleries, there is a larger sample of Nan Goldin's new work on view in the 24th Street space. There are a total of 8 Goldin photographic works, framed in black without mats, taking up half the gallery area. All of the works are cibachrome prints, made between 2006 and 2010, and printed in editions of 18. Four of the images have physical dimensions of 30x40, the others are either 30x30, 42x60, or 59x66. The two largest works are grids of images, made up of 16 and 9 individual images respectively. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: While this is really a sprawling group show of gallery artists (most of them not photographers), I couldn't help myself from taking a quick look at Nan Goldin's new work. What's on view is a mini-sampler of ideas: still lifes of burned Parisian taxidermy (?), larger grids of images (small ephemeral nudes and layered, multiple exposure people snapshots, displayed in a sequential manner reminiscent her famous slide shows), and a group of strong single images that seem most related to her prior work and familiar aesthetic.
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Over the years, one of the things I have come to admire most in Goldin's work is her subtle understanding of color. While Joey as Marilyn mines emotional territory we have seen before from Goldin, the saturated orangey yellow that envelops the hotel room heightens the tension of the cinematic moment. Similarly, a single tree landscape might seem thoroughly boring, but this one, taken at twilight with a flash, creates an epic purple blue sky set off by white flowers in the foreground, the evening thick and lush with melancholy color. I think Ava twirling, NYC is perhaps the best image in this small bunch. In it, a young girl in a white dress spins in a bedroom, her dress and hair flowing out in a blurred arc of motion; deceptively simple, and yet, perfectly lovely.

While the overall body of photographic work here is a bit disconnected, if you find yourself in the neighborhood, take a moment to climb up the stairs and catch a few of the standouts.

Collector's POV: The Nan Goldin works in this show come in two prices: the two larger grid images at $40000 each, and the smaller images (in varying specific sizes) at $12000 each. Goldin's work is regularly available in the secondary markets, with dozens of images available at auction every year. Prices generally range between $2000 and $34000, with larger edition sizes (100+ in some cases) keeping prices down. Goldin is also represented by Yvon Lambert in Paris (here).

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

Transit Hub:
  • Features: artnet (here), Frieze (here)
  • Interview: Foto Tapeta (here)

Matthew Marks Gallery
523 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

John Pfahl, Métamorphoses de la Terre @Borden

JTF (just the facts): A total of 22 color photographs, framed in dark brown and matted, and hung against a mix of white and yellow striped walls in the main gallery space. The works are digital prints on Innova paper, each 13x19 and printed in editions of 12. All of the images were made in 2010, from negatives taken in the previous thirty years. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: John Pfahl has spent the better part of his photographic life exploring the edges of the landscape genre, applying intellectual and conceptual overlays to the sheer beauty of nature. In his newest body of work, he uses digital distortion to investigate the swirling patterns found naturally in rock formations, lava flows, and lake beds, turning these stratifications and geological wonders into gestural, rhythmic abstractions.

Pfahl's manipulations feel both painterly and mathematical, where the plane of the image is alternately twisted, elongated, bent, and shaken, creating pulsating angles and curves that undulate and repeat across the surface. The natural colors get squished together in layers, creating a marbling effect (reminiscent of Gerhard Richter's squeegeed colors in his overpainted photographs) as the colors are forced to morph and mix. The best of the images become chaotic, slashing, all-over refractions, nearly unrecognizable as something specific. I particularly enjoyed the sandy scratchiness of Roadcut, California, the dense heartbeat patterning of Zion Canyon, Utah, and the unbalanced, lyrical back and forth of Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone, Wyoming.

The challenge with this kind of project is that there is a fine line between innovative conceptual thinking and overly-clever Photoshop trickiness. The most successful images in this show stay away from obvious visual gimmicks and transform the landscape into something both rooted in reality and altogether foreign. Using the land as the basis for energetic, expressionistic abstraction isn't perhaps a wholly new idea, but Pfahl's digital manipulations offer a contemporary twist on the concept of imposing our own sense of beauty on the already breathtaking natural world.
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Collector's POV: The prints in this show are reasonably priced at $2000 each. Even though Pfahl has had a long and successful career, his work is not routinely available in the secondary markets. As such, gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
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Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Altered Landscapes in George Eastman House collection (here)
John Pfahl, Métamorphoses de la Terre
Through October 15th
560 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tribble & Mancenido, Hurry Up & Wait @Wolf

