Simply Gorgeous – More Than Just Eye Candy, Paris Photo 2013
Looking back at the inventory of art exhibitions, photo expos and openings offered in 2013 and evaluating what was the most impressive, I say, hands down, it was the French capital’s Paris Photo – a 4-day annual fete of tantalizing imagery. The 17th edition of the fair revealed the most delicious assortment of imaginative delights beginning with the participation of 136 galleries worldwide. As the glitterati of imagemakers championed the haute impressions of their craft they were greeted en mass by an enthusiastic crowd of eager photofiles. According to Sandro Parotta, the Stuttgart (Germany) based gallery that bears his name, “The most important curators and directors gather here and, of course, who can resist Paris.” Frish Brandt of the Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco (CA) enthusiastically gave it 2–thumbs up. With partner and co-owner Jeffrey Fraenkel, they share 35 years showing major artists including Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander. Ms. Brandt noted, “It is the single best exclusively photography expo in the universe, bringing together an incredible slice of photographers, curators, collectors, publishers, and dealers.
For its second year, Paris’ Jerome Poggi Gallery devoted an entire booth to the work of Sophie Ristelhueber, an artist whose vision is committed to areas of conflict and its ravages. Pleased to be back, Mr. Poggi, explained that the retrospective “details her desire to capture images in a radical way. She doesn’t document, she photographs.” The dynamics changed for the Michael Werner Gallery, Cologne (Germany) with the discovery of a contemporary photographer. Known for dealing exclusively with paintings, the gallery presented, as a first-time exhibitor, a solo exhibition of the photographs of Jeff Cowen. The response to the images acknowledged that entering the photo market with a booth at Paris Photo proved to be the right venue.
As I have already confessed my joy of such an expo, I still marvel at the site dedicated to house the event. Home to Paris Photo for the past 4 years, the Grand Palais is situated in all her majesty on Avenue Winston-Churchill – convenient via metro. The palace’s interior plan included archival to current currency strategically placed throughout a labyrinth of legendary galleries, while impressive dignitaries from far and wide gathered to support, educate, and host a myriad of events and seminars. I have to thank Director Julian Frydman and his remarkable team of talented associates whose attention to detail did not disappoint. In addition to the glorious Palais, lists of additional venues were on hand boasting a plethora of museums and galleries that filled the Parisian landscape in celebration of the Month of Photography – not to forget the festive parties and gatherings. And a well deserved kudos to the VIP sponsors and contributors for keeping the tradition.
“In contemporary photography it is easy for an artist to get lost. Keeping your vision is paramount. And, whatever the medium, it needs to remain interesting.” – Michael Werner Gallery
I was taken with the scope and scale of the photographs. The emphasis appeared to be on the creation of large works – works rich with multi–layers of inventive mediums. Collage was evident. Texture was delivered by substrates other than paper. Otherworldly images featured subjects taken from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Well thought-out sophistication ruled. And, with 28 new and inventive galleries, 28 booksellers and publishers added in 2013, a cohesive plan from solo shows to themed presentations was delivered.
Giorgio Armani, presented “AQUA #4”, a theme based on water, along with J.P. Morgan’s “Best Picture: Highlights from the JPMorgan Chase Art Collection” in the Official Partners Exhibition. The Recent Acquisitions Group supported by Armani featured works from three international institutions; The Art Gallery of Ontario (Canada), entitled “Proposed Performances”, Brazil’s Instituto Moreira Salles selection of works witnessing the development of Brazilian cities, and the Germany’s Museum Folkwang offered a study in contrast with war reportage from the beginning of the 20th century to a commentary on the Egyptian Revolution. Moving on to the Private Collection, J.P. Morgan, invited visitors to Hamburg Germany’s Harald Falckenberg/Deichtorhallen collection. The contemporary works (over 2,000), of which photography plays an important part, are multimedia in nature and presented in a 6,000 square meter former factory. For Paris Photo, selections included the works of Walker Evans, Phil Collins, Richard Prince, Jerry Berndt, among others. At The Associate Partner Exhibition, BMW Art & Culture’s “Les Glorieux”, showcased photographer Marion Gronier, winner of the 2012 BMW Residency at the musée Nicéphore Niépce. And with Leica’s support, an exhibition of the works of photojournalist Cedric Gerbehaye gained honor.
Other striking presentations included The Open Book Collection. Compiled from a selection of the private collections of master photographer Martin Parr, “Protest Book”, is an examination of the turbulent 1960’s and 70’s anti-establishment eras. The SFR Jeunes Talent Laureates competition, in its 7th year, is dedicated to emerging photographers with 5 artists selected to display their work at the fair. And, now in its 2nd year, the Paris Photo Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards, a collaborative effort, featured two awards categories, aptly titled; “First PhotoBook” and “PhotoBook of the Year”, and a pre-selection of 30 books chosen by an international jury were on display in the PhotoBook section. Always a crowd-pleaser, The Platform, organized by Nicolas Bourriaud, featured 4 days of conversations that set the stage for debates and challenges that are relevant today in the world of art and photography. Rounding out the big event were a host of Book Signing sessions and the addition of the new online presence –The Paris Photo AGENDA, offering current trends and events of partnering galleries and institutions worldwide and yearlong. www.parisphoto.com/agenda
OK, so now you attended and have perused the landscape. You are inspired. Your head is filled with great ideas and you can’t wait to capture. But what have you learned? As a photographer, emerging or a professional, shows like Paris Photo offer much more than a visual context for learning. The words, the advice, the person to person contact are what will set you on course. This is an opportunity to make new friends, establish a dialogue, and ask questions. Look to the galleries and the curators, booksellers – even strangers. As I discussed the work with the gallery directors, what was clear was that one must have a concept and maintain a strict concentration on that subject. Why? So that others recognize that signature. Ms. Brandt’s advice is to be very aware of what a particular gallery shows, not just the medium, but to understand its sensibilities. She added, “Any new work that we can consider has to stand shoulder to shoulder with the artists we represent.” As for Michael Werner’s director Dr. Sebastian Neusser, “In contemporary photography it is easy for an artist to get lost. Keeping your vision is paramount. And, whatever the medium, it needs to remain interesting.”
With all these goods on the table do you observe or partake? These events provide exposure and not just for the celebrated. So engage. It worked for me.
For further information on Paris Photo and its activities, including online access to the current events of galleries and partner institutions log on to www.parisphoto.com and please visit www.focalpress.com for a wealth of publications designed in appreciation of the photographic medium. And, if you are stateside, visit the Paris Photo Los Angeles 2014 – 25-27 April. www.losangelesparisphoto.com
Images: © Renay Elle Morris,
First Image © Renay Elle Morris / Fraenkel Gallery
Second Image © Renay Elle Morris / Sophie Ristelhueber, Jerome Poggi Gallery
Third Image © Renay Elle Morris / Yuki, Jeff Cowen Michael Werner Gallery