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Real Art

Kevin Bjorke

New member
I went by Fraenkel this afternoon to look at these photos:



Prints were about 2 meters tall.

Almost all were sold from a gallery of about a dozen.

Two remained at $80,000 each

I've never seen work that could be accidentally misinterpreted as a high school photo project get confused with a money factory before. Talk about knowing your market....
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I went by Fraenkel this afternoon to look at these photos:



Prints were about 2 meters tall.

Almost all were sold from a gallery of about a dozen.

Two remained at $80,000 each

I've never seen work that could be accidentally misinterpreted as a high school photo project get confused with a money factory before. Talk about knowing your market....
Kevin, when you have figured it out, take me on as your student!

Yes it can be quite a shock.

If you have trouble with that, how about the urinals from the boys toilets?

Asher
 

Ken Tanaka

pro member
Kevin, when you have figured it out, take me on as your student!

Yes it can be quite a shock.

If you have trouble with that, how about the urinals from the boys toilets?

Asher
You think you're joking? I have, indeed, recently seen such images offered for impressive prices.

Major art dealers in general, and more recently photographic art dealers, tread tough paths. They are, of course, spending often large fixed costs to maintain galleries in urban areas. Exhibiting the same kind of dull, cliché works (i.e. "sofa-sized art") will neither command attention nor the kind of margins to keep the lights burning. The dealers that become famous (such as Fraenkel) are the ones who offer work that strays from what the general public has come to know as "conventional". Of course by setting wild prices for some of this work the dealers know that they are also legitimizing it to people who are often at a loss for any personal value references other than price.

In the end, regardless of the actual item's nature, a thing is worth what someone else will pay to acquire it. Nothing more or less, and regardless of what was spent to create it.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Ken and Keven,

I do have some issues with the composition of the work.However, it is impactful. However, there's nothing on the right to balance the left sde structure and it is unsatisfying. The crop of the image, should in my opinion be narrow or much much wider!

Maybe in person, the size of the picture would make it work for me!

I will post a recent work that goes for $80,000 but it's mixed media. The guys work has been promoted and sells. There are 4 beautiful women in the store and a large area of wall space to support so things have to pay for themselves I guess.

I think it must be about $300-$600 per square foot of picture size. There does seem to be a disc ount with the large pieces! Now only 75% of the linear wall space of the gallery wall are used. So work out the math!

Not an easy business but if it works you are very rich!

Asher
 

Ken Tanaka

pro member
While we're on the subject, how about the Andreas Gursky diptychs that have recently auctioned for $3.3M? This, on the heels of a previous auction of his similar work.

There's a better view of some of his "99 Cents" images, as well as others, at the MOMA page for his 2001 exhibit.

BTW, Hiroshi Sugimoto (the fellow that's currently showing at Fraenkel) has actually done some interesting stuff. I expect that some of these wall images will auction for very large figures in a few years. Philips de Pury recently auctioned one of his works, an out-of-focus image of a Le Corbusier building, for six figures.
 
That something is worth what someone will pay for it is obvious. One thing going on, I think, is "perceived value" that causes sellers to increase the price so the buyer "thinks" he is getting something of value. This "price inflation" is apparent in many places outside of art. Much of the pricing structure of software is based not on cost, expected return, or return on investment, but on the "perceived value" of the product.

Obviously if someone paid $nnnn for one of my pictures, they all must be worth that, no matter how good or bad they are.
 

Ray West

New member
based on the $80,000 pictures, this full stop (.) is worth about ten dollars or two :)) for thirty dollars, it's difficult getting them to balance on top of each other. (oops, there's another ten dollars worth)

Best wishes,

Ray
 

Ken Tanaka

pro member
Although photography dates back to 1839 it's a relatively new medium to the art world. Until rather recently photographic prints tended to sell in the enthusiast/collector price ranges. Even rather rare prints by renowned photographers could be bought, provided a willing seller was found, for five figure or low six figure amounts. This made some small gallery owners happy, as they often get half of the gross proceeds. But sales were not really frequent enough, or large enough, to get real art dealers or auction houses too enthused.

