The Economics of Art Photography

Posted by on Nov 30, 2011 in harlan erskine | One Comment

Andreas Gursky, Rhine II, 1999, C-print mounted to plexiglass, 73 × 143 inches.

A few weeks ago the Andreas Gursky print, Rhine II, was auctioned for $4.3 million, breaking the record previously held by Cindy Sherman. Guardian Article: The world’s most expensive photographs – in pictures. I always admired Rhine II. I think it was one of the first prints by Gursky I encountered. Its striking formalism speaks of a manufactured landscape, but also of pattern, color and texture. I’m not sure it if is stronger then his 99 cent store image which previously held the record of the most expensive photograph. I encountered this image earlier in my photographic education so I appreciate it differently, I suppose.

This got me thinking about the economics of the art photography market. Normally we don’t really know how popular an art photographer’s work is. Sure, we see their prices at a gallery and the editions they are claiming they will print, but it’s hard to determine the final sale prices and whether their show actually sold out. For the big names, auctions are the best way to see what’s going on.

Recently, I went to the Camera Club’s benefit auction for the first time. It got me thinking about economics, as well. This event is a strikingly open way of seeing the popularity of an art object for the established and emerging artists who participated. It’s not as exacting as a Christies auction, but it folds back the art curtain a bit.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #96, 1981

I’m down in Miami this week for Art Basel Miami Beach. The economics of art are all around me. Here they are secretive and deceptive. Please post your comments below if you have any questions for the art fairs and galleries here.

Harlan Erskine, Art Basel 2006 for THE BLOWUP MAG.

If you’re in New York, Gursky has a show currently up at Gagosian Gallery—coincidentally timed for this new auction record. I’ll be sure to check it out when I get back. Here it the info:

Gagosian Gallery
522 West 21st Street New York, NY 10011

Cycles of the new and the old, part 2

Posted by on Nov 28, 2011 in harlan erskine | One Comment

NYPL: Image ID: G89F391_216F
The Upper Yosemite Falls, 1600 feet, from Eagle Point Trail.  [Watkins’ New Series, no.3145.] (1879-1890)

The Carleton Watkins stereograph was taken around the time of the founding of the Camera Club in 1884. Watkins’ journey to the falls was arduous. He and his assistants were literally carrying hundreds of pounds of equipment.

I have been thinking a lot about the journey it took to produce a picture and where technology stands today. The iPhone 4S is a game changer. It has me thinking about photography and meaning in our contemporary life. Many current smartphones are shooting images as big as 8 megapixels and above. This gives the public access to pocketable cameras that are now approaching 35 mm film in terms of resolvable detail.

As mentioned in my previous post, the iPhone 4S and the handful of other new phone cameras are shifting photography the same way that the Kodak Brownie did in the past. The Brownie pushed photography from a niche specialty into a popular pastime. Now the iPhone has pushed photography from a popular pastime to something more akin to breathing, eating and memory. What did you do today? Here is a picture on my phone. What did you eat today? Here is another picture. Whenever you attend an event, the scrum of people in front of you are no longer are holding a lighter. Many are holding up their phones.

I bring up the Upper Yosemite image partly because of the fantastic difference in degree of difficulty in attaining an image, but also because Apple’s iPhone page seems to be referencing this historic tradition.

Apple iPhone 4S about page.

Now take a closer look at the image in the lower right:

Apple Photo Gallery: Unretouched photos taken using iPhone 4S.

This is nearly the identical view of Upper Yosemite that Ansel Adams was shooting, along with Carleton Watkins before him.

I don’t think Apple’s awareness of the history of photography is any accident. Like it or not, these devices are the new normal camera for amateurs and professionals alike. With these new devices come a host of new features and new questions for the medium.

Not only are phones and cameras fixed together, but they are attached to a GPS. As long as the device attaches location data, a permeant record of the photographer’s location will be left for historians and writers to think about when discussing that image. Apple was kind enough to share this data with the image above so we know that the photographer for their Upper Yosemite photo was at:

37 44.64N 119 35.51W

I imagine this spot isn’t too far from where Watkins stood to make this image below.

Carleton Watkins, Yosemite Falls (River View), 1861 Albumen print from wet-collodion negative Private Collection, Montecito, California

I was curious how much the iPhone image could resemble this Watkins. So, I opened up Apple’s iPhone Jpeg in Photoshop and in a few minutes I made the Apple image into this.

