Paris Photo 2014

7 min read

The Grand Palais Paris

From 13 to 16 November the world’s leading photography fair, Paris Photo, once more took over the beautiful Grand Palais. We were there and strolled from stand to stand to select what we consider to be some of the absolute must-sees of this edition, from American fashion legend Richard Avedon to Chinese rising star Ren Hang.

Earlier this month 169 galleries and publishers gathered in Paris for the 18th edition of Paris Photo, without a doubt the world’s leading photography fair, which has been bringing together collectors, gallery owners, museum acquisition teams (Tate Modern, MoMA), publishers, photographers, curators and the general public alike since its launch in 1996. For four days an impressive 60.000 photo aficionados attended book signings and panel discussions and strolled through the many gallery stands under the magnificent glass and iron ceiling of the Grand Palais. No other fair offers such an overwhelming variety and wide-ranging and comprehensive view of photography as a medium, showcasing an eclectic mix that includes everything from old masters to new talents, uniting the cream of the crop of historic and contemporary photography while embracing it in all its forms. Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Richard Avedon, Stephen Shore, Henri Cartier-Bresson… all under the same roof!

The lines between contemporary art and photography are becoming more and more blurred and accordingly not only top photo gallerists such as Berlin’s Camera Work or San Francisco’s Fraenkel set up their booths in Paris but also the internationally renowned generalists from Gagosian to David Zwirner. And speaking of booths, the attempts by many galleries to offer alternatives to the classic white cube stand, coming up with innovative presentation setups were extremely striking.

Stands were painted in brown (Fifty One Fine Art), green (Gagosian), and even neon pink (Dominique Fiat) and accessorized with sofas, flower bouquets, special lighting and coffee tables giving them a more personal feel and rendering the whole fair experience a little less repetitive. An absolute eye-catcher was the stunning booth by New York’s Bruce Silverstein Gallery which drew a lot of attention with its large-scale hole in the wall, and London’s Hamiltons Gallery did a very good job at creating a calming, closed-off space, darkly colored and softly lit.

Although the program included a large number of younger, emerging photographers, it was the big names that had the most crowded booths. The most hyped one was undoubtedly Robert Mapplethorpe’s solo show curated by French film icon Isabelle Huppert. Prices started at around $ 1.000 and went up into seven digit figures, with Irving Penn's “Woman in Moroccan Palace” reaching a price tag of $ 1.5 million. And sales seemed to have gone well judging by the many red dots on the labels. For those who couldn’t make it to Paris, we religiously cruised every single stand to handpick a number of must-see gems for you. Here are our seven coup de coeurs.

Nicholas Nixon, Fraenkel Gallery

Nicholas Nixon »The Brown Sisters«

American photographer Nicholas Nixon made a name for himself with intimate portraiture photography such as his tender and powerful series “People with AIDS” in the ‘80s. At Paris Photo, San Francisco’s Fraenkel Gallery exhibited his celebrated project “The Brown Sisters”, a series of 40 black-and-white portraits of Nixon’s wife Bebe together with her three sisters; one photo being taken each year and the sisters depicted in the same order from left to right. The four women silently age before our eyes, revealing life’s inevitable finiteness and seemingly growing sisterly ties while illustrating time’s passing: a moving, emotional affair. It is the very first time that all 40 portraits have been shown together, fittingly on the series’ 40th anniversary. On show later this year at New York’s MoMA, “The Brown Sisters” was reserved for museums and not for public sale at the fair.

Mona Kuhn, Jackson Fine Art

Mona Kuhn »Private«

Mona Kuhn has just recently published the book “Private” together with Steidl. At Paris Photo, Jackson Fine Art Gallery from Atlanta dedicated a whole booth to the alluring, dream-like series and also organized a book signing with the Los Angeles-based artist of German-Brazilian descent. “Private” takes you into the American desert, to a place where the borders between reality and fiction blur. The sensual, atmospheric and at times slightly troubling images depict plants, landscapes and – of course – nudes, which Kuhn presents, as always, in an intimate, natural and effortless way.

Richard Avedon, Gagosian Gallery

Richard Avedon, Versace Spring/Summer 1993 campaign

Richard Avedon is nothing less than a legend. The American photographer revolutionized fashion and portrait photography and, as The New York Times wrote after his passing in 2004, “helped define America's image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century". One of his most fruitful collaborations was with Gianni Versace, and it is one of these iconic campaigns that Gagosian decided to put forward at Paris Photo. The gallery showcased a group of photographs from Avedon’s Versace Spring/Summer 1993 ads, one of the very few images he ever printed in color. The powerful, energetic photos take you back to the supermodel era of the ‘90s, when Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, Christie Turlington, Naomi Campbell and the like were gracing the covers of fashion magazines. In this extraordinary shoot, Avedon united them all in front of his lens, a tribe of glamorous and strong Amazonian power women.

Ren Hang, Galerie Paris-Beijing

Ren Hang

Under the title “The invisible red line”, Galerie Paris-Beijing dedicated their booth to censorship in China, an incredibly interesting proposition inspiring debate about freedom of speech and the relationship between art and politics. One of the exhibited artists was the young Chinese up-and-comer Ren Hang, who continues to practice his art in his home country despite arrests and an exhibition ban on his pictures. “True, I'm restricted here, but the more I'm limited by my country, the more I want my country to take me in and accept me for who I am and what I do”, he told Vice Magazine. Paris-Beijing filled a whole wall with numerous prints of differing sizes, creating a compelling mosaic of Hang’s provocative and, for Chinese standards, rather radical work. His fresh, original, unconventional photographs depict many nudes but not in an erotically charged way. Using naked bodies, he creates images of strange human sculptures and plays with forms and visual norms.

William Eggleston, Rose Gallery

William Eggleston, Untitled, (woman by a car), 1960 - 1972

While the extremely influential American photographer William Eggleston is mainly known for his immense impact on color photography and its establishment as an art form, Santa Monica’s Rose Gallery chose to bypass the obvious and went for a selection of black-and-white works instead, giving their presentation an interesting, original twist. The artist only recently created the 16x20 inch silver gelatin prints after revisiting numerous old black-and-white negatives from the ‘60s and ‘70s and they were shown for the very first time at the Paris fair. The compelling images from the beginning of his career are as captivating as ever, depicting ordinary people at diners, gas stations and bus stops, beautifully documenting American daily life.

Brea Souders, Bruce Silverstein

Brea Souders »Counterforms«

Brea Souders, an emerging artist in her early thirties from New York, blew us away with images from her “Counterforms” series. Mixing different techniques, she creates dazzling, vibrant and all-around gorgeous works exploring the theme of memory through personal items such as an orange peel her father unraveled, an African terrarium she grew up with or things she came across in the country of her ancestors, France. Constantly oscillating between abstraction and representation, her complex and emotive creations are inventive, intriguing and fresh, feeding on fragments of stories and objects. One to watch out for.

Richard Mosse, Carlier-Gebauer

Richard Mosse »The Enclave«

Irish photographer Richard Mosse won the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize this year at the age of 33 and rightly so. Visitors to the Carlier-Gebauer Gallery stand could discover several large-scale prints from his celebrated “Infra” series, for which the rising star received the renowned award. He shot the spellbinding photographs in war-torn Congo using a now discontinued type of infrared military film, which was originally invented to register infrared light during times of war. The knowledge that parts of the country are still tormented by rebel groups and violence gives the psychedelic images of beautiful Congolese landscapes a haunting touch, creating a surreal and mysterious world of pink shades and a whole new kind of war reportage.

By Sarah Shug



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