Paris Photo / Paris Photo 2014: UK Galleries’ Highlights
Far more global in scope than its former continental editions, Paris Photo 2014 presented 169 galleries and a host of international artbook dealers. Over the course of four days, the fair attracted a motley crowd at once urbane and savage: Europeans and collectors from the US, Latin America, Africa and Asia swarmed beneath the art nouveau glass and steel dome of the Grand Palais (59,825 visitors in total). As well as inviting the Museum of Modern Art, New York to showcase its 2014 photographic acquisitions – from the lyrical conceptualism of Liliana Porter to the crude, surreal beauty of Susan Meiselas’ documentary series – Paris Photo introduced the public to the Alkazi Foundation collection, the largest private archive of early South Asian photography.
Weaving through the UK gallery booths, one marvelled at the quality and variety of images on view. Robert Hershkowitz Ltd displayed a selection of nineteenth-century views of colonial India, but after seeing Alkazi’s dazzling and lavishly-coloured hand-tinted photographs of the same period, the former seemed just ‘brown’. The chilling whiteness of Peter Henry Emerson’s photogravure A Winter Pastoral of 1895 abides in one’s memory.
Decisively less bucolic was the selection of photographs at Richard Saltoun Gallery, where the pristine, black-and-white image dominated: workshop maquettes by the twentieth-century Russian avant-garde collective VKhUTEMAS brought into focus quirky urban projects for both communal housing and public buildings. In one playful photograph, Varvara Stepanova – VKhUTEMAS’ textile design Professor – wears a smile and overalls for the cameraman, her husband, Rodchenko. Moving onto the Daniel Blau booth, the WWII campaigns covered by LIFE photographers W. Eugene Smith and Robert Capa drew many connoisseurs and enthusiastic passers-by. Queues formed before the photo of The Daring Camera Girl, Bourke-White setting her large format camera atop the chromed art deco Chrysler eagle (her assistant was no less daring) and the 1944 D-Day Allied Troops landing by Capa.
Mostly US photographers were selected by David Zwirner and Gagosian. The former opted for a solo booth of recent to new work by LA photographer Christopher Williams: perfectly bland, the large colour photos depict dismantled cameras of different sizes and shapes of dubious commercial appeal. Gagosian chose Eggleston’s sunny Memphis and among others, Balthus’ green-hued Polaroids of a young model – Anna – his last. Both old and new works were on display at Grimaldi Gavin including Sophy Rickett’s sequence of eerie nightscapes Villa Ada 1 and one deathly butterfly series, her latest project. On a more frivolous note the technicolor beach scene Cala Mariolu Coda, offered a study of Italian collective summer rituals by Massimo Vitali.
Vanishing traditional customs and folklore – this time strictly British – were on display at James Hyman. Memorable is Homer Sykes’ grotesque striptease tent at a Middlesex fair, where chubby female contenders seemed to have stepped out of a Fellini film set. Andy Sewell’s novel series Something Like A Nest singled out simple rural details as did Kertesz’ Muguet Seller, a soft and grainy print measuring 30.45 x 39.93 ins, a rare find bordering on abstraction. The more abstract forms of picture-making were at Hackelbury with Garry Fabian Miller’s camera-less exposures in cobalt blue, crimson red and impenetrable blacks. At Purdy Hicks, Susan Derges crystallised a silvery patch of foam before it dissolved in Shoreline.
While Paris Photo remains the undisputed world leader in photographic fairs, Britain’s contribution to London’s very own version next year promises to be as vivid.
– text by Emilia Terracciano
Full captions of images at right:
‘A Lady on the couch with a telephone’, c. 1920-40, Courtesy The Alkazi Collection of Photography
Oscar Graubner (1897-1977) under supervision of M. Bourke-White
‘Margaret Bourke-White photographing from the Chrysler Building’, 1934,warm toned silver gelatin contact print on semi-matte, double weight fibre paper, printed by April 9, 1936. Oscar Graubner © The Life Images Collection/Getty Images, Courtesy: Daniel Blau Munich/London
‘The Death of a Beautiful Subject’, ‘ABS Grizzled skippers2013_f1, 2013/ 2014’, B/W bromide print, 22.5 x 22.5cm, Edition of 5 + 2AP, Image © Sophy Rickett, Courtesy: Grimaldi Gavin, London
VKhUTEMAS Workshops 1920 – 1930
‘Architectural Model, IV-5-43’, 1925, Signed in pencil on the verso: ‘According to Korzhev, the topic is Construction (paper) on the subject Space on the Foundations department, 1925 (Balikhin or Turkus)’, ‘IV-5-43’, ‘double’, ‘original’, ‘P9504127’, ‘Materials of Khlebnikov’, Gelatin silver print, 11.4 x 16.5 cm, Image copyright the artist. Courtesy: Richard Saltoun Gallery
‘Muguet seller, Champs Elysees, May 1st 1928’, 30.45 x 39.93 ins, gelatin silver print c. 1960, Image © Estate of André Kertész, Courtesy: James Hyman Gallery
Garry Fabian Miller
In Red’, 2010-2014 © Garry Fabian Miller, Courtesy: HackelBury Fine Art, London
‘Shoreline 7.1.98’, unique silver gelatin print, © Susan Derges, Courtesy: Purdy Hicks Gallery.