Apple Photo Gallery: Retouched photo by Harlan Erskine taken by Apple using iPhone 4S.

Not exactly there, but close enough for this example–the iPhone is not simply a contemporary Kodak Brownie with bells and whistles, but a machine that continually manufactures photographic simulacra. As anyone who had used any number of iPhone apps such as instagram or Hipstamatic, one of the adictivly fun features of this new technology is the ability to instantly transform any picture into a simulacrum of a process of the past. Think that picture looks good in black and white–similar to Illford XP2? Maybe you’re unfamiliar with an Illford XP2. Who cares? It looks great, right?

Take a look at this 1000 memories Real world instagram guide below and their post:

With or without a guide like this (which most users will never see) what does it mean to use a filter on your images? And, for that matter, what does it mean to be producing images in traditional processes (when the simulation is now what many think of as the original)? In this era of people mistaking theme parks for real life, we are being removed from the original. There will have to be new ways of explaining this to the future generations to make sure we don’t also remove originality as well.

TONIGHT: 2011 CCNY Photo Benefit Auction

Posted by on Nov 7, 2011 in harlan erskine | No Comments

Big event tonight for the Camera Club. I haven’t been to the annual Auction before so I’m looking forward to seeing all the action. Many many great photographs (including the one below) will be available. Check out the press release and I hope to see you there.

Amy SteinCage, digital c-print, 20 x 16”, 2005

Join Us Tonight, Monday, November 7, 2011, 6 – 8pm

25 Central Park West (at 62nd Street)

Preview Works Here

Featuring work by emerging and established photographers, including :
Mariette Pathy Allen / Rachel Barrett / Jacqueline Bates / Matthew Baum / Michael Berkowitz / Per Billgren / Anita Blank / Timothy Briner / Jesse Burke / Eric William Carroll / Sean Carroll / James Casebere / Lindsey Castillo / Jesse Chan / Vincent Cianni / Annabel Clark / Margarida Correia / Megan Cump / Pradeep Dalal / Bobby Davidson / Allison Davies / Isaac Diggs / Maureen Drennan / Emile Hyperion Dubuisson / Mark Fernandes / Larry Fink / Lauren Fleishman / Martine Fougeron / Jona Frank / Fryd Frydendahl / Theresa Ganz / Anders Goldfarb / Curtis Hamilton / Jason Hanasik / Daniel Handal / Kara Hayden / Jeanne Hilary / Francine Hofstee / Henry Horenstein / Michi Jigarjian / Erica Leone / Sze Tsung Leong / David Levinthal / Sam Levinthal / Wayne Liu / Feng Lu / Ryan MacFarland / Jerome Mallmann / Chris McCaw / Jo Meer / Dana Miller / Azikiwe Mohammed / Paolo Morales / Keren Moscovitch / Laurel Nakadate / Katherine Newbegin / Lori Nix / Heather O’Brien / Brayden Olson / Alice O’Malley / Cara Phillips / Libby Pratt / Richard Renaldi / Mauro Restiffe / Saul Robbins / Caren Rosenblatt / Michael Schmelling / Tina Schula / Manjari Sharma / Aline Smithson / John Stanley / Chad States / Amy Stein / Joni Sternbach / Motohiro Takeda / Maureen Testa / Sally Tosti / William Wegman / Randy West / Grant Willing / Jessica Yatrofsky / Rona Yefman / Pinar Yolaçan / Arin Yoon

Benefit Committee:
Mariette Pathy Allen, Paul Amador, Brian Paul Clamp, Daniel Cooney, Michael Foley, Martine Fougeron, Susan Fulwiler, Françoise Girard, Tom Gitterman, Peter Hay Halpert, Henry Horenstein, David Knott, Michael Mazzeo, Lizanne Merrill, L. Parker Stephenson, Spencer Throckmorton, Sasha Wolf, and Alice Sachs Zimet.

$20 admission.
All proceeds go to The Camera Club of New York (CCNY), a non-profit 501(c)3 arts organization that has been nurturing talented photographers since 1884.

Catering provided by Moustache.

To see the donated works, please go to CCNY’s online auction preview.

CCNY wishes to thank 25CPW Gallery for their generosity in hosting this year’s auction.


