Issue #171  4/25/2010
30th AIPAD New York Photo Show Kicks Off Spring With Impressive Results and Points to Resurgence in The Market

By Alex Novak

As I pointed out in my lead-up to AIPAD in last month's newsletter, the market looked poised to make AIPAD's New York Photography Show the potential beneficiary of pent-up demand, albeit on a slightly lower level. I was only half right and too cautious. The Spring auctions also soared as the photography market followed the stock market upwards in a quicker fashion than in previous recessions, when it was often a lagging indicator. More on those auctions in a future issue (but wow did those Irving Penn's take off again).

Everything seemed to fall in place this year for AIPAD, which just missed some severe weather the weekend before the show, when I found myself dodging falling trees, lightening strikes and flooded-out roads trying to pick up some vintage photos for the fair from a client in New Jersey. Other dealers found their flights into New York were delayed by hours, or longer. The weather during the actual AIPAD show though was--for once--"picture perfect" for the duration of the show. Attendance edged up a bit too, from 8,000 to just over 8,300 from the year before. More importantly the attendees were in a buying mood, tired of the pessimism of the previous 18 months. And, it was AIPAD's 30th anniversary show. New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg declared the week "Photography Week in New York City", and so it was indeed.

Collectors, leading museum directors and curators, art dealers, artists and photographers, business leaders, as well as celebrities and the media attended the show, including Candice Bergen, Peter Riegert, Ellen Barkin, Joel Grey, Martin Margulies, Glenn Lowry, Christiane Fischer, Marie Brenner, Richard Prince, Joel Meyerowitz, Frank Gohlke, Jerry Uelsmann, Maggie Taylor, Bruce Davidson, Elliot Erwitt, Arthur Tress, Marcia Resnick, Claire Yaffa, Kendall Messick, Meghan Boody, Jerome Liebling, Marvin E. Newman, Saul Leiter, Carolyn Blackwood, Christian Cravo, Flor Garduno, Marilyn Bridges, Ralph Gibson, Ruven Afanador, Vera Lutter, George Zimbel and Victor Schrager.

In addition to the New York Museum of Modern Art, many other major institutions were represented including New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art; International Center for Photography; National Portrait Gallery; Library of Congress; Atlanta High Museum; Brooklyn Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; Columbus Museum of Art; George Eastman House; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Houston Museum of Fine Arts; Norton Museum of Art; Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art; Milwaukee Art Museum; the J. Paul Getty Museum; National Gallery of Canada; and the Tate Modern--among many others.

To mark the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the show, an "exhibition within an exhibition" entitled "Celebration", was launched especially for this AIPAD fair. Each AIPAD member chose a work reflecting the theme of celebration, and exhibited the photograph in their booth. A complete catalogue of the exhibition, entitled Celebration ($50, hardcover, 117 pages,) includes a history of AIPAD, and is available online at http://www.aipad.com/publications .

AIPAD exhibitors responded well to all this positive energy. Despite the grumps of a few media mavens about the lack of big contemporary work (do these journalists ever take the time to walk the actual show before making these "annual" critiques?), the show never looked better, according to most of the attendees and exhibitors that I talked to. True, some rather important dealers took a pass on the show because of date conflicts with Maastricht's TEFA show and the earlier New York art shows, but those that did exhibit here at AIPAD were showing their best material, and--according to some reports--selling better than most of their brethren did at these other shows. I think a reasonable estimate of sales at the AIPAD show this year was about $8-10 million spread among the 73 exhibitors, not a bad showing indeed. And the mix of 19th, 20th and 21st century was exciting, with the former putting the latter into historical context.

Virtually all the dealers that I talked to either did very well or at least did a bit better than break-even. That's not always the case with this show, but I heard very few of the normal grumbles from exhibitors, and much more enthusiastic comments than at many past shows. Reasonably priced, quality work was selling, and selling well. And prices here were again largely much more reasonable than the auctions to come the very next month. One dealer had Irving Penn's Two Guedras on offer at AIPAD for a mere $45,000. After the Christie's auction where a similar piece sold for a whopping $320,000, he had plenty of calls, but had withdrawn it from the market. It was just one example of dealer restraint and collector opportunity here (in this case lost opportunity).

