PHILLIPS AUCTION HOUSE RESTRUCTURES; BUYS OUT
LVMH; WALL STREET JOURNAL ARTICLE CHALLENGED; BIG SURPRISE: HIGHER BUYER'S PREMIUMS AT CHRISTIE'S; PETER PALMQUIST DIES IN HIT-AND-RUN ACCIDENT; FOUR NEW SPECIAL EXHIBITS UP ON I PHOTO CENTRAL
AIPAD 2003 RUNS THIS THURSDAY, FEB. 6,
THROUGH SUNDAY, FEB.9; NEW FACE FOR SHOW
The Photography Show 2003, sponsored by the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD), will be held in the Exhibit Halls [America's Halls I & II], at the New York Hilton Hotel, Midtown New York City, 53rd and Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave.) from Thursday night (a Special Reception for the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art) through Sunday.
The regular days and hours for the show are Friday, February 7th and Saturday, February 8th, Noon to 8 pm, and Sunday, February 9th, 11 am to 6 pm. The ticket price is $20 for a one-day and $30 for a three-day pass, which includes a 360-page Membership Directory and Illustrated Catalogue.
The new Opening Night Benefit Preview Reception on Thursday, February 6th, will now set you back from $50 to $150 per person, depending on when you want to get in. The $150 ticket lets you in at 6 pm instead of 8 pm for the $50. The $150 ticket also includes the catalogue and an unlimited pass to the show. The $50 ticket includes the catalogue and a one-day pass. Hors d'oeuvres and drinks will be served during the reception. It is expensive but it is a "benefit" reception to help out the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Of course, if you want, you can become a "benefactor." Benefactor tickets are priced at $750 per person for the opening night benefit preview party, including cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and dinner with the curatorial staff of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Photographs. Dinner details will be confirmed closer to the date.
You can buy any of your tickets at the entrance to the exhibits.
On Saturday there will be a roundtable discussion on "Strategies of Institutional Collecting and Programming" with Peter Galassi, Chief Curator, Department of Photographs, Museum of Modern Art; Thelma Golden, Chief Curator, Studio Museum in Harlem; Jeff Rosenheim, Associate Curator, Department of Photographs, the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Brian Wallis, Chief Curator, International Center for Photography; and Sylvia Wolf, Sondra Gilman Curator of Photographs, Whitney Museum of American Art. The roundtable will take place at 10:30 am in the Hilton's West Ballroom on the third floor.
Sunday's program will also take place in the Hilton's West Ballroom, but at 11:00 am, which is also when the exhibit show opens (odd timing that). The session is entitled "A Conversation with Thomas Struth". Maria Morris Hambourg, Curator in Charge, Department of Photographs, the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Douglas Eklund, Senior Research Assistant, Department of Photographs, the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and photographer Thomas Struth will have a three-way conversation about his work.
But, of course, the most important aspect is the exhibition itself, which will feature tens of thousands of important images.
I Photo Central members, Vintage Works, Ltd. and Charles Schwartz, will both be exhibiting at the show. Come up on the escalator to the second floor and make a left for Vintage Works, Ltd. (Booth 218) or a right for Charles Schwartz (booth 204).
AIPAD has always been the major photography show internationally, but recent challenges from Paris and even other U.S.-based shows have forced some changes in this venue. This year's show continues a major trend to downsize on the number of dealers (now only 80 dealers and down from 93 dealers just two years ago) and enlarge some of the booth sizes. The cost for booths went up considerably this year as well--not the best timing given the economy. The board's discouragement of dealers in the past when there were too many dealers for too few booths has also now come home to roost. This year past exhibitors who had not signed up for the show found themselves being solicited by some board members, who were now anxious about the declining numbers.
The lighting this year may also prove to be challenging or dramatic, depending on whom you are talking to. Each booth now has a very costly fireproofed cloth top to it and additional spotlights. In contrast, the hall lighting will be dimmed in an attempt to provide some visual drama to the show.
The booths themselves were totally redone and upsized to 10 feet high from the eight-foot tall exhibit walls of past shows.
I do indeed think these changes should improve the overall look of the show, but they come at a high cost and at a time when many galleries and dealers are hurting.
The dates of this year's show were also moved up a week in order to avoid the Presidents' Day weekend and the costly overtime charges that this holiday incurs. A good idea, but one that played major havoc with dealers' schedules who also exhibited at Photo LA and found themselves with one less week to prepare an entirely new show.
All of these changes (and lots more) were done without show attendee (AIPAD members' customers) input or reaction, and with little debate or input from AIPAD members themselves. There will be plenty of things to complain and cheer about at the upcoming AIPAD annual meeting, but the issues seem more to do with function rather than form.
