Lady Gaga has penetrated the pop charts, MTV and the consciousness of every sentient being on the planet, but the Association of International Photography Art Dealers, otherwise known as AIPAD, seems to be immune.
With more than 70 AIPAD members showing off their wares at the annual Photography Show at the Park Avenue Armory, Mar. 18-21, 2010 -- elegant, wonderful, inspiring, what else? -- not a single image of today’s most hyper-photogenic diva is to be found.
Could celebrity portraits have gone out of fashion? "Counterintuitive," said Chelsea dealer James Danziger, an AIPAD member. "They’re a strong sector of the market."
In his booth, Danziger has Claudia Schiffer by Christopher Bucklow, Patti Smith by Annie Leibovitz, and a large black-and-white photo of Kate Moss lying face down on a couch, stark naked (is the expression "great ass" an esthetic judgment?).
It’s a 2009 print of a 1993 photo by Mario Sorrenti, Kate’s first real boyfriend, who was shooting her for a Calvin Klein campaign. That’s an advertisement for jeans? "It’s the before shot," said Kitty Bowe Hearty, who is manning the booth. "Or maybe the after shot." It’s $15,000.
Or how about Twiggy? That’s an answer to all questions, as exemplified by Barry Lategan’s Twiggy from 1966, signed and dated in an edition of 35. The mod gamine, called by David Bowie "Twig the Wonder Kid," wears a simple patterned sweater and looks wide-eyed out at the viewer, indifferent and sultry at once. It’s at Peter Fetterman Gallery, priced at $9,500.
New York dealer Robert Burge has Cher and Michael Jackson, shot off the TV in 1987 by Elaine Mayes, who chaired NYU’s photo department for 15 years. Works in her "Portraits of People on Television" series, done in editions of 12, are $2,000 each.
And Yancey Richardson Gallery has a color photo of our sweet new movie star, Academy Award nominee Gabourey Sidibe, one of a series of small portraits by Hellen van Meene.
For more wattage on a global scale, go to the booth of Beijing Jade Jar Fine Art, a five-year-old photo gallery that is showing at AIPAD for the first time. One wall is filled by state photos of Mao from the 1960s by Lu Houmin, an official Forbidden City photographer. A new 11 x 14 in. print of a 1961 negative of Chairman Mao and His Wife Jiang Qing is $2,800.
It’s not all about celebrity, needless to say. At Hemphill Fine Arts from Washington, D.C., is a digital color collage of images of a Campbell’s tomato soup carton by Franz Jantzen (b. 1964), a nice neo-Cubist variation of Warhol’s Pop Art motif. A 42 x 42 in. print in an edition of 15 is $5,400.
Greeting visitors to the Edwynn Houk Gallery booth is a large (100 x ca. 57 in.) negative image of Times Square by Vera Lutter (b. 1960), a unique gelatin silver print made by a camera obscura from a high vantage, looking down on the juncture of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. The silvery picture is ghostly, empty of people and autos, with the famous signage all in reverse. The price: $75,000.
At the other end of the photographic spectrum, arguably, is the suite of four anonymous Kodak prints of one woman spanking another -- amateur porn, to be sure -- at the booth of Brooklyn private dealer David Winter, an expert in vernacular photography. Not a picture of Lady Gaga, but something she should like. Price: $600.
To end this search for a photo not found, how about a tale of a photo not seen? AIPAD member Henry Feldstein, who is not doing the show this year but was taking a look around, told of getting an urgent call from a Republican operative who needed help in identifying a 1950s pinup -- which he fervently hoped might be a photo of Barack Obama’s mother. But the scandal-monger was out of luck, this time. "She was too young," Feldston said.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.