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The AIPAD Show
A.M. Rousseau with Stephen Perloff

    Imagine if you will, two huge floors in a posh New York hotel, each containing a complex warren of numerous small booths, every one filled with a mini exhibition of photographs, all unique, all interesting. The room is teeming with collectors, dealers, photographers and the curious from around the world, buzzing with the murmurs of deal making, the whispers of special finds, the quiet haggling over prices, discreet conversations about quality, and frank discussions about careers on the rise and on the decline. New buyers walk around with neatly wrapped packages tucked safely under their arms, smugly gleeful with their purchase, "a steal" they muse to themselves, or vaguely anxious, traumatized by the amount of money they have just spent on some beautiful image on a piece of paper. Whether they have put down a check for $50 or $50,000, all must present their packages for inspection to the security guard at the door.

    This is AIPAD, the Association of International Photography Art Dealerís Photography Ď97 show at New Yorkís Hilton Hotel. The event brings together dealers and collectors from around the world to show and sell photography. Itís a chance to see a wide array of new and old photographs including recent discoveries of Daguerreotypes, the latest in digital technology and everything in between, as well as an opportunity to check out current price ranges, whatís hot, whatís not, and who is selling what to whom.

    This year AIPAD Director Kathleen Ewing estimated that attendance at the show was up by 25%, and many dealers reported record sales. Harry Lunn of Lunn Ltd. said that he may have reached $100,000 in sales, including the sale of a LeGray print for $22,000. Henry Feldstein sold pictures from $75 to $10,000, and Jane Jackson of Jackson Fine Art said she had more than doubled her sales totals of last year. Dealer, Lewis Lehr had his best opening night ever.

    Of course not every single dealer did so well. A few reported sales below even that needed to recoup the expense of traveling to New York City, or as only "fair," but generally dealers went home happy. Certainly there were more important pictures on display than ever before, and some unique offerings. James Danziger asked $175,000 for a spectacular 14" x 11" platinum print of Gertrude Kasebierís Blessed Art Thou Among Women . (Unique in this size, the print had been exhbited in 1910 at the Stieglitz curated show at the Albright Gallery, Buffalo, NY.) Janet Lehr offered The Boxers, (attributed to Thomas Eakins), a print she had acquired in the December, Freeman/Fine Arts sale in Philadelphia for $150,000. Charles Isaacs and James Danziger also brought Eakins pictures purchased from the same sale.

    The best part of the show is the nearly 100 galleries and exhibitions, conveniently located all under one roof. We were determined to see everything. The following is an entirely idiosyncratic, and admittedly biased account of some of the photographs we came across in our wanderings.

    We stumbled upon a bizarre set of minature painted photographs by the equally unusually named Rick Hards at the Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ. The work appeared to be composed of found tintypes which were then meticulously painted around the outlines of odd animal figures or humanlike forms that revealed parts of the original picture. Intimate and appealing, they had the feeling of ancient egg temperas painted with a two hair brush, every brushstroke minutely rendered in vivid colors. The historical faces and figures of the underlying tintypes showed through, somehow both merging with, and commenting on the surface of the painted contemporary images. The tiny images were bordered by beautifully crafted wide wooden frames. They ranged in price from $1500. to $2500.

    Related, but stylistically different work by Lino Mannocci was exhibited at the Julie Saul Gallery, NY. Mr. Mannocci, a Brit living in Italy we were told, hand paints common postcards, transforming pictures of ordinary tourist sites into exquisite watercolor-like gems - which are actually painted in oils. One can see patches and bits of the original postcard photograph, but the lovely quality of the painting transports the viewer (or at least this one) to some new imaginary tourist landscape. We fine ourselves on the shores of non-existent beaches in Central Park or swim in the unlikely waters of New Yorkís Washington Square Monument, perplexed and mesmerized by the paradox of these painted pictures whose images hold what is purportedly "real" and recorded next to an obvious fiction. Unique images all, we thought they were a bargain at $800 each.

    Following our interest in painted images we came across the work of "Anonymous" at the Stephen Cohen Gallery, CA. Donít get the idea that there were very many painted images in the whole AIPAD show. In fact these three were probably about it, but then we told you we were biased. Overall there was also a distinct lack of color work compared to previous years, and contemporary work was certainly less dominant than vintage photographs; however, given the recent market for vintage work now moving toward prices in the five figures and above, perhaps this is understandable.

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