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08 June 2007

Photo-London, Part II

In my last post, I promised to talk about the panel discussion called How to Collect Contemporary Photography. This was a discussion moderated by Anna Somers-Cocks, founding editor of The Art Newspaper, with Francis Hodgson, head of the photographs department, Sotheby's London; Jeffrey Boloten, partner, ArtTactic; Greg Hobson, curator of photographs, National Media Museum Bradford; and William Hunt, partner in Hasted/Hunt gallery (and well known to Aperture audiences).

Mr. Hodgson weighed in passionately about a subject that is near and dear to my heart: conservation.  He mentioned that when the photo conservator at the V & A, Elizabeth Martin, passed away four years ago, her position was not filled.  He stated that this has left a backlog of photo conservation and restoration projects at the major British museums that would take "lifetimes" to complete.  Remarkable!  I think there needs to be much greater awareness—and tons more information disseminated—about how to care for photographs.  Mr. Hodgson's comment elicited multiple responses from the panel, including Mr. Hunt remarking that his own awareness about the non-archival quality of face-mounted plexi [Plexiglas] had prompted him to insist that no artist in his roster use it.  Of course, it was mentioned that the "most expensive photo in the world," a.k.a. Gursky’s 99 Cent II Diptychon, is on face-mounted plexi.
(Stay tuned for next season's programs at Aperture. We will present two of the finest conservators in the world discussing just such issues. It's such a big and challenging topic that I hope to make a regular fixture of Tuesday nights at Aperture.)

This was a fabulous panel.  Each member was articulate, informed and passionate about the topic.  Debate was lively and spirited.  It both answered questions and posed new ones.  Really a treat.

A few last notes about art on view:

This was billed as a contemporary photo fair, which meant that there were fewer mid-century blue chip photographers on display and many more up-and-comers.  In the blue chip category, Camera Work from Berlin had a stunning vintage print of William Klein's "Smoke and Veil."  London gallery The Approach had a number of John Stezaker's collages of found images. I have seen this work at a number of other fairs and most recently at the auction to benefit White Columns in New York City.  The work always attracts my eye and engages my mind. Even though similar techniques are applied to all of them, each one looks fresh and original.Also looking as good as ever to me was a large scale urban landscape by Stephane Couturier. I continue to be impressed and engaged by this artist:Filed under up-and-comers, Laurence Demaison at Parisian gallery Esther Woerdehof has been exploring self-portraiture for a number of years. Her best, to me, have been where she explores her relationship to and with water. There have been a number of series where she submerges herself in a pool to be photographed. Some of these just present the natural distortion of the water, while in others she creates wave patterns to further evoke a painterly effect. I think there is a link to the work of Susan Derges who I mentioned in my first post. Derges' Observer and the Observed series also uses water and self-portraiture to striking ends. In Demaison's newer work, water is just a puddle in which to catch fleeting glimpses of a fractured self. In a B/W format there is also some question to the viewer about whether the liquid is water. Titled "Jour de Sang," I am told the phrase translates as “day of suffering” or “sacrifice.”Next stop: Venice Biennale.

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