Paris Photo, the premier international fair dedicated to the photographic medium, closed Sunday after a flurry of activity, including rapid sales and an unsolved mystery over a vandalized work --- a Trump "Trompe l'œil."
High notes of the 21st edition of the fair, held at at the Grand Palais from Nov. 9 to 12, included the record attendance of 64,542 visitors, an increase of 4.1% over last year’s fair, along with a notable new film and video section, a focus on documentary styles, and a high volume of sales for the 189 exhibitors from 30 different countries.
”The 2017 edition is the best we’ve ever had," said New York dealer Howard Greenberg. "We have made great sales, with a set of works from the Farm Security Administration collection of the Hank O’ Neal Archives selling for over 200,000 euros. The various works will notably belong to French, Belgian, German, Swiss and American collections.”
“We sold older works as well as modern and contemporary works," noted Françoise Paviot, of Paris. "Anna and Bernhard Blume’s collection was acquired by a Los Angeles collector and Benjamin Deroche’s series of 2 photos, produced especially for Paris Photo, completely sold out.”
Exhibitor Thomas Zander, Cologne, added, “2017 was a successful edition for our gallery which notably sold Edificio Basurto Ciudad de Mexico II, 2015, by Candida Höfer for 69,000 euros, and a photograph of Mitch Epstein for 29,000 euros. We have welcomed many European and American collectors, as well as American institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum, LACMA, SFMoMA and The Art Institute of Chicago.”
A concurrent auction at Christie's during Paris Photo week included a soaring sale of Man Ray’s 'Noire et Blanche' for 2.6 million euros, a record price for classic photography. The gelatin silver print references primitive arts, popular in early 20th century Paris, showing Man Ray's muse and lover Kiki de Montparnasse resting her head on a tabletop next to a tribal mask.
On a low note, conceptual artist Mishka Henner's 2017 work titled "Trompe l'œil" (which translates from French to "deceive the eye") sustained damage while on display during the fair. Exhibited by New York dealer Bruce Silverstein, the work featured Trump's eyes peering through a white acrylic case. A vandal "scratched the eyes out," according to Silverstein. Fair organisers are reviewing camera footage to identify the culprit.
"After everything that's been going on, I just wanted to look into Trump's eyes," explained Henner about his work. "The holes in the case are formed by my stare. Inside the case is the official White House portrait used from his inauguration until recently. It's a remarkably aggressive portrait."
Added Henner, "Of course, it's easy to see the piece as showing him entombed in his own whiteness or buried by his own words. But he's also hiding in the walls, a constant presence lurking in the background like some kind of predator."
"I'd like to think that despite all the lies, the eyes don't lie," Henner said.
A new film and video section this year included nine films plus video works by artists including Vanessa Beecroft and Laura Henno. Another highlight was the display of 100 mostly black-and-white images chosen by Karl Lagerfeld, the legendary fashion designer and creative director of Chanel, who was "guest of honor" at this year's edition. “Today photography is part of my life. It completes the circle between my artistic and professional restlessness,” said Lagerfeld.
The fair hosted over 100 French and international institutions, along with France’s first lady, Mrs. Brigitte Macron, as well as ministers Françoise Nyssen, Minister of Culture, and Muriel Penicaud, Minister of Labour, who met the artists, gallery owners and publishers.
On Monday after the fair, France paid tribute to the 130 people killed and 600 injured during the Paris terror attacks of Nov. 13, 2015, during which Paris Photo was shut down.