God bless the specialists. As largely indistinguishable contemporary art fairs proliferate around the world, showing pretty much the same wares from an ever growing pool of contemporary art dealers, specialty art fairs and their exhibitors have continued going about their business, offering something for connoisseurs and novices alike. One of New York’s finest, the AIPAD Photography Show, now in its 33rd year, is now on view at the Park Avenue Armory through Sunday. It offers a great deal to enjoy.
The redoubtable London dealer James Hyman has filled his dimly lit booth with a series of works from the very earliest years of photography, in the mid 19th century, including scenes of architecture in Paris by Edouard Baldus, the who would have had his 200th birthday this year. Also at that booth are large books of photographs by Baldus documenting the construction of the Louvre in the 1850s. Produced to be given to foreign heads of state and to stock esteemed French libraries, they are now available for all to see. A white gloved attendant waits at the ready.
A circa 1856 snap of the Louvre by Baldus is also on view over at the treasure–stocked booth of Hans P. Kraus, Jr. It’s a close-up of a decorative element that looks like a wild male serpent sticking his tongue out and growling to those beneath him. (Never seen that at the Louvre before!) Kraus also has detailed views of the moon by Maurice Loewy and Pierre Henri Puiseu, probably from before 1900, and an anonymous salt print of a minstrel from around circa 1860 with glorious red and white hand-colored pants.
A few booths also have some strong contemporary fare, like Higher Pictures, which has devoted its white-walled booth to K8 Hardy’s zesty “Positions” series. Ms. Hardy appears in each shot as a different slightly deranged, thoroughly prepossessing character, with shapes and objects photogram-ed on top. A particularly memorable shot has her facing away from the camera, bending over in a ruffly orange and pink dress as she holds a telephone to her exposed derrière. David Zwirner has mounted a tight little career-spanning survey of James Welling’s work in his booth, which is front and center at the fair.
Delving into the recent past, Clampart has stocked its booth with some well-known hits from Nan Goldin, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Larry Clark and Mark Morrisroe, who’s scrawled under his hazy 1985 Lonely Bird—a bird caught from behind as it looks out over the city from its rooftop perch—”this is my ode to Diane Arbus.” Minneapolis’s Weinstein Gallery has some classic Mapplethorpes along with haunting views of the moon by Vera Lutter and large-scale resonant recent works by Alec Soth.
As always, there are plenty of surprises to find tucked inside the group shows here: a strange little photogram of a cocktail glass from 1939–41 by László Maholy-Nagy at Chicago’s Stephen Daiter Gallery, a circa 1930 Man Ray of the Surrealist sculptor Meret Oppenheim, reclining and nude, her arms covering her face, at Edwynn Houk Gallery and that insane Louvre detail by Baldus at Kraus.
There’s a final surprise to be had during AIPAD this year, a perfect digestif after strolling AIPAD’s 82 stalls. Just a few blocks away, in a spacious suite at the Lowell Hotel, Fulton Ryder, East Hampton’s Harper’s Books and Karma have set up a modest book fair. Ask for Harper Levine’s suite at the front desk in the lobby.