$1m for a backlit photograph!

Discussion in 'Australia' started by Mick Fagan, Dec 16, 2006.

  1. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,054
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2005
    Location:
    Melbourne Au
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The National Gallery of Victoria is believed to have spent $1 million for a Canadian photographer's backlit photograph.

    I hope we will not have to pay to see this in the gallery as I will certainly go along to see what kind of picture cost $1m of taxpayers money.

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/entertainment/tangled-up-in-blue/2006/12/15/1166162322316.html

    Does anyone know of this photographer?

    I did google, but the information was only what I saw in our local newspaper, which the above link should get you to.

    The newspaper article called it a backlit Cibachrome. I have never heard of that, possibly it may be a duratrans, or like product.

    It appears that as it is a completely staged photograph, it is art. I don't have a problem with that, it just seems the art world now is agreeing that staged photographs, are art, just like staged paintings.

    Mick.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 16, 2006
  2. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,926
    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2002
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am currently working on a piece myself. It is 1 web page, it's basically all white with a single question mark dead center. This page will be available for $5,000,000 US. The museum that purchases the page will setup a computer terminal and provide the ip address of this terminal to me. It will be the only terminal in the world able to view the page. It is a one of a kind work of unprecedented rarity. Museums can conatct me via the contact link. Serious inquiries only.

    Sean
     
  3. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Dear Mick,

    Cibachromes are dye-destruction prints of unparalleled durability. They are now officially known (I think) as Ilfochromes, because Ciba-Geigy unloaded Ilford many years ago, though everyone still calls them Cibas. The backlit variety are, understandably, on a translucent base.

    Is this a reasonable purchase? It's hard to tell. Museums have to get their pictures somewhere. An Australian dollar is about 40p (Sterling) or 60 cents (Euro) or just under 80 cents (US) so the magic 'million' isn't reached in other currencies -- though of course it's about half a billion Indian rupees and God knows what in Turkish lire.

    Buying pictures is always a gamble, despite the best efforts of the art mafia, and all you can say is, museums commonly win some (pics increasing greatly in value) and lose some (dropping in value, or at least, appreciating very little).

    Having said all this, it's hard to believe that it would not be more cost-effective to spend A$1,000,000 on 40 photos at A$25,000 each -- or even to set up 20 bursaries for photograhers at A$50,000.

    Cheers,

    R
     
  4. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,054
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2005
    Location:
    Melbourne Au
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Sean, I think you would have a better chance if you sold this for NZ dollars. I know you would only receive about $3.5m US but it would be more sellable. :smile:)

    Mick.
     
  5. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,054
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2005
    Location:
    Melbourne Au
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Roger, thank you, I do know of the durability of Cibachrome and Ilfachrome.

    They also had a colour negative to positive version, on the same plastic Cibachrome base, which I have used to great effect, brilliant product. Most people thought I was printing fantastic low contrast colour correct Cibachromes from transparencies, when in fact I was using negatives.

    I have over the years met the (now) senior curator Isobel Crombie. I have attended some of her lectures about 10-13 years ago when she was rising through the ranks, so to speak.

    She was the curator at Australia's first and only purpose built, photographic gallery, complete with a special archive system for prints and film. I know this, as one of the camera clubs I was a member of at the time, had a private tour of the facilities.

    Unfortunately, the local council had it's boundaries changed and lost control of the gallery. The newly formed council decided this was too elite, so they just dropped the idea and turned it into another council run art gallery. Lot of money down the drain!

    I see your reasoning and tend to agree with you about funding a lot of smaller works or photographers.

    However, there is one thing about this that I really like, it's film!

    Also, at 2 metres high by 2.5 metres wide it should have reasonable impact, especially if it is displayed in the usual half gloom, normal museum environment.

    Due to the now famous purchase of Jackson Pollock's, "Blue Poles", which is held at the National Gallery in Canberra, this photograph will surely get the local moniker, "Blue Ropes"

    Mick.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 16, 2006
  6. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,054
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2005
    Location:
    Melbourne Au
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I just re-read the article in the paper:-

    Wall, 60, was inspired by the paintings of Goya and Manet and the work has a "psychological resonance", Ms Crombie said. The man is not just untangling rope but grappling with the "confusion of modern life".