Today, however, photographic works are selling for significant sums. Only a year ago Edward Steichen's moonlit pond image set the record at just over $2M. It's now been left far behind. (I am told that many of the large sales of photographic works are going to non-U.S. buyers.)

On the one hand a photographer might be proud that his/her medium is beginning to join the ranks of "real art" in auction catalogs and private sales. But one of the significant consequences of this inflation is the fact that public collections (i.e. museums) are being priced out of the market. Curators have long relied on the post-mortem generosity of private collectors to assemble the main bodies of their collections. But, in a pinch, the major museums could generally scratch together the funds to take advantage of sudden sale availability of significant prints. As significant photography's valuations inflate museums will not often be able to acquire such works from the free market.

Returning back to matters of valuation....

Pricing of significant art works is not entirely arbitrary. In the case of these Sugimotos, for example, the $80,000 price is likely based on the knowledge that his works are now tending to auction in six figures. Being a relatively young man (early 60's I think) he probably has 10+ productive years remaining. When he's finished his works will certainly immediately appreciate and quite possibly quickly auction for high six figures or more.

My point is that some photographers' works have ascended into the lower reaches of the significant art world. In this realm resale valuations are based almost entirely on anticipated eventual long-term appreciation. The realm of enthusiast/collector pricing, by contrast, is based much more closely on true value of the work and the historical significance of the artist.
 

Ray West

New member
It must be quite sad. You make a boring photo of a corner of a wall. It sells for a load of money. And you know the buyer can't wait for you to die, so he can sell it on for a load more. Then, fashion changes, and some one is left holding an expensive piece of wallpaper. None so queer as folk.

Best wishes,

Ray
 

Ken Tanaka

pro member
It must be quite sad. You make a boring photo of a corner of a wall. It sells for a load of money. And you know the buyer can't wait for you to die, so he can sell it on for a load more. Then, fashion changes, and some one is left holding an expensive piece of wallpaper. None so queer as folk.

Best wishes,

Ray
Ah, therein lies the risk portion of the steep risk/reward curve involved in art investment.

But, at least in the case of Sugimoto's work, there's virtually no risk involved. Owners will eventually get handsome returns, very likely 1,000% or more within 10-15 years. Auction houses such as Phillips de Pury and Sotheby's, as well as several sophisticated dealers around the world, devote themselves to cultivating appreciation of these works in a myriad number of subtle ways. After all, it's their payday, too, when they transact a sale.
 

Ben Lifson

New member
Sugimoto

THE GENERAL THRUST OF THIS DISCUSSION IS ACCURATE AND IMPORTANT WITH RESPECT TO A LARGE PART OF THE CURRENT PHOTOGRAPHIC MARKET, THE CURRENT PHOTOGRAPHIC SCENE.

But, I believe, Sugimoto is the wrong example.

I feel that he is being unfairly judged here, especially since it's reproductions that seem to be the object of everyone's but Kevin Bjorke's comments.

Sugimoto is really quite good.

I haven't seen these new pictures but my direct knowledge of the original works of his other series leads me to believe that these new pictures, of shadows, also have the same excellences that have made him a strong artist with a specific vision that holds much comfort and reassurance for us in these chaotic and deeply troubling times.

What he does, the compositions he is able to make, the relationships he is able both to perceive in nature and to express in two-dimonsional form, the precision of his geometry and the way it creates its strong but quiet and continuously reassuring counterpoint over the invisible but always felt grammar of the rectangle -- his rectangles, which are representatitive of Rectangle itself; their grammars which are representative of the Grammar of Rectangles...All of this is very, very difficult to do.

Sugimoto makes it look as though it were easy, as though the truths about space, light, recession, projection, the geometry within the rectangle and its relation to the geometry of rectangles, the relationship between the momentary and the eternal which he reveals to us in each picture...Each time different... He makes it look as though these things can be seen and felt by everyone all the time.

