November 8: Photography & Galleries

Collecting Photography

Things to consider ...

1.  who is the artist ?

2.  name of piece of art ? date ?

3.  technique used ?

4.  number of prints ?

The 70s marked the beginning of photography as a collectible art form. Photographers moved from printing unlimited copies, to the model used by lithographers. This is essentially a representation based on trust of how many prints are to be printed, and it relies on the honesty of photographers, their printers and galleries.

Prints are now typically (but not always) sold in series, with a defined end-point. Editions are usually between 3 and 15 prints, in various set sizes (small, medium, large format). Gallerist and photographers can decide to make the price increases when the prints are sold. The earliest prints are the least expensive, after which prices increase up to the end of the series. Prices will also vary based on the size of the prints sold. There are usually two extra prints, not for sale but for the artist’s record: there are named Artist proof (AP) or Epreuve d’artiste (EP). These prints can however end up on the art market, especially if the artist is recognized after his death.

A photographer has more often an oral than a written engagement with a gallery insuring exclusivity in one country. Known photographers can have a gallery in several big cultural cities like London, NYC, Berlin, Milan… At an international art fair, his or her work could be presented simultaneously in a few galleries’ booths. The galleries keep track between themselves of the edition numbers and prices for available pieces.


Printing & display techniques

The first decades of photography were very experimental and innovative. The earliest photographers, many of them French, used raw materials as egg white (albumen), salts or starch to fix images, first on paper, then on glass. It was a long, slow while until the discovery  of the film process that allows a very easy and democratic use of photography.

Most photographers today use digital printing, even if they still use film photography.  The negatives are scanned to print in professional studios. It is not possible to print the currently popular large, color formats in a darkroom.

Sometimes photos are backed with aluminum (‘contrecolle’) and they can also be face mounted to plexiglass, a technique and patented manufacturing process called a diasec.  This adds brightness and depth to a photo, and is currently in vogue.  BUT the plexiglass can be easily scratched and irreversibly damaged, which lowers the work’s value.


Learn more

  • A concise introduction to the history of photography.

  • Here’s a quick historical timeline of developments in photography from

  • A fun look at how art photographic movements map to major art trends.

  • Here’s a very good article on current trends in photography collecting, from Blouin ArtInfo.  

  • A great glossary of photographic terms can be found at the Ansel Adams Gallery site. It’s useful to familiarize yourselves with them so you can better understand exactly what you’re buying.


Gallery Visits (by Deborah)

Galerie Particulière

(Audrey is extremely friendly, relatable and informative, great art - A+)

Kate MccGwire: finds old showcases and displays art within, ex: the feathered “snake”

Ethan Murrow: American, 37 y.o.  Graphite drawings, large formats.  Figures are always of him and/or his wife.

David Hilliard: Photographer. Latest series about a man named Eric and his relationship with his father. Eric has OCD and his father is a hoarder.

Galerie Rabouan Moussion

Erwin Olaf, photographer - “Berlin”

Very posed, WWII feel, Nazi Germany... “J’essaie toujours de créer une tension dans mes images.”

Themes : pornography, racism, audacity, exploitation, Down’s Syndrome series, disturbing/provocative imagery.

Galerie Thaddeus Ropac

(one of the biggest galleries)

Yan Pei-Ming, very famous contemporary Chinese painter living in Paris

Grey-scale paintings, large-scale, acrylic/oil (?)

Themes : military, freedom, war, corruption

Galerie Karsten Greve

(another very important gallery)

Cy Twombly: died 2 years ago.  Exhibit looks like scribbling to me.  One of Carolyn’s favorite photographers.

Ed’s note:

To this point, says Wikipedia:

Kirk Varnedoe thought it necessary to defend Twombly's seemingly random marks and splashes of paint against the criticism that "This is just scribbles – my kid could do it".

"One could say that any child could make a drawing like Twombly only in the sense that any fool with a hammer could fragment sculptures as Rodin did, or any house painter could spatter paint as well as Pollock. In none of these cases would it be true. In each case the art lies not so much in the finesse of the individual mark, but in the orchestration of a previously uncodified set of personal "rules" about where to act and where not, how far to go and when to stop, in such a way as the cumulative courtship of seeming chaos defines an original, hybrid kind of order, which in turn illuminates a complex sense of human experience not voiced or left marginal in previous art."[22]

Or, whatever. ;-)


Robert Polidori : photographer.  “La Memoire des Murs”


Themes : Seemingly destitute places, abandoned/damaged places (Indian ghetto, Chernobyl orphanage) Large scale photography.


Galerie Gosserez

- Excellent gallery for design


Galerie Perrotin

Michael Sailstorfer - installation and works on chrome. Playing with popular icons and brands, idea of labyrinth.

Claude Rutault - installation - monochrome canvases in different formations on walls and on the floor, at times displayed on the reverse-side.  No irony on the artists part.  33,000 for 4 “paintings”.  

Love it or hate it, Claude Rutault is a well-known conceptual artist. Worth reading more so we can appreciate, if not enjoy, conceptual art.

Sun Yuan & Peng Yu - “Dear”

Installation - wax figures, taxidermy, a live little-person as part of rock-head/upper-crust people installation.  (what does that mean?)

Themes : afterlife, death, angels