But the real issue here is the venue. Unless and until AIPAD finds a larger, more appropriate venue in a good location, the show may face escalating challenges ahead. And unless the AIPAD board gets religion (which it might, considering the larger number of new board members) and find positive ways to bring most of its members along on necessary major changes rather than continuing to divide them, the show and the organization will continue to suffer the consequences. As cartoon character Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy and they are us."
For now though, it is still the show to reckon with. Still the show with the most important photography, and the most important dealers. But the gap is closing.
PHILLIPS AUCTION HOUSE RESTRUCTURES;
BUYS OUT LVMH; WALL STREET
JOURNAL ARTICLE CHALLENGED
As Mark Twain once said, "The rumors of my death are highly exaggerated." Less than two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal had all but buried the auction firm of Phillips, De Pury & Luxembourg, but the article may have been a bit premature--to say the least. Phillips is indeed restructuring after its high-flying days under the helm of former chairman Bernard Arnault and LVMH, the luxury company that once owned the majority interest. The posh 57th Street, NYC facility is apparently one of the casualties, along with a major slice-and-dice of the corporate staff. Apparently many staff functions will also be outsourced. But the key news, which hit well after the Wall Street Journal article, is that co-CEOs Simon de Pury and Daniella Luxembourg have purchased the remaining 27.5% in the company that they do not already own from LVMH Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton. Terms of the purchase were not disclosed.
Interestingly, Simon de Pury and Daniella Luxembourg have decided to give equity to their "key experts and colleagues to further enhance a spirit of partnership and make the company a truly expert-led business."
Major shareholder and former CEO Louise Blouin MacBain is now gone, apparently after the November NYC sales of impressionist and modern art bombed out for Phillips. De Pury was clearly disappointed after these sales. Rumors of a romantic relationship between MacBain and De Pury had been circulating for some time in various press reports, and more recently rumors of that relationship gone bad also made the rounds. Not surprisingly, the Impressionist and Modern Art departments will no longer hold regular scheduled auctions, although the company will conduct auctions of Impressionist and Modern Art on an ad hoc basis.
As part of the new organization, the company announced that Perry Lerner, a partner in Lerner & Squire, LLP, has been retained as Chief Operating Officer of the company to implement many of the changes.
I have been waiting for information from the company as to the source of its current funding for the buy-out of LVMH or its on-going operations, now that MacBain has left. Reportedly De Pury had been seeking but not finding investors. Details will follow in future newsletters.
The photography department staff, including Joshua Holdeman (NYC) and Philippe Garner (London), is so far untouched. Apparently the thrust of the restructuring is to cut the layer of management over the expert groups, perhaps freeing them up to be more productive--something the other houses might have to think about soon.
After an exhilarating October 2002 sale, where Phillips outperformed their NYC rivals in the regular photography sales at Sotheby's, Christie's and Swann's with a 68% sell rate and a substantive $2,181,114 in sales (second only to Christie's, which had many more lots), Phillips was well-positioned to take a preeminent role in this market, especially having added the well-respected and experienced Philippe Garner (formerly of Sotheby's London) to head the photography department (as well as 20th century decorative arts).
Josh Holdeman has told me that his strategy is to keep the photo auctions relatively small but focused on interesting material--both vintage and contemporary. It remains to be seen how the gossip of the financial press will affect the photography auctions, but I suspect that in the end material--as it always does--will win (or lose) out. In other words, if Phillips does get the right images and Holdeman executes his strategy, it will continue to do very well for its consignors (and Phillips itself). With the 57th Street headquarters closing in the next six months, the only question is how much of the high-flying art crowd that the company courted with its extravagant parties and surroundings at the tony uptown digs will continue to show up at Phillips more bohemian Chelsea facility down on 15th Street. That might affect the contemporary side more than the vintage images.
And, apparently Phillips will be a lot more reluctant to pay for the market share that they went after so aggressively under LVMH. Philippe Garner told me, "Broadly Phillips is going through a period of transition--readjusting to the grand vision of Arnault-LVMH where the objective was to buy market share." Now Garner says there is a "new reality" that means a good "business plan" for the company. Translation: Phillips will only compete for business when it makes direct economic sense.
In any case, the Phillips' spring auctions are scheduled for April 24 (Part 1) and April 25 (Part 2).
BIG SURPRISE: HIGHER BUYER'S PREMIUMS AT CHRISTIE'S
Gee, it took all of about a week for Christie's International to announce a new buyers' premium for the majority of the firm's sales rooms after Sotheby's announced its new higher rate.
The new Christie's rates are effective March 1.