    As art critic Jean-Pierre Criqui wrote in the international journal ArtForum in 1996: " Untangling, 1994, depicts a man in work clothes busy untangling a thick skein of rope that suggests a strange, vanquished monster. This picture has a directly mythological resonance: the individual's struggle to escape the tangled threads of fate that control his destiny reads as an allegory for the construction of meaning."

    Why can't they just say, "it's a picture of some person untangling ropes."

    Art critics and like, do go on at times, eh?

    Mick.
     
  7. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,519
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I can't help but wonder about what critiques this photograph would draw if posted here, to the "Critique" gallery...
     
  8. kb244

    kb244 Member

    Messages:
    818
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2005
    Location:
    Grand Rapids
    Shooter:
    Multi Format

    IT makes them sound more importatant to those who just see a guy untagleing ropes. And it helps to justify the purchase in their mind.

    If I remeber correctly the highest price ever paid for a 'photograph' was about 2.4 million at a Southerby's auction. Was some picture from the turn of the century on long island, NY, showing a hazy shape of the moon shining thru some trees. Course if you put that in perspective with the highest 'paintings' have gone for, 1 mil and above is not that common to see for just a photograph.
     
  9. Markok765

    Markok765 Member

    Messages:
    2,270
    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2006
    Location:
    Ontario, Can
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    This would be really easy to copy!
     
  10. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF

    Sorry, Mick, didn't mean to sound patronizing, but the way you phrased it, I couldn't see what else to say about the process. I couldn't believe that you didn't know, but you never can tell.

    The photo gallery history is certainly a horror story, but as you say, at least THIS IS FILM!

    It's also a million dollars...

    Um...

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  11. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

    Messages:
    1,504
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Westminster,
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    There is a sucker born every minute. Grin.

    Some times I wonder if the "Art World" of museum directors are simply trying to justify their existence with self important dribble, and have lost all sense of reality.

    Imagine what that $1 million (Canadian) could have done to help the homeless, troubled youth or the mentally ill?
     
  12. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,212
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    These prints are indeed cibachrome backlights.
    Jeff Wall bought the same Ilford Processor that I have in my shop , except his is quite larger.
    This machine is dedicated to his work and maybe a few select friends that he allows to print on the machine.
    I have heard that Jeff may be indeed one of the worlds largest user of this Ciba back light product. The numbers that I have heard of his inventory purchases of this product this last year is staggering.
    I am not sure how he is exposing the material but I would not be suprised if he did not buy a lightjet from cymbolic sciences for his photographic output.As well he would need a full blown mounting facility to accomodate the face mounting of these large pieces that he is famous for.

    This investment in *photo gear* is not suprising to me as Ed Burtynsky basically has built a lab to fit his vision , with chromiras and large processors and finally the mounting shops to produce the very large work that both these artists produce.

    The argument of whether the photographs are worth the price that these fellows are recieving, I will leave to the photo experts.
    But I really do admire these two great living Canadian Artists who invest everything they own into their art.
     
  13. jstraw

    jstraw Member

    Messages:
    2,703
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2006
    Location:
    Topeka, Kans
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    While I certainly understand that the cost of producing any work will factor into its selling price it appears that the medium is the message here. I have a hard time understanding how an image that doesn't appear to me to have been worth $1m AU when the shutter was released made that journey in his lab.

    I understand that some works of art are worth a million dollars because the artist has a reputation and the cost of production is high. A Chilhuly installation...a large, public mural or sculpture, etc.

    I understand that some works of art are worth a million because history has bestowed cache and status on the maker and uniqueness or rarity of the work has raised the value of a piece.

    In this case, I'm at a loss to understand why a buyer would bite on that price for a work buy a living artist, of a relatively pedestrian exposure, where the scarcity is artificial and the cost of production is not *that* high.

