A snapshot of the Paris photography scene


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Eighteen years after its creation, Paris Photo has managed to make a name for itself as an unmissable event for all photography fanatics where photography fans and well-versed collectors from across the world are guaranteed to find the best of vintage and contemporary photography at the event. Beyond the aisles of the fair itself, this year the French capital is to offer numerous opportunities for discovery for lovers of the 8th art. Although the photography market is still young, the strength of its dynamism is not about to run out; in fact, the case is quite the contrary…

In recent years we have seen superstars such as Gursky, Prince, Sherman and Wall become ‘untouchable’ for a majority of fans, crossing the symbolic threshold of one million euros. The photography market, however, benefits from a tremendous capacity for renewal. This is partly thanks to the existence of a much broader base of potential collectors in relation to other contemporary media such as sculpture or installation. Contemporary photography remains in general the most accessible medium, not only in terms of budget, but also in terms of comprehension of the work. Photography’s evolution does not seem to have provoked a major breakdown in the general readability of the works. From the intelligible to the sensitive or violence, the dreamlike and infinite points of view that photography presents earn it a unique position in the world of contemporary creation. Photography tells us real life stories.

An advantageous singularity
Still a long way from the excess that we see amongst other mediums, the contemporary photography market is running its own course, carried along by a measured growth since the early 2000s. As highlighted by Artprice, “There is no foreseeable risk of market crash as demand is high. There has never been so many contemporary prints sold as in recent months.” Artprice’s Art Market Insight reveals that today photography represents 7% of contemporary works sold across the globe (or 4% of total product sales.)

For the period between July 2013 and July 2014 painting represented 60% of turnover for 40% of global transactions. “If the average price of prints has rapidly increased, there has also been better control of editions; there was a lack of education before.” A more significant growth of prices in coming years is therefore not to be ruled out. “I believe this is just the beginning, the market is really growing,” explains Julien Frydman, director of Paris Photo.

In its latest report Photography Market Confidence Indicator, the American company ArtTactic reveals that the level of confidence in Modern and contemporary photography is growing, with a 16.5% increase over the last six months — the highest level noted since March 2011. Undertaken by a panel of experts, ArtTactic’s confidence index for the photography market has currently noted a score of 81 (a figure higher than 50 means a positive response to the market).

It is a relatively young market with similarly young collectors, however over the last three or four years we have seen prices constantly increase. The gradual depletion of important works on the market combined with the remarkable valuation work carried out over the last ten to 15 years by curators, gallery owners and institutions (for example Rencontres d’Arles) has paid off. The general public’s interest in photography is constantly growing and we have seen evidence that prices will follow.

“In parallel, we observe that more and more artists are now using digital photography (or film) rather than other medias. This may also be one of the major characteristics of contemporary art: porosity between the different practices (photography, painting, sculpture, video) has almost become the norm,” explains Frydman, adding that “by joining Paris Photo in 2011, my objective was to get photography out of its specialist’s ghetto and open it up to other audiences, notably artists.” The fair’s move from the Carrousel du Louvre to the majestic Grand Palais also contributes to the status of the event, attracting the most important galleries and collectors from across the globe.

If the most prestigious collections are undoubtedly those from the United States, then London holds an equally important position (notably regarding photography with names such as Avedon, Newton, Penn and Lindbergh). It is in this city that the first edition of Photo London is to be held in May 2015.

Today the leadership of Paris Photo is well established. It serves as a point of reference and has skilfully taken advantage of the satellite events. Without the OFF and Month of Photography, the Reed Exhibitions fair would not have the same international impact. Unlike other periods of the year, there seems to be a great synergy between the different institutional and commercial events organised alongside one another.

Paris Photo 2014
This year Paris Photo is to take place between 13 and 16 November at the Grand Palais, bringing together 143 galleries from around the world of which there are 36 newcomers and 26 publishers, laying emphasis upon the pioneering role of private collectors.

On the first floor of the Salon d’honneur du Grand Palais, the exhibition “Reflet d’une époque: premières photographies d’Asie du Sud (1860-1910) de l’Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, New Delhi” will run concurrently. Another highlight is the exhibition “Acquisitions récents” (recent acquisitions), highlighting new photography collections from high profile international institutions. Also open to the public is the exhibition “Photographie américaine: acquisitions récentes du Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA)” (American photography: Museum of Modern Art New York (MoMA)’s recent acquisitions).

