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2011 AIPAD: Some Discoveries

From my perspective, walking into the Park Avenue Armory for the first day of the AIPAD Photography Show was no different this year than any other. It’s always a question of overcoming information overload. Art fairs are like that, even when you’re lucky enough to live in New York and don’t have to work very hard to see great photography or great anything else for that matter. All you need for AIPAD is time and if you’re in a buying mode, as a fair number of visitors there seem to have been, a checkbook. I had the time.

This year, there were more than 80 galleries at the show, and the representation was global in scope. Besides the New York, West Coast and Santa Fe contingent of galleries and those in between from Arizona to Michigan, there were galleries from London, Paris, Jerusalem, Ottawa, Osaka, Hamburg and Beijing. That’s what makes AIPAD so eye-opening.

The good news is that a number of dealers said business was looking better than last year. I got a sense of that when I was in the Rick Wester space and overheard a collector say, “This would be great for my grandkid, save it for me;” pointing to an image of colored pencils on the wall. Price: $3300.

The eye opening for me began when I browsed through the Jade Jar Fine Art Gallery from Beijing. Here were photographs made in China. The gallery director, Yan Li, pointed out one image of Chairman Mao holding hands with his wife, walking on a dirt path. (Price: $1500.) She told me that it had been taken by the Chairman’s personal photographer, Wu-Gong Hu, and could not be shown in China. The reason being that the Chairman’s wife had been part of the Gang of Four, which had been charged with treasonous crimes after the Cultural Revolution. Yan Li mentioned that the photographer had an exhibit in New York at the Chinese Institute in 2009. Other images by Chinese artists showed opera performers on stage. They’re called “propaganda,” but are actually ads. The Chinese must have a yen for Barbara Kruger because the gallery had two of her works for sale: “Reach out and touch someone.” I liked the Kruger that proclaimed: “You’re right and you know it and so should everyone else.”

Next stop was Eric Franck Fine Art, London. I noticed a photograph by Karen Knorr of a sculpture of a fox on a silver platter, with the caption: “Pleasure as a serious pursuit for the unemployed.” Something to ponder.

What I also discovered about AIPAD is that it’s like Macy’s for the museums of the world. OK, maybe Saks Fifth Avenue. Curators and their staffs come to AIPAD to shop. And they do buy. They make lists and then they have committee meetings, probably talk to a few trustees, and then place their orders months later. I heard that curators from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Getty, SFMoma, Jerusalem Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, Center for Creative Photography, Minneapolis and Philadelphia et al. were all here. It puts a lot of the work on display in perspective.

AIPAD is a visual feast, overwhelming in some respects and probably not the best way to view photographs, but it makes the work accessible to an audience that knows what it likes and often wants to own it. Wait till next year.

2011 AIPAD: Some Discoveries by Norman Borden

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The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery