The Photography Show 07, Apr. 12-15, 2007, at the Park Avenue Armory, 640 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10021
We snuck into the nicely refurbished Park Avenue Armory during the special "curators and collectors preview" of the 27th annual Photography Show, sponsored by the Association of International Photography Art Dealers. As imposters, we tried to comport ourselves in a manner suitable to the occasion, primarily by wandering heedlessly from one alluring image to the next.
An easy task at the AIPAD show, to be sure, what with its 90-plus exhibitors so neatly arrayed along padded gray-carpeted aisles with the 19th-century girders arching high above.
The first thing that caught our eye was a glorious color portrait of Frida Kahlo at Throckmorton Fine Art, right by the fair entrance. The image belongs to the Hungarian-born New York portraitist Nickolas Muray (1892-1965), whose passionate affair with Kahlo (in the post-Diego days) is chronicled in the recently published book of love letters, I Will Never Forget You. . .: Frida Kahlo to Nickolas Muray (Schirmer/Mosel).
All made up, wearing a red scarf and flowers in her hair, Frida is clearly happy, and cuts a striking figure. The photograph is from an estate edition of 30, put out by Mimi Muray, the photographer’s daughter. The price is $6,000.
Next up at Throckmorton, which is located in the Hammacher Schlemmer building on East 57th Street at Lexington Avenue, is a show of new photographs by Marilyn Bridges (b. 1948), opening Apr. 19-June 16, 2007. A trained pilot, Bridges takes rather amazing black-and-white shots of ancient monuments from the air. One of the new photos shows the ruins of a Roman aqueduct in Aspendos, Turkey, with modern houses built right nearby. The driveway to one runs through an ancient arch. The gelatin silver prints, done in editions of 30, start at $2,500 each.
Down the aisle, the booth of Janet Lehr, a private dealer whose headquarters are on Park Avenue in New York, is dominated by a mural-sized portrait of Madonna, the pop singer, by the unstoppable commercial photographer Steven Klein (b. 1962). Originally shot for W magazine (June 2006) and now included in the new Aperture book, Face of Fashion, the glorious image shows the Material Girl in a stable, standing in front of a black horse in its stall. She wears naught but leather gloves and briefs and displays her impressive lats and trapezius muscles to the camera.
In her hand, according to the credits in W, is a crop by O’Halloran. The photo is $60,000 in an edition of three.
Also on view at Lehr’s booth are six of the series of 24 albumen prints in Carleton E. Watkins’ "Yosemite Suite" from 1865-66. This set, which is in exquisite condition, was purchased in 1967 as a wedding gift for the Duke of Manchester. The price is now $6 million for all 24.
More Steven Klein can be found at Wessel + O’Connor Gallery, located across the bridge in Brooklyn’s DUMBO district. The large photograph dominating one wall of their stand features a most striking image -- a smooth, ovoid head covered with what looks to be liquid red lipstick. It’s Brad Pitt and it’s $13,000, in an edition of five. Perhaps good if you want to meet Angelina Jolie.
Booths at this AIPAD show are $9,600, the highest ever (it was something like $8,000 last year). "The Armory foundation wants to turn the space into a Tate Modern," exclaimed one dealer.
We ventured into the booth of Picture Photo Space from Osaka, drawn in by a double row of pale pastel cityscapes, picturing expanses of sky with only the slightest touches of skyline inflecting the bottoms of the photographs. In one you see the Eiffel Tower, in another a tiny Statue of Liberty, in a third a large Ferris Wheel, which marks Picture Photo Space’s hometown horizon. The photos are by Kunihiko Katsumata (b. 1967), who lives in Tokyo. Done in editions of 10, they begin at $1,200.
A few booths away at Eric Franck Fine Art from London is a stunning photo of the modeling Texan Jerry Hall, a vintage color print by Norman Parkinson (1913-90) from 1983, signed on the front in marker. It’s $50,000. Franck was only recently assigned the Parkinson estate, consisting of 3,500 prints and an astonishing 140,000 negatives. One primary beneficiary of this trove is Jake Parkinson, the photographer’s grandson and the proprietor of a popular London nightclub named Boujis. Some 160 of Parkinson’s works have been recently seen in a full-on retrospective at the Manege in Moscow.
Women aren’t only subjects of the gaze, of course -- they are also historical actors. At the 21-year-old Lisa Sette Gallery from Scottsdale, Ariz., are several lambda prints of models posing after scenes from art history, the work of a 50-ish Argentinean artist named RES. A contemporary version of Artemesia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes (1612-13) is $4,375 framed and in an edition of ten.
But we really got into the collecting groove at the booth of Henry Feldstein, a private dealer from Forest Hills, N.Y., who is known in the business as a specialist in Weegee. It was his vintage black-and-white pin-up prints of Bettie Page, already matted and priced at $500, that loosened our purse strings -- and we suddenly became a real collector. That’s our price level. On our way out of the booth, one of his regular clients arrived -- Uma Thurman’s sister!
Time for one last booth while Henry is wrapping our purchase. Keeping in mind the recent controversy over Martha Stewart’s attempt to trademark the term "Katonah," we headed to Candace Dwan Gallery, a 12-year veteran of the Katonah scene and now, for the last year, the proprietor of an outpost at 24 West 57th Street in Manhattan (directly across the street from the former quarters of the legendary Dwan Gallery of the late 1960s, operated by Candace’s mother Virginia Dwan).
Holding pride of place in the booth was an atmospheric scene of a rural road, rich in velvety gray detail, by photographer Gregory Conniff (b. 1944). A Michigan resident who travels frequently to Mississippi to photograph the Faulknerian countryside, Conniff himself was at the booth when we were there. He spoke eloquently of the virtues of a digital printing process that he only recently perfected.
"Photography is the history of changing technology," he said. "With a digital print, you are able to give a negative the respect that it deserves. You can spend months on a print, you can pour yourself into a mediational time with the negative." Conniff’s large "archival four black ink print" of Yalobusha County, Miss. is $12,500.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.