Photography continues to have a special relationship with its birthplace and country of origin: Chalon-Sur-Saone, Louis Daguerre, Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson are all names that will forever link the 8th art to France, and it is no coincidence that so many great masters like Man Ray, Edward Steichen, Brassaï and André Kertész chose France as a primary artistic destination and, in many cases, became French residents.
Today, France continues to impose itself as oneof the great capitals of photography with a large number of dedicated exhibition sites including the Jeu de Paume of course, but also the Maison Européenne de la Photographie and the BAL (a new space/project run by Raymond Depardon). It also hosts the Rencontres d’Arles every summer and Photo Paris every autumn.
For its 18th edition (November 13 to 16 at the Grand Palais in Paris, France), Paris Photo brings together photographs by 1,230 artists in a selection that is both broad and varied ranging from large saturated colour prints to small black and white photos, and from very old signatures to brand new ones.
Artprice.com, the world leader in art market information, is offering a guided tour of the exhibition focusing on a list of photographers that reveals much about the trends in the photography segment of the art market and collectors’ expectations. It also provides an insight into the functioning of a segment that is still struggling to compete on an equal footing with painting and sculpture.
In effect, photographs still represent less than 2% of total turnover on the art market (based on public auction results) and only 3.5% of its transactions. Sales of art photography have not managed to trigger a steeply ascending price evolution and the best results are still far below the peaks generated by paintings and sculptures. One of the primary explanations for this gap is the intrinsic characteristic of the medium… its reproducibility. The existence of several identical copies or editions of one and the same work necessarily weakens competition and dampens speculative momentum.
Hence only 38 photographs have ever crossed the symbolic 1 million euros threshold at auction. Mots of the 11 artists who have achieved this will be represented at Paris Photo, including Andreas Gursky, Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman, the undisputed market leaders, and Gilbert & George, Edward Steichen, Stieglitz and Albert Hiroshi Sugimoto. However, Jeff Wall, Mike Kelley, Edward Curtis and Jeff Koons will not be present.
Koons to whom the Centre Pompidou is devoting a retrospective starting November 26 is not strictly speaking a photographer; but his works usually fetch very high prices and the only copy of his light box entitled The New Jeff Koons (1980) fetched more than 6 million euros on 14 May 2013 at Sotheby’s New York, the all-time record for a photograph at auction.
It is also a little surprising that the Canadian Jeff Wall master of light boxes will not be present this year. His works are becoming increasingly rare on the secondary market. In 2014, only four of his photographs were offered at auction, two of which failed to sell…
Generally speaking, todays’ collectors are showing a clear preference for the very large formats. In short, the bigger the print, the more it seems to be appreciated. Even back in 1999 Andreas Gursky decided to enlarge his photograph of the Rhine, and the result, Rhein II (207 x 385.5 cm) is now estimated at twice the value of the previous version.
However, with the works of 1,230 artists exhibited, Paris Photo is not limited to these monumental works, and it focuses on a number of different trends and influences. The mythical works of Walker Evans, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Jacques Henri Lartigue will rub shoulders in the Grand Palais with the multifarious works of their worthy successors including ‘porno-chic’ photos by Helmut Newton, Pierre & Gilles and David Lachapelle. Visitors will also find some splendid provocative works by the Italian Maurizio Cattelan, the American Terry Richardson and the Japanese Nobuyoshi Araki as well as more politically-motivated works by the likes of Ai Weiwei and Alfredo Jaar.
In short, Paris Photo brings together pretty much every facet of the photographic medium and we are pleased to see a healthy attendance from female artists including Sally Mann, Sibylle Bergmann and Annie Leibovitz. The medium’s rising stars are also present, including the French artist JR (1983) who has had an exceptional year with 18 lots already sold at auctions, generating more than EUR190,000.
Paris Photo is an opportunity to acquire works by artists that we have seen throughout the year: Vik Muniz in Arles, Raymond Depardon at the Grand Palais, Marcel Duchamp at the Pompidou Centre, Oscar Munoz, Garry Winogrand and Matthieu Pernot at the Jeu de Paume. In fact, Paris Photo is a sort of photographic apotheosis of the year 2014.