This year's AIPAD was simply the best New York show that we have ever exhibited at and one of our strongest shows ever. My company, Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, had great sales at the show and lots of calls afterward. I sold two and have definite interest in the third of three stunning Robert Mapplethorpe's that we had at the fair, sold a rare vintage Edward Steichen flower contact print, sold a fine Eugene Atget landscape, and sold an early Walker Evans contact print of "Penny Arcade" (the latter a client previewed during set-up and bought on the spot, disappointing several of our newsletter readers). Important 19th-century images that sold included a matching paper negative and salt print by Charles Negre, and we had focused interest on our wall of 19th-century Architectural Masterworks.

Our contemporary artists, Lisa Holden and Mitch Dobrowner, did well, selling several pieces each at the fair. Our great images by Arthur Tress also got good attention, including a large "Flood Dream". Dozens of our other less expensive images also sold, including several small vintage Jacques-Henri Lartigue's. All in all, we have totaled well over $200,000 in sales derived through contacts at the fair so far, and still have interest in several important pieces, including the Mapplethorpe Self Portrait, a very early Lee Friedlander, a salt print by Henri Le Secq, two large salt prints by James Anderson and our other vintage Steichen material. This was a show that was fun to do!

Of course, we still have many top pieces, which you can find on our website at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/result_list.php/128/1/0 . Check out the article on Art Chicago above for some great new additions to our inventory that we will show there.

But other dealers were also having fun at the AIPAD fair. Josh Mann Pailet of A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans, sold a Diane Arbus photograph of identical twins on a postcard with a handwritten note on the back about her exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art for a reported $275,000, perhaps the highest priced photo to sell at the fair. Pailet also sold three Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs for between $21,000 and $23,000 each.

Bryce Wolkowitz, who has a New York-based gallery of the same name, "could not have been happier," and sold a number of video and new media works by Jim Campbell ($55,000 each) and Shirley Shor ($20,000 each), and found the show to be "equal to the Armory Show." He had a prime location at the front center of the show's entrance.

Charles Isaacs Photographs, New York, found the show to be "excellent," and sold 25 works including a Gustave de Beaucorps from 1858 for $45,000 and a 1922 Paul Outerbridge nude for $20,000.

"It was better than 2009," noted Robert Burge/Twentieth Century Photographs, Ltd, New York, who sold 15 works to both local and European collectors.

"We've done well," reported Scott Nichols, San Francisco, who sold a dozen works by artists, including Wynn Bullock, George Tice, Mona Kuhn and Rolfe Horn.

Robert Koch, San Francisco, told me, "We had a slow start but sales picked up as the fair progressed and we closed more sales after the fair than we did at the fair. In the end it turned out to be a successful fair for us, and there are still sales we are working on. Large-scale color work sold best for us. We noticed clients taking more time to consider their purchase than before the economy declined. With the rise in the stock market and the positive economic news and the abatement of fear, clients are returning to purchase more actively. We heard a number of positive comments about how the show has never looked better."

Koch noted, "We exhibited a Josef Koudelka panorama from his Transmanche series, and it is still available for $20,000. Since he stopped selling work over eight years ago there have not been any panoramas of note to appear on the secondary market, and during that time we have not been able to purchase any back that we had sold. Very few of his early or vintage prints appear on the secondary market but we do have a few we are offering."

New York gallerist Alan Klotz said, "We did very well at the fair, doing over four times what we did last year. This year was the opposite in terms of what we sold. Last year it was mostly contemporary work and this year, almost all vintage. Last year it was mostly to collectors, and this year mostly to museum, from New York's finest to China! We still have many sales pending, including two small collections, and a major vintage Dorothea Lange. I think the market is more than on its way back. But more importantly, it seems to want to be back."

