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Uneven Sales at Paris Photo

This year’s Paris Photo fair, held Nov. 18–21 at the Carrousel du Louvre, posted record attendance, with long, serpentine lines of visitors waiting for tickets to view a mix of ­19th-century, modern and contemporary photography, shown by 102 exhibitors from 24 countries.

PARIS—This year’s Paris Photo fair, held Nov. 18–21 at the Carrousel du Louvre, posted record attendance, with long, serpentine lines of visitors waiting for tickets to view a mix of ­19th-century, modern and contemporary photography, shown by 102 exhibitors from 24 countries. Fair organizers reported 40,150 visitors, up from 37,760 last year.

But although the fair was crowded, sales were middling, with galleries reporting uneven results. The economic climate continued to dampen demand, organizers said in a postfair statement, with “some galleries performing better than last year, and others recording similar or more disappointing results than in 2008,” according to Guillaume Piens, artistic director of the fair.

Vintage and classic photography has historically been one of the fair’s strong points, and in general exhibitors showing such work posted robust sales. The most expensive was Women in a Moroccan Palace, 1951, a work by the late Irving Penn, who passed away last October at the age of 92. The 1951 platinum print, shown by Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, sold for €265,000 ($397,500). Ali Price, director of Howard Greenberg Gal­lery, New York, described sales as “stable,” and reported stronger results than in 2008. The gallery’s sales included a Richard Avedon portrait of Marilyn Monroe for €55,000 ($82,500), and Marseille, 1929, by László Moholy-Nagy for €130,000 ($195,000).

Tim Jefferies, principal of Hamiltons, London, reported selling a large-scale work by Helmut Newton, listed for $375,000. Calling this year’s edition “a very fine fair indeed,” Jefferies said he also sold works by Horst P. Horst, Guido Mocafico, Erwin Olaf, and Penn. Paris dealer Françoise Paviot reported selling three-quarters of the works in her booth, including a Man Ray self-portrait that fetched €60,000 ($90,000).

Historic photography also met with some success. Philippe Jacquier, director of Lumière des Roses, a gallery in the Paris suburb of Montreuil that deals in anonymous 19th- and 20th-century photographs, said the gallery had sold 75 percent of its booth. Paula Hershkowitz, director of Robert Hershkowitz Ltd., Lindfield and London, reported selling Julia Margaret Cameron’s Portrait of an Unknown Man, 1868.

Among the contemporary offerings, works in the €2,000/15,000 range sold best, though Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid, one of the few galleries to exhibit videos, sold four copies of a recent work by Cristina Lucas for about €20,000 ($30,000) each. Galerie Anhava, Helsinki, reported selling 12 works by Finnish photographer Jorma Puranen for €48,000 ($72,000). Other galleries reporting strong sales include Bruce Silverstein, New York; DNA, Berlin; Taro Nasu, Tokyo and Osaka; Flatland, Utrecht, the Netherlands; and Michael Stevenson, Cape Town, which sold out works by South African artist Pieter Hugo (b. 1976) for €14,000 ($21,000) each. Chen Guangjun, director of 798 Photo Gallery, Beijing, said the gallery had sold around 30 works, including several by Yao Lu, winner of last year’s BMW–Paris Photo Prize.

This year’s “Statement” section of the fair—which highlights work by emerging artists—focused on Arab and Iranian art. Observers said it was somewhat uneven, and at times provocative. Still, the eight galleries in this section did fairly well. Anahita Ghabaian Etehadieh, director of Silk Road, Teheran, said the gallery sold out its booth, which included four prints from the “Image of Imagination” series by Bahman Jalali, sold for €10,000 each ($15,000). These works, from 2003–6, often combine black-and-white images of Iran with images of flowers. Silk Road also sold four prints by Gohar Dashti priced at around €2,000 ($3,000) each. Assar Art Gallery, Tehran, sold four works by Sadegh Tirafkan for €5,000 ($7,500) apiece. Edwynn Houk, New York, reported selling five photographs by the Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi, each for prices in the range of $16,000/24,000.

Among the more daring works in the fair were the offerings at the booth of B21 Gallery, Dubai, which nearly sold out its stock, according to director Isabelle van den Eyde. Sales included eight large-scale prints by Iranian-born Reza Aramesh for around €15,000 ($22,500) each.

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