Ira, a Thief in a Women's Prison - at AIPAD

AIPAD 2012 – Crowds and Buyers

AIPAD 2012, New York — If you haven’t noticed, the one percent has money, and it’ s buying. When it comes to photography, it’s buying a lot, according to dealers at AIPAD 2012, the annual fair of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers.

At the booth of Throckmorton Fine Art of New York, collectors bought work by Tina Modotti, a perennial at that gallery. Prices were in the $50,000 range, I was told, and this was the best AIPAD for the gallery.

A field that wasn’t represented at Throckmorton’s AIPAD booth, but which is a new strength for the gallery, is vintage Chinese photography. The prints that didn’t make it out of the country before 1945 were burned to cook rice, said Spencer Throckmorton, so scarcity has driven up prices.  There are not any in China, he stressed.  A museum in Washington just bought 50 prints, he said. Guess which one?

Olympia, or Eve, by Gao Yuan of China

The Chinese are buying those pictures, so are Americans, and Throckmorton is also selling contemporary works by the photographer Gao Yuan (not to be confused with the model Gao Yuan Yuan), whose latest at Throckmorton was a trio of images of a nude seductress reading the bible, an apple, and a tree.

Halfway down a long hallway at the Park Avenue Armory, Andrea Meislin of Andrea Meislin Gallery was showing Israeli artists, her particular focus.  My favorite was Raid, a shot of a Tel Aviv street where the military was intervening by Barry Frydlender . The street scene of soldiers and others shot from an upper floor of a building – try counting the guns –  done in multiple exposures, had sold before at the gallery. This time it sold for $130,000. Most of Meislin’s prices are much lower, but Frydlender has had a show at MoMA.

Another photographer at Andrea Meislin to watch is Michal Chelbin, whose pictures from Russian have the inescapable chill and slime-green palette of Russian institutions. Her recent work was shot in prisons. Ira, the portrait of a murderer, looks like one of Vincent van Gogh’s Roulin portraits from Arles. They are unobtainable on the art market – MoMA parted with several paintings and more to acquire one. Now you know where the bargains are.

Joel Soroka, the Aspen photo dealer, was less enthusiastic. Not the best fair not the worst, he said on the final day of AIPAD. Among his pictures was one of the Reflections (Riflessioni) by Franco Donaggio. This one sold in the high four figures. It’s a haunting image of fog on the water.

Soroka was also lukewarm about the year so far, largely because the weather was lukewarm, and the lack of snow around Aspen kept buyers away. He and others are praying for a new chill.

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