Klotz continued, "Some of our most interesting pieces were a Bragaglia of a child in a Pierrot costume from the 1920's which predictably sold in the first 30 minutes and an early Bill Brandt print of the well-known, "Parlour Maids About to Serve Dinner". We also sold a classic Ansel Adams Horizontal Aspens. After not selling any Lewis Hine photographs at the last two AIPAD shows we sold about two dozen this year, to collectors, dealers and museums. Go figure. We still have our best Hine available, however, the iconic Italian Immigrant Woman Carrying Home Work. And then there is that Lange I mentioned. Although we sold some excellent Siskind's we still have what I think are our two best vintage pieces."

Gary Edwards reported, "The show was a solid success for me. I sold a lot of 19th-century material, ranging from Le Secq to anonymous vernacular. In early to mid 20th-century, I sold South American expedition views and important press photos such as Haeberle's horrific photo of the My Lai massacre. I brought four Muybridge prints from the human and animal locomotion series, and only the best one, bird in flight, remains unsold. We hung three mammoth-plate albumen prints together, Watkins, W.H. Jackson, and Frith. Only the Frith sold, but there is follow-up interest in the Watkins. I just wrapped up a very good sale that originated with a curator viewing the installation of hand-colored salt prints and full-plate tintypes at my booth. My collection of over 200 pieces is for sale as a collection only, except for a smaller group exclusively of African-Americans. A research archive expressed interest in the smaller collection, culminating in a sale after the show. My buyers were museum curators, first, and then a smaller number of private collectors.

"I thought the Show looked wonderful overall. As always it was very well organized and run, and attendance was excellent. I was especially pleased that AIPAD now has a member from South America (Varsari, Buenos Aires), and had a guest exhibitor from Beijing (JadeJar Art Gallery) exhibiting very interesting Chinese artists. With this kind of expansion, the AIPAD Show is becoming truly global in its photographic representation."

Edwards continued, "An important and early Man Ray at $26,000 did not sell, but there was interest expressed that may well lead to a sale in the near future. The 1921 portrait of Lili Butler is little known, possibly unique, and has great associations. I used it as my "Celebration" piece."

Augusta Edwards of Eric Franck Fine Art said, "Overall, we were really pleased with how the fair turned out for us. We sold a number of posthumous prints by Norman Parkinson, a few prints by several of the Eastern European photographers we represent, including, Jindrich Streit, Marketa Luskacova and Rimaldas Viksraitis. We also sold works by Chris Killip, Lottie Davies and Enzo Sellerio. We still have one sale pending. We noticed that people took their time in deciding on purchases coming back several times to look at prints before deciding to purchase and that people were expecting discounts. The posthumous prints by Norman Parkinson flew off the wall. We sold 11 in total, with the b/w prints priced at $4,000 and color prints priced at $5,000."

"Our impression was that the show was well organized, though went on an hour too long. We thought the attendance at the fair was way up compared to last year, particularly over the weekend and people definitely seemed in the buying mood. So, all in all, much better than last year."

Oakland, CA dealer Richard Moore reported, "We had a pretty good fair. Better than last year and more in line with sales during the 2008 AIPAD Show. We sold works by: Dorothea Lange (2 prints), Ansel Adams, Irving Penn (vintage signed 1946 print), Lewis Hine, Minor White and others. We still have a group of six large mounted prints by Ralph Steiner, 1959. These were images of the interior of the old Bissell factory in Grand Rapids, MI made for Fortune Magazine on assignment for Walker Evans, then an editor at the magazine. They are priced from $3,500 to $5,500 each. Two prominent museum curators showed an interest in the Steiners, which have never been previously displayed."

"I thought the show looked great and covered a very wide range of work from the beginnings of photography to current digital work displayed on monitors."