JTF (just the facts): A total of 11 color photographs, framed in white with no matting and hung in the main gallery space and behind the reception desk. All of the works are archival pigment prints, sized 30x40 and printed in editions of 5. The images were made between 2008 and 2010. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Before seeing this show, if you had asked me to guess what I thought the lives of long-haul truck drivers were actually like, I suppose the adjectives I might have come up with would have been boring (mile after mile of endless highway), stressful (gotta get there on time!), dreary, lonely, and maybe even sad, all in an abstract way. To get at the real answer, the husband and wife team of James Tribble and Tracey Mancenido packed up their cameras, got their commercial licenses, and spent the better part of a year on a permanent road trip, documenting the American trucking subculture from the inside, almost like embedded journalists.
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What emerges from their travels isn't a series of surprising localities, dramatic adventures or iconic moments, but a sense of constant, mind-numbing motion, a journey without destination, a life of interchangeable truck stops, gas stations, parking lots, and eighteen-wheel tractor trailers. Their photographic approach mixes staged portraits with still lifes, wider shots of truck stop architecture with close-up near abstractions. Quiet, overlooked details are used to animate the story: a glowing dash board, a rainbow oil slick on the pavement, a set of orange warning triangles, a swirling salt residue, a group of parked trailers at night, a repairman sitting on an expanse of gravel, a brightly lit gas station empty in the pitch blackness. The result is an atmospheric portrait that echoes some of the stereotypes I alluded to, but with a deeper sense of personality; the grim reality of rolling up the miles each and every day weighs heavily on these otherwise crisp photographic fragments.
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With some deft editing and sequencing, I think this body of work would make a solid artist's book. I think the danger lies in having too many pristine, almost bloodless images; it is the sympathetic connections and overlays to the larger story that give the pictures their emotional punch and context. Perhaps the success of the project actually turns on the relative strength of the portraits, even though some of the fragments may be the strongest images in the series. It's clear that trucking is a hard and gritty life, and the weariness that is etched on the faces of the drivers delivers the memorable pathos. While the elegant, stylized details tell an important part of the tale, in the end, it is the forgotten struggles of the people that make it real.

Collector's POV: The prints in the show are priced at $3000 each. Since this is the first solo show in New York for the artist couple, it follows that their work has not yet reached the secondary markets in any way. As such, gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
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Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Artist site (here) and blog (here)
  • Features/Reviews: Cool Hunting (here), The Black Snapper (here), Canteen (here)

Sasha Wolf Gallery
528 West 28th Street
New York, NY 10001

Christopher Bucklow @Danziger

JTF (just the facts): A total of 7 large scale color photographs, framed in thin white and hung in the single room gallery space. All of the works are unique cibachrome prints from the Tetrarch series, each 60x40 (or reverse). The images were made between 2005 and 2009. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Christopher Bucklow's radiant silhouettes of light have become a kind of signature style - even from across a large room, a Bucklow photogram sticks out and is instantly recognizable. I suppose that this kind of popularity is both a blessing and a curse: good, in that people find the work memorable and original, and bad, in that it's hard to get away from the aesthetic that has made his pictures so easily identifiable.
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The images on view in this small show continue down the path we have come to expect, albeit on a slightly larger scale. Lithe young bodies made of brilliant light once again stand against rich colored backgrounds, like auras or aliens or futuristic ghosts. Much has been made of Bucklow's unusual photogram process (aluminum foil, holes punched for each day of the sitter's life, sunlight), but I think it is the resulting visual effect that matters: Pointillist dots of light that coalesce into recognizable forms, sometimes with uneven textural roughness, sometimes with overwhelming, overflowing brightness. The works seem to breathe or pulsate, adding a sense of luminous mystery and fuzzy dreaminess to the otherwise simple forms.