This exhibition will allow the visitor to discover the details of the institution’s acquisition process, choices made around certain figures such as William Klein, Geraldo de Barros, Susan Meiselas, information on movements such as conceptual photography (Regina Silveira, Liliana Porter, Sarah Charlesworth) and investigations into identity and gender (Lyle Ashton Harris, Mark Morrisroe, Oscar Muñoz) as well as an important focus on contemporary practices (Collier Schorr, Lisa Oppenheim).

To complete the programme, Paris Photo is to present the exhibition “Livre Ouvert” which underlines the importance of the book in the history of photography. This year, the exhibition “Livres d’artiste et photograhpie” is to display a selection of art books published between the 1960s and today. Paris Photo is to present its annual “Paris Photo — Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards” in partnership with the Aperture Foundation. For the 2014 edition, prizes will be awarded for “First Book”, “Book of the Year” and “Catalogue of the Year”.

Amongst the commercial solo shows there are numerous unmissable exhibitions: Christopher Williams at David Zwirner; Robert Mapplethorpe at the Thaddeaus Ropac stand; and Hiroshi Sugimoto at the Yoshii Gallery.

JP Morgan, partner of the event, is to present a part of its collection which totals 30,000 pieces, including 7,000 photographs. This collection beginning in the 1930s has been a driving force for the medium, dating back to a period when no museum held a photography collection.

Fototever finds its voice… 
Running concurrently, fans can also visit the Carrousel du Louvre between 14 and 16 November for Fotofever. The event fouded by Cécile Shall aims to be the younger offshoot of Paris Photo and hopes to incite young fans to begin collections, employing many tools including an informative guide “Start to Collect”, in which the works on offer are priced at less than €1,000 and are indicated with a star. This year more than 100 galleries are investing in the fair, with a notable growth of 20% in Asian galleries.

This market is elsewhere beginning to tentatively open up in emerging countries, with Asian and Latin American collections becoming more important. Even if these territories don’t yet offer a local clientele important enough to host these fairs, there is a feeling of genuine growth and interest in photography.

Resolutely contemporary, this year the fair highlights the work of the Prix Fotofever 2014 laureate, the young artist Laure Fauvel. Amongst some of the most important images there are those of Gérard Malang taken at the Factory; the photographer of art and rock icons from the 1960s to 1970s is to present around 30 images featuring Iggy Pop, Andy Warhol and Patty Smith.

In terms of other exhibitions, Belleville in Paris is to host Photo Off, a fair dedicated to young emerging artists, whilst Photovintage gathers around 50 galerie Vivienne dealers.

18th edition of Photo Month 
Photography is everywhere in Paris during November. Three themes are highlighted this year: Mediterranean photography (represented by artists Giovanna Calvenzi and Laura Serani); Anonymous and amateur artists (represented by Valérie Fougeirol) and The Heart of Intimacy (represented by Jean-Louis Pinte).

Whilst the Centre Pompidou has finally opened a permanent space dedicated to photography featuring a significant collection of almost 40,000 photographs, numerous Parisian institutions are to benefit from this Photo Month, organising special programmes. Important exhibitions include: Roberto Battisini at the Musée de l’Histoire de l’Immigration; American artists Garry Winogrand and William Eggleston at the Jeu de Paume and Fondation Cartier-Bresson respectively; Alex Cléo Roubard at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Roman Vishniac exhibition at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire au Judaïsme.

Galleries will also be participating, with Matt Wilson at Galerie des Filles du Calvaire, Guillaume Schneider at Galerie Rivière/Faiveley, Peter Neuchs, Alexia Monduit and Jeffrey Silverthorne at Galerie Vu, previously exhibited at the ICP New York, Maurice Tabard at Galerie 1900-2000, David Lachapelle at Daniel Templor and Sebastiao Salgado at Galerie Polka. Galerie Karsten Greve is to present the important exhibition “Asylum of the Birds” dedicated to the American South Africa-based photographer Roger Ballen.

Benefiting from the presence of international collectors, auction houses are also to offer a week-long programme featuring artists from Man Ray to Mapplethorpe. On 14 November Christie’s is to present the work of Berenice Abbott, whilst Artcurial will bring to sale a large collection of images by André Kertész. Tajan is to offer vintage images from the early-20th century and Million, female nudes by Frédéric Barzilay. Also worth nothing is Sotheby’s 15 November sale of 400 photographs, paintings, drawings, objects, jewellery and films, presented as 300 lots.