"Pertaining to the market for vintage photographs: several collectors I have sold to in the past, were either absent from the show or did not purchase anything this year. We did meet and sell to a few new collectors who seem to be serious in acquiring the type of vintage work we deal in. Overall it seems the buyers for low- and mid-range priced pictures are being selective and limiting the number or works they acquire at any single venue. The higher end collectors are still snapping up the rare and desirable prints when they become available."

New York gallerist Lawrence Miller told me, "We did well, better than expected, from an 1865 Julia Margaret Cameron to a recent large-scale color work by Stephane Couturier. Overall about 15 works so far, with a few hopefuls still in the works and several new clients."

The Weston Gallery, Inc., Carmel, CA, sold a 1931 Paul Strand for $70,000 and several Edward Weston Peppers, as well as works by Wynn Bullock and Roman Loranc.

Catherine Couturier, director, John Cleary Gallery, Houston, told me, "This AIPAD was the highest gross sales the gallery has ever had at a show. I ran fewer invoices than in years past, but I had two huge sales made up of multiple pieces that put me over the top. I sold more vintage work than contemporary. I have a few sales still pending, but not as many as last year (which is good as most pending sales last year turned into nothing). Yes, I noticed a difference in buying habits. As Michael Shapiro said to me at the show, "People are tired of pretending they don't have money."

"I thought my vintage Helen Levitt at $6,000 was a steal. My Baiser de l'Hotel de Ville by Doisneau was fairly priced at $25,000 and is on hold. It's a slight variant in the cropping, and the inscription is charming.

Couturier continued, "I'm not sure we're back to the pre-2008 extravagance, but the market is definitely better than it had been the last 18 months. It has been nice to have some easy sales this year, i.e. a client walks into the gallery or booth, sees something he/she likes and buys it. I took those sales for granted 18 months ago but never again!"

Deborah Bell Photographs, New York, said that, "the overall design of the show was beautiful and I was pleased to see curators for museums and private collections, as well as consultants and new buyers." Her gallery sold a Harry Callahan from 1952 for $20,000.

Sid and Michelle Monroe of Santa Fe, NM, said, "This was our first AIPAD in eight years, after moving from New York. And it was a very good show. We had a successful show by every measure: actual sales at the show were very strong (beyond our expectations); we established many new relationships with several strong sales pending (and a few have already started to come in); and we had good institutional interest. We brought a selection of our significant photojournalism images, with a focus on political and civil rights photographs. We were pleased to see sales across the spectrum, from modern limited editions through vintage material. Some key sales: a vintage print by Irving Haberman of Holocaust Survivors arriving in New York; multiple sales of Bill Eppridge's 'Robert Kennedy campaigning with the Fearsome Foursome' (edition of 15); and several of Charles Moore's civil rights photographs. We also had robust success with contemporary documentary photographer Stephen Wilkes' 'China' series; and nearly sold out the edition of eight of his newest print, 'Washington Square: Day into Night'.

"There were two photographs that attracted major attention in our booth throughout the show. One was Bill Eppridge's master vintage print of a busboy trying to console Robert Kennedy after he was shot in the hotel kitchen in LA. This print was copied on a 4 x 5 camera, and published in the June 14, 1968 issue of Life magazine. All subsequent reproductions were made from the 4 x 5 negative, and the print was partially burned in a canyon fire in the late 1970s. It was reserved for museum consideration and attracted great interest. Another attraction was a rare sequence of three prints of Eddie Adams' Pulitzer-Prize-winning photograph 'Street Execution of a Viet Cong Prisoner'. The iconic Execution image was accompanied by an image of the captured prisoner being led to the execution, and the Police Chief holstering his gun as the prisoner laid sprawled on the pavement. This was priced at $75,000 and has interest, but as of this writing is available."

The Monroe's summarized, "Overall, from our perspective we thought the show was well organized - everything went smoothly. Attendance seemed to be solid, although as former New Yorkers we could understand if the MoMA benefit preview seemed a bit sparse, after all, it was St. Patrick's Day, and most New Yorkers head for home that evening! Together with recent experience in our gallery, and our results from Photo LA in January, it is clear the market has rebounded since 2009. We saw confidence in the buyers in New York, and although there remains room for improvement it seems the market is heading in a much better direction."