While I remain a fan of these pictures simply due to their wow factor, I don't think Bucklow has shown us anything particularly surprising in these most recent works; a bit bigger yes, perhaps in some distinctive colors, but not wildly different from his previous successful images. I'm most interested by the innovative aesthetic idea at the root of his artistic approach, and would very much like to see him expand and explore its edges in new and radical ways.
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Collector's POV: The works in this show are each priced at $15000. Bucklow's prints can be found in the secondary markets from time to time, perhaps a handful of lots in any given year; prices have generally ranged between $5000 and $14000.
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Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
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Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Book: Guest, 2004 (here)
Through October 23rd
534 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

Friday, September 17, 2010

Julie Blackmon: Line-Up @Mann

JTF (just the facts): A total of 13 color photographs, framed in white with no mats, and hung in the single room gallery space (with a small dividing wall). All of the works are archival pigment prints. The images on view come in three physical sizes with corresponding edition sizes: 22x29 in editions of 25, 32x42 in editions of 10, and 40x53 in editions of 5. There are 2 of the smallest size, 6 of the middle size, and 5 of the largest size in the show. All of the works were made between 2008 and 2010. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Since our home has a couple of young kids running wild inside, Julie Blackmon's stylized images of the loosely controlled chaos of childhood seem all too familiar. With a touch of humor and an eye for situations that border on the realistically absurd, her pictures are digitally staged vignettes that at once seem both wildly artificial and surprisingly and ironically plausible.
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My favorite picture in the show is High Dive, where a gaggle of mismatched and unmonitored children fire straggly dolls off the second floor deck of a suburban house toward a blue plastic wading pool, while the parents sit outside on the lawn and drink wine in the twilight, generally oblivious to the action going on nearby. An appropriate assortment of abandoned clothing and shoes is strewn across the landscape. It captures both the imagination of summertime childhood play as well as the stress release of communal parenting. I can entirely imagine the scene devolving into tears (likely from a now remorseful or angry doll owner), or perhaps a back-handed shout of "No Injuries!" from one or another of the otherwise happily distracted parents.

Blackmon's pictures both pare down and exaggerate typical family-life scenes, making them almost perfect caricatures of the reality they portray. A girl practices her violin while her brother plugs his ears, a boy climbs the built-in shelving of the library, and kids scatter in the street as a parent loads the trunk of a car. Carefully placed props (a scooter, a half-eaten doughnut, a pile of confetti, a bunch of tinker toys, a Godzilla action figure) make the stories more enigmatically complex, referring to other related but unmentioned narratives that have already played out at some time in the recent past. Or maybe they're just the discarded remnants of everyday, messy life with kids.

While the overt staginess of these pictures can be a bit distracting, their mixing of obvious unreality with telling glimpses of underlying truth is what makes these pictures work. We've certainly experienced variations on this kind of surreal, random weirdness; perhaps lacking the candy-colors, shiny floors, and perfect lighting, but close enough to have resonance and create knowing chuckles. Blackmon references the Dutch Renaissance painter Jan Steen in her artist statement, and the images do have a constructed, painterly feel, drawn from memory and recreated using the powerful tools of digital photography.
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Overall, I came away more impressed with these pictures than I expected to be. In the best of the works, Blackmon's imaginary craziness is a subtle mirror of our own lives, simultaneously mocking and sympathetic. The terrified baby launched into the air by his father is both oddly ridiculous and eerily reminiscent of things we have all done.
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Collector's POV: The works in the show are priced by size and place in the edition. The 22x29 images are priced at $2800 or $3600; the 32x42 images are priced at $3800, $4200 or $5000, and the 40x53 images are $6900 or $8500. Blackmon's work has only recently started to trickle into the secondary markets, so no robust pricing history is really available. As such, gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point. Blackmon is also represented by Catherine Edelman in Chicago (here), Robert Klein in Boston (here), Fahey/Klein in Los Angeles (here), Photo-Eye in Santa Fe (here), and Gail Gibson in Seattle (here).
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Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Artist site (here)
  • Reviews: New Yorker (here), Photo Booth (here), Boston Globe (here)
Through October 23rd

Robert Mann Gallery
210 Eleventh Avenue
New York, NY 10001

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Auction: Contemporary Art, September 27, 2010 @Sotheby's

Sotheby's has its own version of the Fall Contemporary Art warm-up sale in New York later this month, with a decidedly mixed bag of photography (both known and unknown) buried among the paintings, sculpture and other artworks. There are only 24 lots of photography on offer in this sale, with a total High estimate for photography of $329700.

