A host of print auctions and two print fairs brought dealers, collectors and print lovers of every stripe to New York City for "Print Week," Oct. 29-Nov. 4, 2007. The whirlwind pace saw Max Reed of Sims Reed Gallery in London snapping up Andy Warhol’s "Myths" portfolio of 10 prints at Christie’s on Oct. 31 for a new world record of $463,000, then add them to his inventory at the 2007 International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) Print Fair, Nov. 1-4, 2007, which opened that very evening at the Park Avenue Armory.
Other dealers were happy to bask in the light of the new auction records achieved by the artists they represent. Richard Hamilton’s 1988 etching Molly, a rawboned portrait of a woman looking into a hand mirror, fetched $16,250 at Christie’s, rather more than its presale high estimate of $2,500. Another collotype by Hamilton, Portrait of the Artist by Francis Bacon (1970) -- a work that has bumped along for years at the bottom of the action market, typically selling for around $1,500 -- fetched $6,875 this time out.
Alan Cristea Gallery priced Hamilton’s new inkjet print, Beatles (2007), a syncopated collage of individual black-and-white and color photos of George, Paul, John and Ringo, at $19,000 -- and had only a few left to sell. "Richard Hamilton is the giant of British Pop and he is examining the Beatles, another British icon. The artist is 85 years old and is doing the best work of his career," enthused gallery director David Cleaton-Roberts.
Other artists coming back into play in a big way include Photo Realist Richard Estes, who is 75. His new silkscreen, Kentucky Fried Chicken -- made with 110 colors -- debuted at Marlborough Gallery. An urban street scene with distorted images reflected in a car hood, it may be Estes’ most accomplished print in decades. The price: $5,000
The IFPDA Print Fair gala was a benefit for the Museum of Modern Art’s department of prints and illustrated books, and MoMA trustee David Rockefeller was spotted in the booth of Joni Weyl, who reps famed Los Angeles publisher Gemini GEL, examining a 2007 series of textured Richard Serra etchings, titled "Paths and Edges." Perhaps he was contemplating an acquisition for the museum, which of course housed the artist’s blockbuster retrospective all summer. These new prints bring to mind Serra’s 2006 sculpture Band, which snaked through MoMA galleries. The prints are priced at $4,800-$7,200.
Another summer blockbuster, the King Tut exhibition at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, was evoked at the IFPDA booth of Colorado publisher Shark’s Ink via artist Jane Hammond’s Spells and Incantations, a five-foot-tall pharaoh’s coffin made out of paper and covered with gold leaf and color hieroglyphics -- and with the artist’s own face staring out from where the mummy should be. Printer Bud Shark, who has printed Red Grooms’ 3D constructions for years, said that Hammond’s prints have been getting larger over time and now have totally jumped off the page. This graphic breakthrough is priced at $8,000 on its debut.
Other contemporary artists are also taking their prints to new dimensions. Wisconsin’s Tandem Press, which has in recent years taken over from the University of South Florida as the most innovative university press on the scene, showed in its IFPDA booth an entire urban jungle landscape made of lithographed mylar and woodcut by sculptor Nicola Lopez, who installed the 3D work specifically to fit the booth. This mammoth mono-printed work is $40,000, plus Lopez’s installation rate of $375 per day (and lunch).
Two Palms Press, which decided this year to forgo its traditional spot at the Editions/Artists’ Books ’07 in Chelsea and join IFPDA instead -- dealers are not allowed to show in both fairs simultaneously -- brought some of its trendy downtown energy with it in the form of a new Richard Prince project. Dubbed "Good Nurse," the portfolio of 19 collages is based on his signature 1950s naughty nurse pulp paperback covers, combined with various other "blue" images. The challenge was to replicate Prince’s original collages complete with their period weathering and detritus. "We showed Richard his original collages and our facsimiles, and he couldn’t tell the difference," said Jessica Kreps, who works in sales for Two Palms. The prints come in a wooden case with a hidden drawer, topped with a vitrine holding an actual starched white nurse’s cap, obtained from a Long Island manufacturer. The portfolio is priced at $90,000.
The fair included some spectacular modern prints as well. Famed London dealer Frederick Mulder sold the Pablo Picasso masterpiece, La minotauromachie (1935), for a reputed $3.5 million. This is a new record for the artist’s most important work, which has an auction high of $1.5 million, set at Galerie Kornfeld in 1990. La Minotauromachie is the gold standard of Picasso prints, and for the collector who can afford it, it is a must-have at any price.
The Berlin dealer Jorg Maass Kunsthandel had a very rare hand-colored Erich Heckel lithograph portrait of a woman in a blue dress, titled Blauskleid (1912). Only four known impressions of the work exist, and the other three are all in museums. Maas reported that although the piece sold before the opening to a dealer for "several hundred thousand," he was disappointed that a fourth museum hadn’t acquired this Blaue Reiter masterpiece.
The gala was somewhat sparsely attended due to a scheduling snafu, as MoMA’s own department of painting and sculpture was hosting a special member’s preview of the Martin Puryear survey show at the same time as the print department’s biggest fundraiser.
The following night, the mood was hip and fun as the Editions/Artists’ Books ’07 fair opened at the former Tunnel disco space on 11th Avenue in Chelsea with a benefit preview party for MoMA affiliate P.S. 1 and its internet radio station WPS1.org. One of the most soulful new works at the E/AB fair was a suite of three lithographs by Jim Dine entitled "Tools for Creeley" at the Tamarind Workshop booth. These images of paintbrushes and pliers had their genesis years ago, according to workshop director Marjorie Devon, who explained that the artist had made the new prints with stones reclaimed from Tamarind’s archive of lithographic stones. These particular stones had been previously used in a collaboration with the late poet Robert Creeley for a now-out-of-print book entitled Pictures. The new lithos, produced in an edition of 20, are priced at $5,500 each.
The contemporary painter James Siena also found old lithographic stones to be intriguing. The artist discovered stones used to print old cigar labels at ULAE and decided to use those as the background for his new prints. After drawing around the old labels, the artist tore up his proofs to make new, very spare compositions, completely different in design than the intricate mazes that characterize his drawings and paintings. The trapezoidal shapes have frames designed by the artist. The release price for the framed set of five prints is $9,000.
Los Angeles lithography atelier Cirrus Editions brought monoprints by Mark Bradford, the former Los Angeles beauty-parlor operator who is now having a much-talked-about solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, titled "Neither New nor Correct." Bradford’s beautifully layered prints, like his paintings, have effaced images from billboards and other signs from his L.A. neighborhood. The smaller works were priced at $1,500 and going fast.
A happy note for those who missed the E/AB fair. Many of the new releases are on view in the autumn exhibition at the International Print Center of New York (IPCNY) on West 26th Street, on view Nov. 1-Dec. 19, 2007. In addition, the current issue of Art on Paper magazine -- its "4th Annual New Prints Review" -- also provides much guidance in this area, notably with its comments by print curators, historians and critics. Whitney Museum print curator David Kiehl’s remarks on Charles Ray are not to be missed.
DEBORAH RIPLEY is a print specialist at Artnet.