Burt Finger of PDNB Gallery, Dallas, reported that "AIPAD surpassed our expectations with very good sales. Esteban Pastorino was our star and we sold four large photographs as well as a few small images. Rhondal Mckinney was also a strong seller. His work is very much in the style of the New Topographic Photographers: 8 x 10 contact prints of Midwestern landscapes. We sold several prints. The big Surprise was our new Australian artist Robyn Stacey, whose photograph was mentioned in the New York Times. Stacey's large watermelon image is 4 x 7 feet! We have one left at a very reasonable $10,000. The traffic was strong throughout the fair and, unlike previous fairs, we sold well each day. The show was well put together and for the first time I thought a lot of the contemporary work was strong. The market is definitely on the rise--creeping up, not surging. Our attitude is a lot more positive after AIPAD."

Kim Bourus at New York City's Higher Pictures told me, "We did well, meaning our sales paid for the fair and then some. For a young gallery that represents all living artist it's encouraging. All of the artists work sold equally. I have about 50% more sales pending. I did not see a difference in the audiences buying habits. What consistently seems to interest collectors is serious work made by exceedingly creative artists regardless of age or genre. We presented incredibly difficult, interesting work. Penis Family, Untitled (Smiling Breast), Untitled (Man between Woman's Legs), all circa 1970s by 83-year-old Alfred Gescheidt sold for around $5,000 each. A set of 'Circus Days' prints by 70-year old Jill Freedman also sold for $5,000 each. Twenty-eight-year-old LaToya Ruby Frazier sold a dozen prints from her 'The Notion of Family' series, all in the $1,800-$3,500 range. Twenty-five-year-old Sam Falls also sold well with a starting price of $700-$1,400. What didn't sell but created mad interest was Gescheidt's '30 Ways to Stop Smoking' series, unique vintage prints from $4,000-$7,500. But that's OK because they are genius. It's a matter of minutes before they have their day. I'm sure of it."

Bourus concluded about the show experience at AIPAD that it was "positive, loads of energy and interest. Lots of fun."

Tom Gitterman of New York City's Gitterman Gallery said, "We did well. We sold work by Ferenc Berko, Kenneth Josephson, Josef Breitenbach, W. Eugene Smith, Edward Weston, Minor White, Ed Ruscha, Lewis Baltz, Alfred Stieglitz and Joseph Szabo. I think the buying public was more interested in vintage work but the color prints by Allen Frame we hung got a ton of attention and some potential sales. From the secondary market material we brought to the fair, the most significant work that didn't sell was our Alfred Stieglitz of Georgia O'Keeffe, 'A Portrait after Return from New Mexico', 1929.

Steven Kasher of Steven Kasher Gallery, New York City, told me, "It was our best fair ever. The mood was: Spring is in the air. Very optimistic! We sold quite a few vintage black and white prints from the National Geographic archive at $5-6,000 each, and a large number of the German photographer Christopher Thomas's large-format New York scenes from his series 'New York Sleeps', which range from $7,000-12,500. His large-scale archival pigment prints on heavy Arches paper were the focal point of our booth. Three images; the Flat Iron Building, the Guggenheim and the Brooklyn Bridge sold out completely during the fair.

"We also sold a National Geographic limited edition print made from an autochrome to a major museum and a set of hand-painted anonymous portraits to another major museum. The autochrome prints shown at AIPAD were examples from our upcoming exhibition: 'Autochromes: Early Color Masterpieces from National Geographic', and we will have about 70 images to choose from in the show. We also sold a color print of Gigi Gaston by the artist Josh Gosfield."

Kasher pointed out, "I noticed a resurgence of interest in traditional black and white photographs--both vintage and contemporary, large and small. Our 'Andy Warhol: Unexposed Exposures' vintage black and white photographs and accompanying book prompted many people came to the gallery later to the see the show."

