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Focus on AIPAD: Association of International Photography Art Dealers Show

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For photography lovers in New York City, the coming of spring signals more than just the promise of nature’s reawakening and added daylight hours—it heralds a chance to be swept up in the fervor of thousands of fine art photographs on view at The Photography Show, organized by The Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD).

Above photograph: AIPAD 2015 Installation View, © Julienne Schaer

Now in its 37th year, the AIPAD show has been an annual rite of passage for me since the days when it spread across two floors of the New York Hilton (from 1994 to 2005), when its original February timeframe subjected attendees to the unpredictable whims of mother nature. While this did tend to brighten the winter doldrums, I have little doubt that rescheduling the show during milder weather was a smart business move, particularly given recent trends for late-season storms.

AIPAD 2015 Installation ViewJulienne Schaer

2017 marks a new departure for AIPAD, with the fair moving from its past iteration at the historic Park Avenue Armory (its base from 2006 to 2016) to the trendy Pier 94, along the banks of the Hudson at West 55th Street. Debuting with a vernissage on the evening of March 29, and running until April 2, 2017, this year’s show promises an expanded program, with more than 100 international fine art galleries from across the Unites States, Europe, Asia, Canada, Mexico, the Middle East, and South America in attendance. This year, AIPAD member galleries will be joined by more than 40 new exhibitors and younger galleries in showcasing photographs that span the medium’s history, from early masters to emerging and established contemporary artists.

As a fan of photo history, I’ve always appreciated the opportunity to admire the classics up close, and I delight in the rare vintage prints peppering many of the gallerist’s booths. Over the years, I’ve heard colleagues grumble about this show being too safe in focusing on long-dead photographers at the expense of risk-taking contemporary work. Lately, the mix of AIPAD’s member galleries with special guest exhibitors has offered more of a balance between past and present; however, modern pieces often skew more toward aesthetic beauty than shock value or conceptual art.

Capturing Light: A History of Photographers (detail), 2017. Hand engraved glass, silver, tin and stainless steel, 3 x 3 inches each cameoCharlotte Potter; Courtesy Lisa Sette Gallery, Phoenix

This year, a new face to the show should be immediately apparent to visitors as the special video installation Path Infinitum projects across the glass entrance, offering a thought-provoking cultural commentary. This piece, by contemporary photographer Colleen Plumb, explores the complexities and contradictions of keeping wild animals in captivity, and will be on view for the duration of the fair.

To break up the floor plan, AIPAD 2017 features curated exhibitions from three private collectors interspersed with gallery booth space. To the left of the entrance, the Martin Z. Margulies Collection’s exhibit “Fifteen Countries” features photographs by 20 artists hailing from countries including Afghanistan, Botswana, China, Egypt, England, Ireland, Manila, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and the United States. In the middle of the fair, the exhibit, “Structures of Identity: Photography from The Walther Collection,” explores the ways that photographers have used portraiture to affirm or challenge social stereotypes across a range of cultures and historical periods. And in the front right corner of the exhibition hall, “The Light in Cuban Eyes,” from the collection of Madeleine P. Plonsker, documents the artistic path of contemporary Cuban photography, from the departure of the Soviets in 1992 to the present.

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Express, 1939, Vintage gelatin silver printArkady Shaikhet; Courtesy of Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York

As a respite from the thousands of prints on display, camera buffs and technical geeks will appreciate the opportunity to recreate history in a portrait made with the world's first digital camera, the Kodak Professional DCS. Lucien Samaha, Eastman Kodak’s former education coordinator and professional imaging marketing manager, was one of the lucky few to test this device, in 1991, and he will be making portraits of visitors to the show at booth 509. Sittings are available by appointment only, so interested parties should sign up upon arrival at the show.

Another added attraction this year is a section of the exhibition floor dedicated to book dealers, publishers, and photography-related organizations. Rare book dealers were included among invited guest exhibitors in past year’s offerings, which is something I sorely missed from the show’s most recent years. Beside this section, located to the far left of the entrance, select exhibitors will be holding artist book signings and other events at individual booths throughout the weekend.

AIPAD 2015 Installation ViewJulienne Schaer

As a complement to the fair, AIPAD also hosts a series of afternoon lectures and panels, from Thursday through Sunday, featuring prominent curators, collectors, artists, and journalists, including photography masters such as Albert Watson, James Balog, and Lee Friedlander, among many other art world luminaries. AIPAD Talks require a separate $10 admission ticket for each presentation, available on a first come, first served basis.

An extra tip for budding collectors or casual photophiles who seek an insider’s perspective are the two-hour guided behind-the-scenes tours given by noted photo collector and industry advisor Alice Sachs Zimet, at scheduled times during the weekend. Limited to 10 guests per visit, this exclusive opportunity to meet gallerists and learn about the marketplace costs $50, and is independent from admission to the fair. To sign up, or for further details, email Zimet via her website.

An Oblique Look, Scala #1936, 2015, Pigment print on cotton photo rag paperLuciano Romano; Courtesy of Sabrina Raffaghello Contemporary Art, Milano

Single-day and multi-day admission tickets to The Photography Show can be purchased online ($30 single/$60 multi) or onsite ($40 single/$75 multi), with an illustrated catalog included in the purchase price. This handy guide to the exhibiting galleries features the names of the artists represented by each dealer. All names are cross-referenced in an index at the back, allowing you to home in on prints from your favorite photographers at the show in their respective exhibitor booths.

Finally, for readers like me, who have a fondness for AIPAD’s history, there is a special edition Blurb book that was published for AIPAD’s 30th Anniversary in 2010, which offers an amusing essay by gallerist Kathleen Ewing and a timeline of the organization.

Do you have memories from past presentations of AIPAD’s The Photography Show or insights about this year’s show to share? Please chime in with a comment, below!

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