The first National Symposium for Photography, Manchester, organised by Redeye in partnership with The University of Bolton and Chetham’s Library, was held from 19 – 21 June, Of particular interest was a presentation on photography, auction houses and the art market given by ArtInsight managing director Jeffrey Boloten with Financial Times photography critic Francis Hodgson.
Boloten noted the emerging photography art markets as Russia, China, India, Middle East, Korea, and grouped the key photographic genres in the art market as:
- Reportage/Photojournalism/Documentary Photography
- Documentation role – Performance/Land Art (Richard Long, Andy Goldsworthy)
- Vernacular Style – (Nan Goldin, Richard Billingham)
Financial Times photography critic Francis Hodgson commented on how “an awful lot of artists have found it necessary to stick to variants of the same idea, again and again”. Think of Cindy Sherman’s oeuvre of work; all her self-portraits are recognisable with variants on a theme.
Photographers seem to editioning prints in various sizes, anything from 3 to 150. However, Hodgson’s advice on editioning prints and Artist’s Proofs, (AP) is especially useful. As a rule of thumb he suggested:
1 Artist’s Proof for every 10 prints
2 Artist’s Proofs for 20 prints
“Never in your life break an edition”, he warned. Addintg that, it is the responsibility of the photographer not the gallery or auction house to keep accurate, up-to-date records regarding the circulation of prints in an edition. He noted that while at Sotheby’s there were occcasions when prints could not be put up for auction as the editioning had not been carefully recorded. “Broken editions” can result in “broken confidence” within the market.
Another concern focused on the prices some recent graduates or emerging photographers feel they can ask for their work. Prices of £1,000-2,000 are considered over priced for photographers at this level. “If you want to make money go for spread before height”, he added. That is, produce smaller sized prints, for example, an edition of 20 which are relatively affordable. get your work and name out there, then when you have secured a gallery, you could then produce larger-size prints in smaller editions, say of five.
It is difficult to accurately guage the size of the photography art market, not least because auctions of photographs only make up a very small slice of the trade in photos, the contemporary art market can be shrouded in secrecy. For a revealing insight into the current state of play of the art market see clip from Ben Lewis’s The Great Contemporary Art Bubble. Also see Intellect for Alfredo Cramerotti’s report on some of the events and debates.