At New York’s Independent Art Fair, an Older Generation of Photographers Are Honored
Before even entering Independent The art fair, which is back at Spring Studios in Tribeca after decamping to the Financial District in 2021, visitors get a taste of one of the big strengths of this year’s fair: striking photography old decades of an under-recognized artist. In this case, the artist is Martine Barrat, a New York-based French photographer, now in her 80s, whose black-and-white photograph of a reveler leaving Harlem’s Amsterdam Music Club early one morning in 1982 has been printed on one of the facades of the building. exterior windows.
Just inside the fair, Miami-based gallery Nina Johnson has a solo booth of Barrat photos (priced between $12,000 and $32,000), most of which capture New York street scenes at the early 1980s. Many images have the composition, candor and spontaneity of classic street photography, but there is also a degree of familiarity, grandeur and even performance in some that evokes Dawoud’s seminal work Bey. Harlem, United States series a few years earlier. Or, as Yves Saint Laurent once said of Barrat’s work: “This photographer has a special eye, an eye that sees with the heart. She knows how to capture the unique moment that says it all.
Nina Johnson’s stand is one of more than half a dozen at Independent devoted in part or entirely to photographic works made decades ago by artists who are (yet) not known. According to fair co-founder Elizabeth Dee, these types of presentations, which add to and complicate art historical narratives, are possible in part because the fair’s audience already arrives extremely knowledgeable. “We assume everyone knows everything, and our challenge is to show them something new,” she says.
On the Higher Pictures Generation stand, the “new” is a grid of 35 black-and-white self-portraits from 1977 (priced at $25,000) by New York-based British photographer and dealer Janice Guy. Guy is best known to many in the New York art world as half of the closed Chelsea gallery since Murray Guy, which represented groundbreaking photographers such as Moyra Davey and An-My Lê.
“When she moved to New York, she changed her medium to a gallery,” says Kim Bourus, owner of Higher Pictures Generation. The large grid, which has never been on public display before, was kept for years along with most of Guy’s photographic work by artist Thomas Strüth, her classmate at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where she studied with Klaus Rinke and Bernd and Hilla Becher. Their penchant for seriality is evident in Guy’s photos here, most of which are set up in grids or series, though she prefers self-portraits to industrial architecture.
Another artist working in photography who has long been excluded from the larger history of the Pictures Generation, Jennifer Bolande, has a solo booth with Magenta Plains. His works on display span from 2014 to the early 1980s and reflect a conceptual interest in photography and appropriated imagery. The first works of her Porn series (1982-83), are small, impenetrable images of generic domestic interiors. They are based on vintage adult film footage that was shown at nighttime screenings at the cinema where Bolande worked, which she cut from the films and developed into photographic thumbnails. They are a prelude to the more recent and more important works exhibited nearby.
“She was connected to the Pictures Generation, but didn’t get the level of attention that a lot of those artists have,” says a gallery staff member, adding that visitors to Independent have a level of mastery of photography which is not a given. at each fair. “There is a strong knowledge of photography techniques among the collectors at this fair. We received questions about cameras, editions and printing techniques.
Two stands away, the Paris-based Galerie Sultana paired canvases by emerging British painter Celia Hempton with photographs by Swiss photographer Walter Pfeiffer spanning the 1980s to this year (price between €5,000 and €9,500). His images, which include still lifes and partially obscured portraits of male figures, juxtapose well with Hempton’s enigmatic figurative canvases. For the gallery’s founder Guillaume Sultana, the presentation at Independent and a major Pfeiffer exhibition which has just opened at the Swiss Institute make for an opportunity to showcase the artist’s influential role in a time of transition in photography.
“He started in the 1960s and 1970s, in the middle of the transition from black and white to color photography, and he was in conversation with the older generation,” says Sultana. “But he also served as an inspiration to many photographers working in color who came after.”
Older works by other influential photographers, some better known than others, are on display in Independent. Maureen Paley has a salon-style installation that includes photos by Peter Hujar and Wolfgang Tillmans. Bucharest-based Ivan Gallery presents photos from the 1970s by Romanian artist Ion Grigorescu. And the stand of the Vienna-based Galerie Hubert Winter includes a captivating presentation of works by the late Austrian avant-garde feminist artist Birgit Jürgenssen. It includes photographs of playful and subversive performances and interventions, such as Nest (1979/2002, priced at $15,000), in which the artist appears nude with a bird’s nest containing two small eggs cradled in her crotch.
For Dee, the dominance of historical photography at the fair this year is a symptom of collectors’ renewed interest in the medium, which she attributes, in part, to a surprising factor. “The photography market has been largely stagnant over the past decade, but the pendulum is swinging completely in the opposite direction,” she says. “I think this is partly due to NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which have made collectors much more comfortable with the concept of editions – people who buy NFTs see everything through the lens of collection, rather than unique objects.”
- IndependentSpring Studios, New York, through May 8.