Monday, November 30, 2009

Am I in Heaven .... or Am I in Miami?

Pamela Anderson attending Art Basel Miami Beach last year.

When I was an undergrad at Yale, the graduate drama students (who included Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, and Sigourney Weaver) would blow off steam at the Yale Cabaret performing sketches and singing songs. One particularly funny song titled "Am I in Heaven .... or Am I in Miami?" always comes to mind as I drive in to Miami - where I'll be for the next week as I'm showing at Art Basel Miami Beach. (It was a particular act of brilliance to schedule an art fair just as the weather turns cold up-country.)

For anyone in the vicinity - I'm in Booth D41, but you'll need all the stamina you can muster plus a good map to find me as the fair is truly MASSIVE!

Anyway, I'll try to post from the fair, although I doubt I'll have much time to view too many of the peripherals. But if you don't hear much from me, that's what I'm up to this week.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Inspirers

DAN ROWEN (1953 - 2009)

The New York Times published obituaries yesterday of two people who were immeasurably inspirational to me. One was the architect Dan Rowen who was known for his cool modernist design and his work for Larry Gagosian, and the other was Charis Wilson, the wife and great muse of Edward Weston.

I knew Dan well. I first met him when I took over the lease on Perry Rubinstein’s Prince Street gallery in 1994 – a space that had been lovingly and thoughtfully designed by Dan in the early boom days of the 90s art market. It had Brazilian cherry floors and the finest fixtures money could buy (the library, for example, had a built in rolling ladder to easily access the top shelves), but most of all it had Dan’s brain and taste. The proportions were original but perfect, and the thought behind every design decision was both functional and aesthetically pleasing. There wasn’t a day I walked into the gallery when I didn’t think of and appreciate Dan’s work.

Over time we made a few minor adjustments that made the space more appropriate for photography than the large scale paintings Perry had shown, and Dan and I became friends. From then on, there wasn’t a design decision I made without consulting him. No detail was too small for him to care about – no problem too minor for him not to take pleasure in the joy of finding a solution. My business was certainly small potatoes to Dan with clients like Martha Stewart and Michael Kors, but such was his brain and temperament that he took great pleasure in even the smallest act of creation.

When he walked into a space that needed his touch, a smile always played on his lips. There was a spring in his step. It was an opportunity – no matter how small or large – to do what he did best.

The last thing we did together was to solve the problem of the back room on my latest gallery space on West 24th Street. This was the smallest of small jobs – to most people of Dan’s stature it would have been well beneath them – but as a friend Dan was happy to help, and he took it on just before he was diagnosed with cancer. His solution to a messy space littered with wall alarms, pipes, and other detritus was a seemingly simple but actually quite complex wall that moved from one side of the room into open space and in one swoop encompassed a recessed bookshelf, enlarged my storage space, hid everything ugly, and created a desk area where I now sit and work. Of all the jobs Dan took on, I’m sure it must rank as the most insignificant – but he treated it as if it was a commission to design a new museum - and from the moment it was completed, it stood out for me as a testament to everything that was good and great about creativity, individuality, problem-solving, and friendship.

CHARIS WILSON (1914 - 2009)

I never met Charis Wilson, but like most male photo buffs of my age, she was my pin-up and as recently as last month when I had the pleasure and honor of exhibiting her husband Edward Weston’s work – I had plenty of opportunities to pin her up! Of the 40 Weston pictures on display, about half were of Charis.

She was everything you could dream of as a muse and companion and she had quite a life. She was the all-American dream girl - beautiful, natural, smart, and unselfconscious.

If there’s something like a heaven, or at least a great processing center in the sky, I would hope that Dan and Charis would meet. And while they each had great loves in their lives, I would hope they would enjoy each other’s company as friends – and who knows, maybe one day the east coast intellectual and the west coast beauty would figure out this one point of contact they shared!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Man and A Woman

One recent comment to this blog asked how I decide what to buy at a fair like Paris Photo or indeed anywhere. The easy answer and the one that I usually give new collectors is to wait until you see a piece that you feel you can’t live without. If you walked away and someone else got it, it would break your heart. (Trust me - my heart has been broken this way many times.) Of course economics plays a part in this. You can't always get what you want - only what you can afford.

