“photography”

Data: Robert Mapplethorpe, a stabilising market

The market of this “sculptor-painter”, whose auction prices are still affordable, is currently stabilising, even if great disparities exist. A market that still tends to be dominated by the United States… Robert Mapplethorpe was born on 4 November 1946 in New York State, into an English-Irish Catholic family. He was the third of six children. He spent his childhood in Floral Park, Queens (New York) where he attended Our Lady of the Snows. “I was a Catholic boy, I went to church every Sunday. A church has a certain magic and mystery for a child. It still shows in how I arrange things” (Deborah A. Levinson, Robert Mapplethorpe’s Extraordinary Vision). In 1963, Robert Mapplethorpe enrolled in Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. First — and primarily to please his father — he studied graphic arts. Bad choice. He dropped out two years later and it was then that he turned his attention the visual arts — drawing, painting, sculpture. He began making surrealist collages, in tandem with his discovery of cannabis and LSD. He met Patti Smith, and they became friends — following a short tryst. At this time, Robert Mapplethorpe was largely marked by Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell: he continued to practise collage, but also made boxes, installations and altar pieces, influenced by his Catholic childhood but also by black magic. At the end of the 1960s, Robert Mapplethorpe became fascinated by the New York avant-garde. He namely frequented the clubs near Union Square, such as Max’s Kansas City or CBGB, where Factory members tended to congregate: Andy Warhol himself, but also Gerard Malanga and Candy Darling. According to Patti Smith, it was only at the start of the 1970s that Robert Mapplethorpe started photography. His interest in the medium is inseparable from his visits to the Metropolitan Museum (New York), when John...

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Galerie Particulière represents Lise Sarfati

The Galerie Particulière, a photography gallery in the Marais district in Paris, now represents Lise Sarfati. Born in 1958 in Oran, Algeria, this self-taught artist, twice winner of the Prix Niépce and a member of Magnum Photos, started her career as official photographer for the Académie des Beaux-Arts de Paris. Fascinated with Russia from an early age, Lise Sarfati completed a master’s in Russian studies, and in 1989, moved to this country which would wield a major influence on her work. The young men she met there became the basis of her work as a documentary photographer while her artistic search focuses on the body’s relationship to space and emptiness. Today, the artist lives in the United States which she prefers to France whose architecture she perceives as overwhelming its people.  She is represented in New York by Yossi Milo, and in Santa Monica by Rose Gallery. Lise Sarfati’s work can be seen in exhibitions throughout the world and is represented in many collections. Several monographs have been published on...

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Data: Brassaï, the eye of Paris

At a time when the Centre Pompidou is showing the photographer’s well-known Graffiti, we retrace the career of Brassaï and his popularity on the art market, peaking in 2006. Paris by night. Who, better than Brassaï, has managed to capture the magic of the French capital after dark? Gyula Halász was born on 9 September 1899 in Brașov (Austria-Hungary), of a Hungarian father and an Armenian mother. Young Gyula moved to Paris at a tender age with his parents – in 1903 when his father was hired to teach literature at the Sorbonne. Later, Gyula Halász headed to Budapest where he studied at the School of Fine Arts, then signed up with the Austrian-Hungarian cavalry during World War I. He then set down his suitcases in Berlin, in 1921, to continue his art studies  – at the Academy of Fine Arts of Berlin-Charlottenburg – while earning a crust as a journalist. Here he met Kandinsky, then coined his pseudonym in 1923, inspired by his birthplace. Indeed, Brassaï means “from Brașov”. In 1924, he returned to Paris and settled in the district of Montparnasse, still largely frequented by artists and poets. Legend has it that he learned French by reading Proust and memorising ten words per day. Here, he met Henry Miller – who later called him “the eye of Paris” –, Léon-Paul Fargue, the famous Kiki of Montparnasse and Jacques Prévert. In 1946, the latter would illustrate his Paroles d’une photographie in the Graffiti series. At the same time, Brassaï continued his career as a journalist by writing for Hungarian and German newspapers. It was only in 1930 that he started photography, introduced to it by André Kertész, initially to document his articles. Very quickly, Brassaï developed a passion for the art that was gaining in strength at the...

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Clément Chéroux, the third eye

A specialist in the art of looking, Clément Chéroux is a curator at the Centre Pompidou, where he has been head of the photography department since 2013. His keen eye makes him a highly observant eyewitness of the images that now haunt our world. An eye-to-eye interview. “Ten years of photography acquisitions at the Centre Pompidou”… This is the gist of the exhibition organised by Clément Chéroux and Karolina Ziebinska-Lewandowska, to celebrate the 20th edition of Paris Photo: a selection of around one hundred works from the museum’s collections – one of the largest in Europe, comprising around 40,000 prints to date. Let’s note that this event is not just another exhibition on the genealogy of forms or the subversion of images; it is a major overview, almost a manifesto, illustrating the highlights over a century on which the photographic medium left its mark. Its title? “The Pencil of Culture”, in allusion to the book by William Henry Fox Talbot published in 1844, “The Pencil of Nature”. Another time, another paradigm… For Clément Chéroux, the image is well and truly a “marker of culture” today. Explanations follow. The exhibition borrows its title from the very first book on the history of photography, The Pencil of Nature by Talbot. What is the idea behind this title? When photography was invented and revealed to the public in 1839, its main aim could be summed up as reproducing reality faithfully and quickly. Hence Talbot’s title, seeing photography as “the pencil of nature”, a nature that prints itself on the sensitive plate without the artist adding any gestures to it. The quality of the image, the way Talbot saw it, came primarily from its truthful character. Today, over 170 years later, photography’s main quality can no longer be reduced to its capacity to...

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Photography, a market for intuitions

The sector is undeniably in fine shape. Juggling new favourites and sure values, it remains accessible while flirting with the star system dear to contemporary art. We review a history of keen gazes, patience and instinct. Even if it only represents 1 % of global art sales, the growth of the photography market is real. In 2013, auction sales in this domain generated $180 million – compared to $132 million in 2010 – according to 2015 data established by Artprice, whose publication of a yearly report coincides with the launch of Paris Photo. Fashion, journalism, art… all segments are dynamic, but dominating them all is contemporary digital photography. “We find high-quality prints at prices that are still very low compared to other mediums,” observes Georg Bak, cofounder of the gallery Scheublein + Bak in Zurich. “I think that this market is highly undervalued. You can buy prints by renowned artists, active between 1950 and 1970, in perfect condition, for under €15,000. They’ll be the classics of tomorrow,” he confides. A genuine advantage for collectors and all those starting out as collectors. In 2015, the average price of a photograph on auction was $10,000, compared to $60,000 for a painting, but half of the photography works in fact sold for under $1,560. A market in the midst of structuring Due to its recent history compared to art history, the photography market still behaves like an emerging market. 1970 was a key year, often marking its date of birth for this is when the first specialised auction sales were held. At that time, historic black-and-white prints, mostly in small formats, were primarily sold, in American sales rooms. The photography department created by Sotheby’s in 1971 was the first of its type in an auction house, followed two years later by the...

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