Let's see: What's the best buy? A Thomas Struth c-print of people wandering around the Pergamon Museum at $125,000 per piece for an edition of 10? Or a bleak, dank, kitschy Gregory Crewdson multiple of suburban despair from Luhring Augustine for $15,000? Or a Scott Peterman C print, edition of 10, of a colorful, Minimalist ice house embraced by a whiteout storm in Maine for $2,600 at the Daniel Silverstein Gallery?
A recent Yale MFA, Peterman's pics have been featured in the New Yorker, extravagantly praised by the dean of photography critics, Vince Aletti, and recently imitated, disgracefully, by Yale professor Catherine Opie, in her new body of work, on view at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
Not only are the Petermans far superior to the new work of Struth and Crewdson, but their reproductions in a full-color catalogue available for $20 at Silverstein are just as cool as the originals.
How about those garish new Crewdsons? Greg, who has everything in the world but photographic talent, spends tens of thousands of dollars on set-up costs to insult what Helen Levitt and Walker Evans accomplished for ten cents a print -- depict the mystique of human despair and anguish.
At Crewdson's opening, international art restorer Lisa Rosen told us, "I liked one piece in the show. A woman gazes at a vision on her living room floor. Then someone from the gallery told me that it's just a stain." A stain on the grand history of photography is the garish, vulgar Mr. Crewdson. His first good picture will be his next one, we can hope.
And what about those Struths, at Marian Goodman? You can buy work by a far more adventurous German shutterbug, Thomas Ruff, from his upcoming abstract series at Zwirner & Wirth, for one third the price, in a smaller edition. There are also better cheaper Struths by Philip Lorca di Corcia, at Pace.
A potentially expandable edition of ten at a six-figure price, whether Struth or Gursky, is a joke. In 20 years when the laminates rot, and people die or go bankrupt, we'll see the true value of this con game.
Last week, collector A.G. Rosen walked into the Caren Golden Gallery and purchased five unique paintings by Tom Burckhardt, an artist with an impeccable pedigree, for $4,400 apiece.
And Los Angeles collectors bought out the I-20 opening of another young Yale MFA Marina Kappos, who is Alex Katz with blood, for $5,000-$15,000 each.
Buying unique pieces for quality, value and esthetic appreciation is what collecting at its best should be about.
If the big ticket, big edition hustlers and their dealer whores dominate, it will be 1989 redux, trebled.