I emphasize "felt" because I know from my personal experience with his original works that after only a few seconds of quiet, calm, concentrated looking at them -- leaving one's prejudices and even thoughts behind -- one begins to feel things, a kind of calm, a kind of excited calm, a kind of anticipation of a mystery about to be revealed... A feeling that I've experienced only from his work although often in nature...

And art, as Susanne K. Langer reminds us, is, among other things, "the creation of forms symbolic of human feelings."

True, the things Sugimoto photographs are indeed present and visible all around us all the time, in any corner or on any wall one chooses to look at.

We pass them every day. We sit opposite them for half-hours at a time in airport waiting areas when our flight is delayed, we gaze at them over our computers at the wall opposite when we can't concentrate on our work for a while.

But do we see them?

Do we see them as precisely as Sugimoto has?

Do we know precisely where the edges are, that is, where the unity, the coherence, the integration, the eloquence, the disclosed mystery of this particular patch of the universe ends, the boundary across which the order is engulfed by what seems like a chaos until, with Sugimnoto's eyes, heart, intelligence, literacy, etc. we see where the next set of edges is?

But it wouldn't be with Sugimoto's eyes, really, that we'd see the next set of boundaries, but with someone's like the emerging New York photography Barron Rachman who has had one or two small exhibitions in obscure places and who is not selling at all but whose scope is as broad and expansive is Sugimoto's is narrow and who is seeing order where most of us would see just the ordinary chaos of city life.

No. Sugimoto's is not fake art made real by the pricing mechanisms of the market and the greed of investors for rich future returns.

Sugimoto's art is real art that has had the good luck to be recognized as such by the market and given good prices so that Sugimoto can keep making it and be sustained, in part, by the gratification that is given artists by recognition and reputation.

HOWEVER, THIS THREAD'S ARGUMENT MUST KEEP GOING.

It is absolutely correct with respect to much of what is going on, not only in photography but in painting, sculpture, performance art, conceptual art, drawing, etc.

IT IS A VERY IMPORTANT ARGUMENT AND MUST BE PURSUED.

But we must be careful not to throw out the good artists like Sugimoto with the empty ones.

I was with a good and very well known German artist yesterday who characterized much of what is going on in the art capitals of New York, London, Paris and Berlin as "Pretentousness" which says only "I NEED, I NEED, I NEED, I NEED."

To which a young decorative artist I know and with whom I visited a lot of New York galleries a month ago added, "LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME"

Both artists agree that the general note is DESPERATION.

So Yes, we must continue this thread and analyze and observe and bring to bear on the situation our best intelligences.

ANYONE OUT THERE KNOW HIS/HER KARL MARX PRETTY WELL? Because Marx, as I remember from way back when when I read him, had much to say about what gives a commodity value. But I can't remember what.

BUT WE MUST BE CAREFUL not to judge the value of a work either way, good or bad, by two things: ONE, How much or how little it costs and TWO Whether we like it or not, i.e. our taste.


REMEMBER W. H. AUDEN'S FIVE VERDICTS, which express the difference between taste and judgment.

1. I see that this is good and I like it.

2. I see that this is good but I don't like it.

3. I see that this is good and I don't like it but I understand that with perseverance I could come to like it.****

4. I can see that this is trash and I don't like it.

5. I can see that this is trash, but I like it.\

****Which is how I came to like Sugimoto's work: I could see that it was honest, true, clean, extremely well done etc but I didn't like it., I felt like many of you here, like So What? or something. But I could see that it was good. It took me five years of struggling against my dislike of and my prejudices against it to see just how good it was and then, one day, passing one print in a museum and being arrested by it, feeling how good it was, feeling all its feelings, and then knowing that it and its artist were, as Keats calls the Grecian Urn, "friends to man" and I embraced it and liked it. Just like some theorems in non-Euclidean geometry, some formulas in organic chemistry, some projectiles that will get a satellite near enough to Venus to make photographs, some art is difficult to understand.