While retaining a buyers' premium of 19.5% (versus Sotheby's new 20%) on the final bid price of each lot up to and including £70,000 in London or $100,000 in the U.S., the buyers' premium on amounts exceeding £70,000 or $100,000 will increase from 10% to 12%, or a 20% hike. This new buyers' premium will apply to property sold in the firm's sales rooms at King Street, London; Rockefeller Center, NYC; and Geneva, including its current photography sales at those locations. Apparently the hike will not affect the February photography sale.
By the way, my thanks to Christie's Lisa Newlin, who was sharp enough and customer service driven enough to call me after my last newsletter. I had noted a problem with Sotheby's and Christie's records of my transactions in regards to the anti-trust action and my credits. Apparently the problem at Christie's was that they had combined my business and personal accounts for some reason in 1998. I only made claims on my personal account. Sotheby's has not responded so far, although I had made personal purchases there too in the period in question.
NOTED PHOTOGRAPHY HISTORIAN PETER
PALMQUIST DIES IN HIT-AND-RUN ACCIDENT
On Saturday, January 11, 2003, noted photo historian and researcher Peter Palmquist was struck by a hit-and-run driver while walking his dog Max near his fiancée Pam Mendelsohn's apartment in Emeryville, CA. He died later at the hospital, after being taken off of life support when his family was told there was little brain function.
Those wishing to send personal expressions of sympathy to Peter Palmquist's family may do so to: Family of Peter E. Palmquist, 1183 Union St. Arcata, CA 95521. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, April 12, 2003, 2:00 to 4:30 pm at the Morris Graves Museum of Art, 636 F St., Eureka, CA 95501. Remarks and sharing of stories begins at 2:45 pm. As the notice reads: "Refreshments and memories will be served." A Memorial Fund for Historical Research in Peter's name has also been announced. You can find out more on both the service and the funds by going to: http://www.carlmautz.com/palmquistservice.htm
As friend and fellow researcher Carl Mautz notes, "Peter Palmquist was known to all in the photo history world as the Dean of California photo historians. Far beyond that informal title, he was a leading authority on the history of the photography of the West and on women in photography worldwide."
He was a top authority on Carleton Watkins, Peter Britt, and Lawrence & Houseworth. For many years Peter was the official photographer at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA, from which he retired to become a full time photo history lecturer and consultant in the late 1980s.
He began collecting information and photographs in the early 1970s which led to a series of books on what Peter called "regional photographic history," beginning, of course, with his beloved Humboldt County. This resulted in a pioneering series of seven volumes entitled The Photographers of the Humboldt Bay Region. Co-authored with Lincoln Kilian, the series covered the period 1850 through 1885, and included a special edition on prominent Eureka photographer A. W. Erickson and another on a rare book with tipped-in photographs from the Edgar Cherry Lumber Co."
Peter was an exhaustive researcher who scoured libraries and historical society archives for decades to tease out every fact he could from primary sources on photographers in the West and women photographers. He lectured extensively throughout the world. He was the editor-in-chief of Photographers: A Sourcebook for Historical Research, past editor of The Daguerreian Annual, contributing editor or on the editorial board of Journal of the West, The Photographic Historian, The Californians, The Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology. Peter published hundreds of books, articles and papers on many different aspects of photography. His latest project was his Women in Photography International Archive, the intent of which was to cover every facet of the participation of women in photography from the beginning to the present.
As Carl Mautz emailed me: "Peter was a giant in our world, a meticulous, caring, ubiquitous dynamo of activity and information, who cast treasure after treasure into our community. I will miss him."
Fellow researcher and co-author, Thomas Kailbourn wrote: "The best thing we as photo-historians can do to honor and remember Peter is to advance the field of research and strive to do it with the passion, conviction, and benevolence that he evinced. And when someone comes to you with an earnest question or request, please lend a hand if possible. So, Peter, I will see you at the next destination. As you liked to say, 'more anon.'"
MORE SPECIAL EXHIBITS ADDED
You will find four more Special Exhibits up on I Photo Central.
"20th-Century Czech Photography: A Dark Modernism" has been posted up with some very tasty images from a large selection of top Czech photographers--from Drtikol to Sudek.
"Trees: Knock on Wood" takes on the subject with tongue in cheek and an eye for beauty.
"Images of War" seems somehow apropos. War is hell, so the saying goes, but some enjoy the pomp while ignoring the reality of the consequences of war--much like some of our own leaders these days.
Finally, "Louis De Clercq: Traveler and Calotypist" is actually in the initial stages. Vintage Works, Ltd. just purchased a large and important group of De Clercq negatives and positives, which we will be adding to the exhibit over the next month. Keep watching this space.
You can see all of these fine exhibits, along with ten others at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase.php