Issue #53  2/3/2003
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.