For further inquires, contact CCNY at or by phone: 212-260-9927

Please visit us at

Openings and Events this week – November 1 – 6

Posted by on Nov 1, 2011 in harlan erskine | No Comments

Simen Johan, Untitled #159, From the series Until the Kingdom Comes, C-Print, 2010. Opening at Yossi Milo Gallery on Thursday, Nov. 3.


Tuesday, November 1

Performance: Jen DeNike “The Hostess Never Lies” curated by Anne Apparu
Vogt Gallery
526 W 26 street, suite 911, 11am-6pm

Lecture: “Surfland: Joni Sternbach”
Center for Alternative Photography
36 East 30th Street
RSVP to, 7-8:30pm

Photography: Peter Hujar “Influential Friends”
John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller
50 1/2 E 64 street, 6-8pm

Wednesday, November 2

Inge Morath “Bal D’Hiver”
Esopus Space
64 W 3 street, suite 210, 6-8pm

Gilles Larrain “Idols”
Steven Kasher Gallery
521 W 23 street, 6-8pm

Thursday, November 3

Performance: Matthew Stone “Anatomy of Immaterial Worlds”
The Hole
312 Bowery, 9pm

Heather Goodchild, Mike Bayne “Walking the Pattern (Goodchild) / Kingston Spring and Muffler (Bayne)” curated by Katharine Mulherin
Mulherin + Pollard
187 Chrystie street, 6-9pm

Chris Johanson, Haim Steinbach, Lawrence Weiner, Matthew Brannon, Odilon Redon, Todd Eberle, Will Cotton, William Wegman “Pop-Up Shop”
208 Forsyth Street, 6-8pm

“Cory Arcangel vs. Pierre Bismuth”
Cristina Lei Rodriguez “Through Excess and Ruin”
Team Gallery
83 Grand street, b/w wooster & greene, 6-8pm

Benefit: “Question Bridge: Black Males” a project by Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas in collaboration with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair
Jack Shainman Gallery
513 W 20 street, RSVP to, 6-8pm

Claire Fontaine “Working Together”
Metro Pictures
519 W 24 street, 6-8pm

Jon Kessler, Mika Rottenberg “Seven”
Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery (Project)
534 West 24th st, Tenth avenue, 6-8pm

Zachari Logan “Tramua and Other Stories”
Daniel Cooney Fine Art
511 W 25 street, floor 5

Photography: Simen Johan
Yossi Milo Gallery
525 W 25 street, 6-8pm

Photography: Erwin Blumenfeld “Vintage Fashion”
Edwynn Houk Gallery
745 Fifth avenue, at w 57 street, 6-8pm

“The Mask and The Mirror” curated by Shirin Neshat
Leila Heller Gallery
39 East 78th street, floor 3, 6-8pm

Photography: Lori Waselchuk “Grace Before Dying”
Brooklyn, 111 Front street, floor 2, 6-8pm

Friday, November 4

Brock Enright
Kate Werble Gallery
83 Vandam street, at hudson street, 6-8pm

Eva Rothschild
303 Gallery
547 W 21 street, 6-8pm

Photography: “Incomparable Women of Style: Selections from the Rose Hartman Photography Archives, 1977 – 2011”
FIT – Fashion Institute of Technology
West 27 street at 7th avenue, Gladys Marcus Library

Panel Discussion: “Osteobiographies” with Eric Stover, the Monument Group, Thomas Keenan, and Eyal Weizman
Brooklyn, 300 Nevins street, 6-8pm

Saturday, November 5

“Lady Pink”
Woodward Gallery
133 Eldridge street, b/w broome & delancey, floor 5, 6-8pm

Performance: Joan Jonas, Rachel Mason, Shana Moulton “The Hostess Never Lies” curated by Anne Apparu
Vogt Gallery
526 W 26 street, suite 911, 4-6pm

Workshop: Daido Moriyama “Printing Show- TKY”
Aperture Foundation
547 W 27 street, floor 4, $75, noon-3pm & 5- 8pm

Sunday, November 6

Photography: Lucas Blalock “xyz”
Ramiken Crucible
389 Grand street, 6-9pm

Performance: Agathe Snow “The Hostess Never Lies” curated by Anne Apparu
Vogt Gallery
526 W 26 street, suite 911, 4:30pm