Here's the statistical breakdown:

Total Low Lots (high estimate up to and including $10000): 11
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): $52700

Total Mid Lots (high estimate between $10000 and $50000): 13
Total Mid Estimate: $277000

Total High Lots (high estimate above $50000): 0
Total High Estimate: NA

The top photography lot by High estimate is lot 245, Elger Esser, Saone, France, 2001, at $30000-40000. (Image at right, top, via Sotheby's.)

Here's the very short list of photographers represented by more than one lot in the sale (with the number of lots in parentheses):

Vanessa Beecroft (2)
Philip-Lorca diCorcia (2)
Laurie Simmons (2)

The complete lot by lot catalog can be found here.

Contemporary Art
September 27th

Sotheby's
1334 York Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Adam Fuss, Home and the World @Cheim & Read

JTF (just the facts): A total of 13 works, displayed in the small front room and the larger main gallery (divided by a single wall). The front gallery contains three full plate daguerreotypes framed in black and hung against grey walls. Two of the works are each 28x42 and are unique; the third is 28x24 and is available in an edition of 9. While the larger images are hung on opposing side walls, the smaller image is displayed on the floor in the middle of the room. All of the works in the main gallery space are unique gelatin silver print photograms mounted on canvas, framed in white (without mats) and hung against white walls. Five of the images are 103x60, two are 58x54, two are 62x104, and one is 76x63. All of the works in the show were made in 2010. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: In the past twenty years or so, Adam Fuss has taken the seemingly simple process of the photogram and created a radical, innovative and original body of contemporary art. He has alternately experimented with water droplets and smoke, rabbit guts and sunflowers, lacy baptism dresses and babies in puddles, creating large scale organic silhouettes and patterns in a spectrum of saturated colors, adding layers of symbolism and spiritual meaning to everyday objects.
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While Fuss has previously explored the imagery of snakes (swimming through water or skittering through powder), his new works dive deeper into this subject matter via a pared-down monochrome palette. Inky black forms tangle and swirl in intertwined and overlapping bunches, creating graceful gestural movements that echo the elegance of Chinese calligraphy or the kinetic energy of Jackson Pollock's abstractions. Blurs in the process make it clear that these are not static frozen forms, but active living beings, bringing an element of chance and a sense of motion into the compositions.

The resulting jumble of slithering black lines and curves is then superimposed on several different backgrounds: a grid of newspapers, a vertical shaft, or pure expansive white. The alternate contexts pile on symbolic connections to the game Snakes and Ladders, the myth of Tiresias and the caduceus, and the alternately positive and negative views of snakes throughout history. I found the simplest images with white backgrounds to be the most powerful and refined, the arrangement of lines uncluttered by competing ideas. When the knot of snakes coalesces into just the right graphic design, something magical happens.
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In the smaller front room, the uncertainty of motion found in the photograms is exchanged for the precision detail of the daguerreotype process. In matching large scale plates, an empty mattress sits alone, or is adorned with a coil of black snakes; in this case however, the process picks up every reptilian scale and highlight, making the snakes look all too real. Nearby, a close-up view of a vagina sits on the concrete, like a fleshy opening in the floor. For me, the symbolism here was a little too heavy-handed, and as such, I found the abstract arabesques in the other room much more compelling and beautiful.

Overall, Fuss' high contrast black and white photograms are both jolting and harmonious, finding a polished balance between the literal and figurative, the threatening and the lyrical. It's an impressive and mature display of the continuing evolution of his craft and ideas. Most importantly, the images themselves are wholly original and memorable, tied back to any number of traditions, but at the same time, exciting and expressively new.

Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced between $40000 and $65000. Fuss' images have become more consistently available in the secondary markets in the past five years or so, with prices ranging from $2000 to $90000, depending both on size and subject matter. The artist is also represented by Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco (here) and Xavier Hufkens in Brussels (here).