But thinking about the above in the context of my own collecting and the recent fair and my trip to London, I realized there’s more to it than that. The other piece of advice I give collectors is equally if not more important. That is to spend as much time as possible looking and not buying. Going to galleries, museums, and auctions; reading reviews; immersing yourself as much as possible in the medium because every intelligent decision is a combination of knowledge, reflection, and gut reaction.

The two pieces I bought this week both built on past knowledge. The first piece (pictured above and below) was a cameraless photograph by the British photographer/artist Christopher Bucklow. It’s made by a complicated process where a person’s shadow is first silhouetted on a piece of foil. The foil is then transferred to a box where it sits on top of a sheet of photographic paper. The figure is then laboriously recreated by making thousands of pricks of light in the foil. The earlier the hole is made, the brighter the spot so Bucklow is fully in control of the glow that emanates from these spectral figures. I’ve been a big fan of Bucklow’s action/process photograms since he first started making them and also enjoy keeping up with the vitality and energy of contemporary British photography. So this was the background to the purchase.

One further contribution was that there was a Harper’s Bazaar in my hotel room which had a feature on Claudia Schiffer where they had asked various artists to photograph her – one of whom was Christopher Bucklow! I knew from my correspondence with Chris that he had a show opening in London the week after my trip that I was sadly going to miss, but I hadn't know anything about the Schiffer pictures. (It always pays to read.)

So here’s the kicker. As usually happens at the end of a foreign trip, I was trying to get home early and because of the incompetence of a particular Virgin Airways desk person I missed getting on the morning flight to New York and found myself at Heathrow Airport on Friday morning with three and a half hours to kill before boarding the 4:00 p.m. to Newark. So I hightailed it back into London with the hope of getting a sneak preview of Chris’s new work at Riflemaker Gallery before they installed it. I called from the train and Robin Mann, the gallery director, was friendly and co-operative which is how I found myself face to face with a choice of one of three photogram silhouettes of Claudia Schiffer. I picked the orange-y vertical because I liked the way the figure filled the frame and the outline of her breast, although the blue horizontal was a close call.

So that’s how I happened to buy picture #1!

Picture #2

Picture #2 was this costumed self-portrait by the young London based Korean photographer Chan-Hyo Bae. It was a picture I had seen previously on the website of Purdy-Hicks, the London gallery representing my friends Susan Derges and Tessa Traeger. I had been struck by it on the web – I liked its fidelity to the conventions of Elizabethan portraiture combined with its play on gender, race, and medium – but I hadn’t seen it in person. P-H had a print on the wall at Paris Photo that lived up to my expectations and voila! Purchase #2.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekend Video

This weekend's video has been selected by my daughter, Josie, who feels it is "the funniest video ever". It made me laugh, but let me know if you think otherwise or have any other suggestions for funniest video.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Paris Photo

Jowhara AlSaud's "Airmail" at Aperture.

Now celebrating its 13th year, the Paris Photo art fair presents a vast range of 19th-century, modern, and contemporary photography by 102 exhibitors from 23 countries. It's a bit overwhelming - with this much good photography on display enthusiasm can quickly lead to exhaustion. But it's fascinating and inspiring, and most of the work is of a surprisingly high standard.

After four days of travel, meetings, and looking at pictures, I decided to distill the fair to my top ten favorites and so in no particular order, here they are.

A vintage Seydou Keita at the Agnes B gallery.

A new Susan Derges photogram at Purdey Hicks.

A stunning Gustave Le Grey at Baudoin Lebon.

Viviane Sassen - you will be seeing more of her work here shortly.

Catherine Robbe-Grillet photographing one of Yves Klein's models preparing for one of his contact paintings.

What looked at first like a Loretta Lux was in fact the work of a young Chinese photographer, Yu Xiao, who digitally creates different child versions of herself as a commentary on China's one child rule and the obsessive focus on childhood this has created.

Koos Breujkel and the rather touchingly titled "Lucien Freud at the Grave of his Dog". Van Zoetendaal Gallery.

A late Irving Penn fashion shot of Nicole Kidman at Hamilton's.

A stunning Adam Fuss photogram of water drops. (Better to click in to this one.)

London & Paris

Yes, I know - it's a tough life. I am currently in Paris visiting the Paris Photo art fair, meeting with photographers, curators, etc. and was just doing the same in London.