    I applaud Hall's ability to market himself and have no reason to doubt his dedication to his craft but this doesn't seem like a sensible purchase to me.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. kb244

    kb244 Member

    Messages:
    818
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2005
    Location:
    Grand Rapids
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Was the photographer the Meuseam director's son in law or something?
     
  16. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,194
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have a feeling that none of the comments here come from anyone (other than Bob Carnie) who has actually seen a Jeff Wall photograph.

    The couple that I have seen are spectacular - not for everyone's taste - but really intriguing and impressive.

    The 2 metre by 2.5 metre size of this one means that it is one of his mid-size pieces, and unlike just about anyone else's work I have seen, the large size is beneficial, and integral to the work.

    You certainly cannot get much of an appreciation of his work from small, internet images.

    I'd suggest seeing some of his work, before you pass judgment.

    Matt
     
  17. jstraw

    jstraw Member

    Messages:
    2,703
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2006
    Location:
    Topeka, Kans
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It could be the very definition of spectacular and still not make sense to me at that price. I understand what you're saying but I think it's tangential to a discussion of the nature of monetary valuation.
     
  18. vanspaendonck

    vanspaendonck Member

    Messages:
    132
    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Location:
    Amsterdam, T
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Can't help thinking back to the "Tate brick affair" of the 60's. Roger shurely will remember that one.
     
  19. eddym

    eddym Member

    Messages:
    1,927
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2006
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Don't be silly!! A picture of some person untangling ropes would only be worth 10 dollars!!
     
  20. vanspaendonck

    vanspaendonck Member

    Messages:
    132
    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Location:
    Amsterdam, T
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Correction: it was 1974. Google for "tate + bricks"
     
  21. timbo10ca

    timbo10ca Member

    Messages:
    543
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2006
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I've decided to go one better- I will be selling myself, a Canadian Photographer, for $1,000,000 Aussie Dozzies. First preference is to the Australian government, 'cause boy- I'd sure like to move back over there! I'm not quite 2X2.5 meters, but close (about 2X 0.5 meters). That's gotta be better than a photo, eh?

    Oh, BTW- I'm not lit from behind, but I have been known to get pretty lit up on occasion :D
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 16, 2006
  22. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,926
    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2002
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Just out of curiosity, what do you guys think a realistic value is for the work? There appears to be some serious overhead involved in the staging and expense of the workflow. I would think 15-20,000 would be the top end..
     
  23. Dinesh

    Dinesh Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,646
    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I would think that Sean, of all people, would have a greater appreciation for the image than most. After all isn't this what you have to do, metaphorically, every day with APUG?
     
  24. jstraw

    jstraw Member

    Messages:
    2,703
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2006
    Location:
    Topeka, Kans
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It's been established that he can sell a piece like that for a million. So, whatever the market will bear. I just think the market can be nuts.

    If a guy selling a mounted and matted print for $500 has ten buck of overhead in it then that scales to a million for 20k in overhead.
     
  25. sanderx1

    sanderx1 Member

    Messages:
    252
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2006
    Shooter:
    35mm
    The thread suddenly turned seriously bizarre. Do you conider minimalist scultures to be art? Or for that matter minimalist photographs? Do you consider anything by Carl Andre art?

    Its always fun to read people critiquing it and then getting the name wrong, or most usually not having any idea what the artist or sculture was called (or even if knowing getting it wrong). Like thinking the name ended in a 7.
     
  26. jford

    jford Member

    Messages:
    93
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2005
    Location:
    Melbourne, A
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I think the art market is a completely different thing to almost any other market. It combines both 'material value' and 'artistic value' into one price and really only reflects the agreement between the buyer and the seller over what the thing is worth. Trying to work out how much film, paper and chems the guy put into it and then adding a margin is useless. I bought a house recently and I know the bricks, mortar and paint are worth a lot less than what I paid for it.
    The article Mick quotes mentions Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles that was bought for $A2m in the 70s by the National Gallery of Australia and caused a public outcry with people questioning it's artistic value. There is no question these days that Blue Poles is a very very significant piece and that the NGA got a bargain. Someone offered them $US100m for it a few years back. That's about a 14% rate of return. Not too bad!
    John.