New Yorker L. Parker Stephenson emailed, "Good fair, good energy, lots of follow-up both in terms of sending pieces out and emails and phone calls. I still have a lot to do, but happy about the experience."

Keith de Lellis of Keith de Lellis Gallery, New York City, said, "I did well at the Fair. I sold to the Modern and the Met. I thought there were a lot of museum attendees, not much in the way of new collectors and surprisingly little in the way of spontaneous buying. There was also a flurry of after-AIPAD business and a general uptick in buying that was something like the good old days, before the economy went bust. I think we are in turn-around mode and there is more buying because people like a picture and find the indulgence a satisfying experience. My most interesting sale was a vintage autographed picture of Sigmund Freud by the psychiatrist's son-in-law. It was well priced at $15,000 (Swann had just sold one for $25,000), and we sold it to a prominent collector who had recently sold (most of) his collection and was buying discretely.

Bonni Benrubi, Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York City, reported that she "had an AIPAD that was very similar to last year. Sales were steady. Our contemporary artists, particularly Massimo Vitali and Abelardo Morell sold strongly. Our vintage material was not as strong sales wise as last year. Overall, we were pleased with the show and are always happy to be involved with the photo community."

Peter Fetterman, Santa Monica, CA, reported that he "had a very good AIPAD show. We brought new, never before seen, Sebastiao Salgado images from his last epic project "Genesis", his passionate document on the beginning of time, when man was in harmony with nature before we managed to destroy 56% of the earth's natural resources. It is his "cri de couer" to help save the remaining 44%. People were moved and inspired by the work. My only problem now is to get him to fulfill the orders as he is constantly travelling. So much for the theory of photographers being able to make hundreds of prints!"

Fetterman continued, "I thought the show looked good and I was glad to see less of the meaningless big color school of empty buildings genre."

Michael Shapiro, San Francisco, observed: "My booth had only vintage/early photography this year. My sales were, with two exceptions, to institutions. I've had six sales and a couple things on hold. There are photographs still on hold, after nearly a month, which concerns me. I found that museums were more active than before. It may have had to do with the rarity of the material I showed. The show was more thinly attended than in previous years, in my opinion, but the quality of visitor was much higher. (Editor's note: the show attendance was actually up from the previous year). The show was well-conceived and well-run. I was pleased. I showed, and sold, a rare, early print of Robert Frank's 'City of London' (1951). It was over-sized (16 x 20 in.) and on a rarely seen, cream-colored, Agfa paper from the 1950s/1960s."

Shapiro went on, "I see no change between this and last year. It takes more effort to sell good photographs, still. It seemed much easier to make a sale previous to the recession."

Catherine Edelman, Chicago, said, "We did okay. I thought the fair started out rather slow, but we made a number of strong sales on Sunday from people who came through during the four days. All in all, we did just fine. We sold three Gregory Scott video pieces at $22,000 each, seven Julie Blackmon pieces which ranged from $2,600 - $7,500 each, 22 pieces by my new artist Lauren Simonutti ($1,200- $1,800 each) including purchase commitments from three museums, and a Keith Carter and Holly Roberts. While I showed four artists on my outside walls, I decided to focus the interior of my booth on three artists, two of whom are completely unknown. All three artists were well received, so I feel both very lucky and proud of them. People bought work regardless of the "name" which is very refreshing."

Edelman concluded, "I thought the fair and most booths were really elegant and applaud the membership, board and staff for a wonderful show. Now on to Art Chicago!"

Stephen Bulger, AIPAD President and president of Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto, noted that, "Dealers were happy and relieved. The market has come back to where it was a few years ago for serious collectors. First time visitors commented to me that they were impressed by the terrific mix of work from all periods. Clearly, collectors know that AIPAD is the source for both contemporary and vintage photography, offering the highest caliber work and the most knowledgeable galleries."