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What We Learned This Week: Photography Heats Up the Art Market

By David Schonauer   Thursday September 28, 2017


Modern and impressionist art is selling for 12 below a 2007 peak.

Old masters and 19th-century art are fetching 40 percent less at auctions than before the financial crisis of 2008. Fine art has fallen out of favor among the world’s billionaires, with prices down 6.2 percent last year alone, noted The Guardian. Collectors have also lost interest in rugs and carpets, with 2016 prices at an 11-year low. Classic cars? Down as well. But, we learned this week, photography is heating up the market. One private bank, Coutts, has declared photography the hottest new investment area among collectables.

“It is definitely one of our fastest-growing categories,” said Brandei Estes, head of photographs at auctioneer Sotheby’s in London. “It’s the nature of the work; it is the most democratic of art forms and because of the relatively accessible price points, it’s an attractive category for the growing middle market.” The Guardian pointed to a number of recent sales amid the rising tide: A photograph of visitors to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1990 by Thomas Struth sold for $777,080 (£600,890) at Phillips London, noted the newspaper, with pictures by Gilbert & George, Robert Mapplethorpe and Andreas Gurksy all making more than $400,000.

Within this context we took note of some other art news this week—  a report  that Christie’s will be offering Man Ray’s “Noire et Blanche” at auction in France in November, with an estimated price of €1m-1.5m. The image of Man Ray muse Kiki de Montparnasse, first published in Paris Vogue in 1926, is part of the collection of film director, producer, and writer Thomas Koerfer, which will up for sale on November 9. We also recently highlighted a history of the Man Ray image at AnOther.

In other news, the British Journal of Photography  reported that the Tate museum in London has acquired the 12,000-strong photo book collection of photographer Martin Parr, coauthor of the seminal three-volume anthology  The Photobook: A History.  The donation from Parr — supported by Maya Hoffmann's LUMA Foundation, makes Tate one of the leading institutions in terms of photobooks.

Speaking of the LUMA Foundation: Art News  recently provided a glimpse of the sprawling 20-acre campus in Arles, France, that will become its home. The new facility, which will feature 100,000 square feet of exhibition space built within former manufacturing plants and a centerpiece building designed by Frank Gehry towering 200 feet above the town when it opens in 2018, may redefine museums for the 21st century, noted AR.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted recently:
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1. The Juggalos Come In Peace


Once, the Juggalos — fans of the Insane Clown Posse “horrorcore” rap group known for its violent lyrics, absurd aesthetic, and lewd annual gatherings — were considered a public threat of sorts: In 2011, the FBI defined Juggalos as a gang. But in Donald Trump’s America, they don’t look so bad: The Juggalos recently marched in the nation’s capital to protest discrimination by law enforcement and outnumbered marchers in a pro-Trump rally. The New Republic  featured photographer Mark Peterson’s coverage of the event.


2.  Petting Whales and Changing the Photo Rules


“As a wildlife photojournalist I try to be a fly on the wall. Being noticed by my subject or dramatically altering their behavior is never a goal,” noted Thomas P. Peschak recently at National Geographic. But for Peschak, who has been photographing whales around the world for some 20 years, a trip to Baja California’s San Ignacio Lagoon meant changing the rules of wildlife photography: The grey whales there demanded physical contact. “If you take the hands-off approach, they’ll hang around for less than a minute,” Peschak noted.


3. Revisiting Cold War Ruins, in a New Era of Dread


Threats of nuclear annihilation from North Korea. Cyber attacks from Russia. Welcome to the Coldish War of 2017 — a perfect time to review photographer Phil Buehler’s exhibition “(UN)THINKABLE,” on view at the Front Room Gallery in New York City through October 1. For 25 years, Buehler has photographed ruins of the real Cold War, from stored military planes in Arizona to the weathered fallout shelter sign on the Bronx grammar school he attended during the Cuban Missile Crisis, noted Hyperallergic.


4. James Herbert's Nude Film Stills from the '80s


In what has been called “one of the most beautiful exhibitions of the new season,”  New York City’s Gitterman Gallery  is featuring James Herbert’s photographs of nude young adults — stills taken from films he made in the 1980s. Herbert projected individual frames on a wall, then re-photographed them with 35mm black-and-white film. He later enlarged the images, printing them on 16 x 20 inch paper. "I’m interested in a sort of tenderness, and even sadness," Herbert told i-D.


5. Weird Laws Depicted with Cool Pictures


“It all started with an ice cream cone — a friend of mine told me it’s illegal in Alabama to have an ice cream cone in your back pocket,” says photographer Olivia Locher. Fascinated, Locher began researching other odd laws, from Delaware’s prohibition against drinking perfume to Ohio’s ban against disrobing in front of a portrait of a man. The result is the book I Fought the Law, in which Locher depicts strange legislation in archly humorous images. “It initially started as a way for me to expand my studio practice,” she told BuzzFeed.
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At top: From Olivia Locher

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