Happy Trails to You

ben

www.benlifson.com
 

Ken Tanaka

pro member
Ben:
You neglected to mention Auden's more recent SIXTH verdict:

6. I can see that this is trash and I don't like it. But it could be a hell of a good investment so I'll buy it and stash it in a climate-controlled vault.

"Pretentiousness" is an excellent summation of so much current work. (Sugimoto's is not in this genre; his are very sincere and thoughtful bodies of study.) I'll be spending part of my evening at a presentation given by a NYC photographer whom I haven't yet decided upon. He's basically a commercial glam shooter doing a great deal of work that's very, shall we say, "reminiscent" of works by other artists (painters and photographers) of previous generations. He creates his images to look important and his work is on the current hot list but...
 

Kevin Bjorke

New member
Ben, I went to see the current Sugimoto work or all the reasons you cite. I am normally a fan. I went in expecting lovely prints, perfect geometry, etc. I think you get that better from the book.

What I got is moderately clever. There is an audacity to its minimalism but really, the result is the most banal bank art. Matches all possible furniture, offends no political segment. Think hotel lobby.

I'm guessing the editions were short and progressively priced -- if $80K were the final print price the edition as a whole probably went for twice that, so.... hmmm around $2M in short order. Oughta cover the month's rent.

On the bright side, during my walk back to my next meeting I stopped in at Foto-grafix and got Jun's last copy of It's All Good. So the trip wasn't a complete disappointment.
 

Ben Lifson

New member
Thanks to Kevin Bjorke

Sad to hear all you said, Kevin, & even sadder not to be able to look at the original prints with you. That would be an interesting conversation, I'm sure.

But let's not be too harsh. At the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, I saw a 3rd-rate Raphael painting and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's big didactic exhibitions I've seen 3rd-rate Corots, Zurburans, etc etc. The Raphael struck me as something dashed off for a commission (i.e. money), so for the Zurburans. Artists must live...*

Happy, though, and grateful to you for the reference to It's All Good. Thanks. I just ordered it from New York and looking at the list of titles at that book store made me realize I've been too much isolated in Connecticut for too long. Time to move.

What a span! Sugimoto to Boogie. Where do your pictures fall within it? I'm curious.

I'm also curious about your current taste. Who'm I missing?

Back to my pneumonia convalescent bed wondering about what's out there that's passing me by.

yrs

*Which reminds me of the story about Talleyrand passing a beggar in the streets of Vienna (or Paris?) without giving him any alms. "But I have to live!" the beggar cried after him. Talleyrand turned, looked the beggar up and down and said, 'I don't see the necessity."
 

Kevin Bjorke

New member
Ah, Ben, you are the devil, tempting me to place my work in the same sentence with Boogie and Sugi.... get thee away Satan! :)

BTW, my friend Tim Atherton recently collected a batch of Sugimoto links >here< and I will get 'round to looking into them this weekend. I had tried to go to the Sugimoto lecture at PhotoAlliance, but they oversold the event & I was locked out. I find this perhaps telling because normally PhotoAlliance events are never pre-sold -- but for Sugimoto the friends-of-de-Young crowd moved in, sold each other tickets, excluding the usual photographer riff-raff (I know, I know... org's must live, too).

As for who you might be missing -- that's a tough one to know given that I've no idea of what you're looking at these days! I like a lot of the standard suspects (in no particular order): Todd Deutsch, Brian Ulrich, Wall, Michael Wolf (& people often associated with his manner of working, like Jordan, Burtynsky, Hofer, Gursky), I like Jiang Jian, Katy Grannan, and there are still plenty of great journalists and documentarians. I wish Robt Bergman would do a new book. I like Mark Alor Powell & Nils Jorgenson & Trent Parke... many more! to tell the truth I think there are more terrific photographers today than there ever, ever were -- which is one reason it's so painful when I see single ones lionized for their name and past achievements, while promoting new rather non-challenging work. What next, Anne Geddes?
 
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