Anamaria Pazmino reviews PARIS PHOTO 2011
After living a month of photo-madness in Paris, there is no doubt to me that La Ville-Lumière is THE place to be if you are a photography professional or amateur -at least during November. The busiest month of the year on the photography calendar scheduled Paris Photo 2011 and the many other events that popped up around it: great photography exhibitions in all important museums and institutions, auction sales that hit the records at Christie’s and Sotheby’s Paris, smaller but not less interesting photo fairs such as Nofound, Fotofever, PhotoOff, and Offprint (books)… Enough to keep you busy, running all around and struggling to digest all what your eyes are capable to see.
But let’s focus on Paris Photo 2011, the world’s leading photography fair. Despite the fact that for the last 14 years the fair was held at the Caroussel du Louvre, a beautiful and central place lacking of space, air and light, the established dealers and quality of works exhibited gave Paris Photo an international renown. Betting on the migration of photography market to Paris, Paris Photo has given a major step ahead moving into the most spectacular setting that the city could offer to a photography fair. The Grand Palais, a magnific crystal palace built for the 1900 Universal Exposition that offered prestige, space and light at will to the 15th edition of Paris Photo.
Paris Photo 2011 booths – Marc Domage, Paris Photo 2011
Paris Photo 2011 presented a selection of 117 galleries from 23 different countries, showcasing the best of 19th century,
modern and contemporary photography, but the fair is also reinventing itself. Important dealers joined for the first time
and went home more than happy of the fair: Fraenkel from San Francisco, Luisotti from Santa Monica, Pace/McGill from
New York, Marian Goodman from Paris, Camera Work from Berlin declared to have had great sales and great time.
The new director, Julien Frydman, conceived an original programme. The clever structure of the fair combined the presence of the galleries in their booths, with exhibitions coming from private collections, as well as exhibitions of the recent acquisitions of leading public institutions in a desire of reconciliation between the market and the institutions, in a country where they seem to be ethically opposed in people’s mind.
Markus Shaden’s installation of Love on the Left Bank – Marc Domage, Paris Photo 2011
The exhibitions were well-thought and well curated: the Arthur Walther collection exhibited several photographers devoted to African portraiture, the Giorgio Armani’s collection came up with a show called Aqua that displayed mesmerizing seascapes by Sugimoto among others, and the J.P Morgan collection with some Warhol, Winogrand, Arbus and more. The exhibitions of the recent acquisitions of leading institutions uncovered how museums collect, from the Tate Modern’s focus on the oeuvre of Daido Moriyama, giving a taster for the big Moriyama and William Klein show next year, to the Musée de l’Elysée’s acquisition of the Charlie Chaplin estate.
Aware of the development of photography books’ market, Paris Photo 2011 included a new space for publishers
and specialized bookstores, and awarded for the first time the Paris Photo Book Award. The deserved winner was Paul Graham for his book A shimmer of possibility, Steidl MACK, 2007. There was also a great installation by Markus Schaden of Ed Van der Elsken’s Love on the Left Bank. The installation, a kind of book in the space, gave a good sense of the process of putting a book together.
Moreover, Paris Photo Platform, a discussion forum, directed by the art critic Chantal Pontbriand, proposed interviews, round-tables and performances. And this year’s special guest, the sub-Saharan African photography, had a special exposure with a wall showcasing a selection of works presented at the Rencontres Photographiques de Bamako, held early this year in Mali. Unfortunately the wall was a bit aside from all other booths and exhibitions. Julien Frydman intends to change this whole guest system, so hopefully in the coming years, photography from Africa, Latin America, Australia, and Asia will be exhibited by their own galleries and institutions, and not as a special but ephemeral guest.
David Octavius Hill, Newheaven boys, 1843-47, Salt print from calotype negative – Courtesy Bernard Quaritichsee.
You can guess from the number of galleries and richness of the program, that the quantity and variety of images on
display was astonishing (as the prices): here an 1843 David Octavius Hill, an August Sander, some Hans Belmer, some
Bernd and Hilla Becher, there a couple of Arbus, and, just around the corner some Edward Weston you thought you’d never
see. But, even if Paris Photo remains a connoisseur’s fair largely devoted to vintage work, there is space for contemporary photography and for up-and-coming artists.
Some of my favourites were the last series of portraits of 16th century ladies, where card-board clothes and hats trick your eye
making you believe for an instant it is real clothing, by the Swiss-Italian artist Christian Tagliavini presented by the
Gallery Esther Woerdehoff (Paris), the incredible mix of internet images forming cataclysmic ‘Babel Towers’ by the Chinese
Zenjun Du at RX Gallery (Paris), and the powerful black and white landscapes of thunderstorms on the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin, by the Australian, Murray Fredericks at Hamilton’s Gallery (London).
1503, Ritratto di giovane donna – Portrait of young woman, Christian Tagiavini, Courtesy Esther Woerdehoff Galerie
All in all, November was a crazy but rewarding photographic month. Paris Photo 2011 was a complete success, as were the auctions, the cutting-edge fairs and the museums exhibitions such as Lewis Hine at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, or Diane Arbus at the Jeu de Paume. Now, by the end of November, things are coming back to normal, cold winter is finally arriving and perhaps I will be able to go back to a less crowded Jeu de Paume to enjoy better the Diane Arbus exhibition and share my experience with you next month.