COLLECTING
Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
Paris Photo 2011

 

Sissi Farassat’s sequined work, courtesy of the artist.

The magnificent setting of the Grand Palais did not make my stroll through Paris Photo, an institution in its 15th year already, any easier.  There were just too many distractions in the about 135 exhibitor booths, too many first encounters, too many old familiars, and too many provoking juxtapositions. The leading photography fair had a little bit of everything to satisfy the thousands of dealers, collectors, academics, book publishers, and photo enthusiasts who stood in line without protest for a glimpse at the coveted goods, prominently displayed under the stunning iron-and-glass dome.

The appeal of photography derives from its own nature, namely the reproducibility of the works in larger or small format; on paper, metal, or canvas; in large numbers or just very few copies. And while William Eggleston’s prints may appear tempting to the collector who frequents Gagosian Paris on Rue de Ponthieu (http://www.gagosian.com/exhibitions/william-eggleston–november-09-2011), the photographer’s three-volume boxed retrospective, Chromes, masterfully produced by Steidl sold out early during the fair.

The crowd did not budge from Steidl’s booth anyway since several photographers were there to sign their work (Joel Sternfeld, Mona Kuhn etc.) while Paul Graham’s A Shimmer of Possibility, a 12-volume retrospective from Steidl and winner of the photobook prize, drew even greater numbers to the already congested area. Yet, there was plenty of space for the eye to rest farther down the hall and onto Thomas Struth’s, Sugimoto’s, and Massimo Vitali’s large-scale inviting compositions.

The unexpected confronted me in the work of Sissi Farassat (http://www.kashyahildebrand.org/zurich/farassat/index.html), an Iranian idiosyncratic artist, who chooses to sew onto her photographs clusters of sequins that shimmer in color and mirror the image’s double: ugliness is revealed in what is originally perceived as cute, vulgarity in sexiness, tradition in modernity and so on.  The double identity of the artist and its expression in the work of art stayed with me for the remainder of my Paris visit.  From Paris Photo to Sèvres and beyond, Bernard Pivot’s “Double je,” tinted my perception of art, old and new alike, and its function within a collection.

© Thomaï Serdari