Lots of images to upload when I have a minute, but having left Christies' after-exhibition party at 1 in the morning and with two important meetings early tomorrow, you'll hopefully excuse me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No Fear of Flying

Daniel Gordon is having his moment. A 2005 Yale MFA grad, Gordon’s photographed sculptural collages (see first image below) are one of six groups of work featured in MoMA’s current “New Photography” show which addresses the concept of image collection and creation in the studio or darkroom. I have to say I’m not crazy about these pictures. (They’re a little too violent for me.) But this past Saturday I just managed to catch the last day of Gordon’s exhibition at Leo Koenig – a sampling of a much earlier project of “flying” pictures - which I really liked a lot.

A group of self-portraits taken starting ten years ago in the Hudson Valley and the Bay Area, the extremely athletic artist recorded himself flying — if only for 1/125th of a second at a time. The images are both landscapes and performance documents, humorous and surreal, playing with the notion of how photography can deceive and enchant.

What was particularly refreshing was to see something that was new and gutsy both conceptually and physically. The laws of physics mean that he does after all have to crash. But how nice to see something vibrant and life-affirming and unexpected.

More flying pictures:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weekend Video

I'd like to know how many Republican (or indeed other Democratic) Senators can do this! Al Franken, the comedian turned Senator draws a map of all 50 states from memory during an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair this fall. Lambasted by the right for being a liberal lightweight, this demonstration of cartographical knowledge, dexterity, and drawing skill certainly impresses me! (Forgive the annoying music on this clip or turn it down!)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ice Art

AP Photo/Australian Antarctic Division, Murray Potter

Looking more like a work of earth art or a cross between a Lynn Davis and a Sugimoto than a natural phenomenon, this large iceberg was recently spotted about halfway between Antarctica and Australia, a rare sight in waters so far north.

Australian Antarctic Division researchers working on Macquarie Island, about 930 miles southeast of Tasmania, first saw the iceberg last Thursday about 5 miles off the northwest coast of the island. The iceberg, about 160 feet high and 1,640 feet long, is probably part of one of several larger icebergs that broke off Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf between 2000 and 2002.

Scientists believe the iceberg will break up and melt rapidly as it continues its journey north. So get moving if you're interested in this particular photo-op!

The iceberg as seen from Macquarie Island.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

From The New York Times

It's always an honor to have a show mentioned in The New York Times, and even more of an honor to be the subject of The New York Times Magazine picture editor Kathy Ryan's first ever blog post! Click here to read her entry and see the pictures she was so enthused by.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thinking Positively

I was walking along 23rd Street when my eye was caught by a poster of what was clearly a Shepard Fairey work. Before you let out a groan, let me quickly reiterate that I've always been a fan of Shepard's art. That was what drew me in to researching his sources in the first place. But let bygones be bygones. I love this piece and the way Shepard creates a ground of collaged old newspapers to add depth and resonance to the simplicity of his graphics. (Click on the picture above to see it in more detail.)

The work is currently on display at Deitch Projects in Soho - part of Stage 09 - a benefit exhibition with all the proceeds going to Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong Foundation. For a quick online view of the full exhibition click here.

Oh, and I nearly forgot, as you can see from the detail below, Shepard is now crediting his photographic sources. In this case, Los Angeles wedding photographer Dina Douglass of Andrena Photography. This link is obviously to a different picture than the one Shepard used, but it's all good positive stuff!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Rich Harvest

A lot of good images that were new to me popped up over the last week. Above - "South Downs Way, West Sussex, 8th October 2007." By Simon Roberts from his new book "We English".

Then "2nd Class Girls, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2007" by Rachel Papo.

Charles Trainor, a photographer from the Miami Herald came to photograph me for a story they're doing on dealers getting ready for Art Basel Miami Beach. Before he left, he mentioned that his father had also been a photographer. As you can see from the picture above of Elvis in 1956 and The Beatles and Ali in 1964 - that's certainly an understatement!

Finally, last week I was asked at the very last moment by my friend Jean-Jacques Naudet to drop by a reception for an old Paris Match photographer at the Oleg Cassini mansion off 5th Avenue. I didn't know what to expect but went out of courtesy to J-J, only to meet the most elegant and courteous photographer - Benno Graziani - and revel in his pictures of the jet set. That's his photograph of Jackie and the paparazzi, Port d'Amalfi 1962 - below.

And Gianni Agnelli and his yacht-guest Heidi von Salvisberg, Beaulieu 1967 - above. Talk about the swell life!