Rating: ** (two stars) VERY GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Reviews: NY Times, 1999 (here), NY Times, 2002 (here)
  • Features: NY Times, 1999 (here)
  • Exhibition: MFA Boston, 2002 (here)
Through October 23rd

Cheim & Read
547 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao, BQMB @Saul

JTF (just the facts): A total of 13 large scale color images, generally framed in black with no mat and hung in the entry and main gallery spaces. All of the works are pigment ink prints, most mounted on sintra (two are face mounted to plexi and luster laminate respectively). Physical dimensions range from 20x48 to 60x96, with several images printed in the 30x72 size. Edition sizes vary from 4 to 12. The works on display come from a number of different photographic projects and commissions, and were made between 2005 and 2010. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: If you walk into Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao's show at Julie Saul Gallery and do a five second visual scan of the photographs on the walls, your first reaction might very well be "panoramas of New York, seen this kind of thing before, time to move on". Times Square, the Cyclone at Coney Island, you know the drill. But if you resist the temptation to walk right back out and instead stand up close to these images and look at them for several minutes, the works will reveal a depth of detail that is entirely unexpected and therefore initially quite puzzling.

What you'll then begin to realize is that these images are not standard, boring panoramas but actually meticulous digital composites of dozens of large format images, seamlessly integrated into wide views that capture far more than human vision can normally handle. They reminded me of the work of Clifford Ross, where a viewer can dive deeper and deeper into nearly any section of an image and the details remain crisp and sharp, even though normal photographs often become blurred or distorted on the periphery.

Liao has applied this technique to two basic types of compositions: bird's eye views that capture the broader context of the local urban fabric, and street level views that chronicle the chaotic melting pot of crowded humanity in New York's neighborhoods and public spaces. I particularly enjoyed the elevated views of the city's changing baseball stadiums and the surrounding landscape of Queens and the Bronx. The works capture the expansive density of city planning, of roadways and rail lines slashing through endless low rise developments, warehouses and non-descript blocks, with old and new juxtaposed and continually evolving over time. They successfully document the vibrant scope of the boroughs - the landmarks and gathering places as well as the warren of everyday streets and commercial districts.

I think the challenge for Liao lies in using his obvious technical skills to make durable and memorable images about the changing nature of these New York neighborhoods without falling into the trap of overly-easy eye-catching gimmicks. His technical approach offers the ability to construct complicated, multi-layered stories and to show us the conflicts, contrasts and personalities that we take for granted in this complex city; his tools offer him the potential to expose facets of our lives we haven't seen before. As a result, this show seems most like a promise, a gathering of current evidence (with a few early highlights) that makes me anticipate what will come next as he digs even deeper.

Collector's POV: The prints on display in this show range in price from $5000 to $14500, with many intermediate prices ($5800, $7000, $8500, $10000, and $11000) apparently based on relative size or place in the edition. Liao's work has only recently begun to enter into the secondary markets, so no real pricing pattern can be discerned from the few lots that have come up for sale. As such, gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.

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

Transit Hub:
  • Reviews: New Yorker (here), DART (here), NYTimes, 2009 (here)
  • Urban Panoramas @Getty, 2010 (here)
  • Book: Habitat 7 (here)
Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao, BQMB
Through October 28th

Julie Saul Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011

Monday, September 13, 2010

Auction: First Open, September 22, 2010 @Christie's

Christie's begins the Fall Contemporary Art season in New York next week with its warm up First Open sale. Photography-wise, it's a generally solid mix of usual suspects; there are a total of 35 lots of photography on offer, with a total High estimate for photography of $775000.

Here's the simple statistical breakdown:

Total Low Lots (high estimate up to and including $10000): 10
Total Low Estimate (sum of high estimates of Low lots): $69000

Total Mid Lots (high estimate between $10000 and $50000): 22
Total Mid Estimate: $436000

Total High Lots (high estimate above $50000): 3
Total High Estimate: $270000

The top photography lot by High estimate is lot 134, Thomas Struth, Kunsthistorisches Museum III, Vienna, 1989, at $100000-150000(image at right, top). The next highest lot by High estimate is lot 13, Vik Muniz, Marlene Dietrich (Pictures of Diamonds), 2004, at $40000-60000 (image at right).

Here's the complete list of photographers represented by two or more lots in the sale (with the number of lots in parentheses):

Thomas Struth (4)
Wallace Berman (2)
Richard Prince (2)
Hiroshi Sugimoto (2)
James Welling (2)

The complete lot by lot catalog can be found here. The eCatalogue is located here.

First Open
September 22nd

Christie's
20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020