If the Art Gallery of Western Australia’s exhibition bill is a forecast for things to come, soon photographs will be adorning each and every gallery wall in Western Australia.
Of late, AGWA has played host to the highly anticipated exhibition Richard Avedon People, which celebrated renowned photographer Richard Avedon and his revealing shots of the world’s most famous figures. Shortly after, the gallery revealed its next exhibition, New Passports, New Photography, featuring AGWA’s recent acquisitions of portrait photography.
“We feel that photography is hugely important as a medium for encountering the world, and that it has a high status in our cultural and artistic platform, also being one of our collecting focuses,” says AGWA director Stefano Carboni.
Photography is more accepted in the major galleries than ever before, locally and internationally.”
Petrina Hicks, Emily the strange, 2011. Lightjet print 100x98cm State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased through the TomorrowFund, Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 2014.
So accepted in fact, that collectors have started investing in pieces. “Photos are as collectable as any other art form right now,” Stefano says. “In some ways they are more accessible as prices are slightly lower, also because they run in editions.”
However, he says, works by famous international artists like Jeff Wall or Andreas Gursky can sell for just as much as some paintings, sometimes millions of dollars. “They also appreciate in value like any other medium.”
At the Perth Centre for Photography – Perth’s longest-standing exhibition space dedicated purely to the art of photography – editioned photographic work is sold for between $300 and $5000.
“Pricing depends on many factors including the artistic merit of the artist, the number of editions of the work, and the complexity of the technique and materials,” says PCP director Christine Tomás. “Photography is highly collectable due to its various manifestations, much of it easily transportable. It offers so much to both the upcoming and seasoned collector.”
Tarryn Gill and Pilar Mata Dupont, Bride of the north, 2009. Inkjet print, 128x174cm, State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased through the TomorrowFund, Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 2010.
Christine, who has worked with PCP for more than seven years, and within the photography industry for longer, says there is a definite increase of interest in collecting photographic artwork in WA.
“I have noticed a steady growth in the purchase of photography, particularly for private and public collections, both major and emerging,” she says. “Purchases for the home, offices and building foyers are also becoming more popular.”
Her belief is that this has a lot to do with the climate in WA regarding photography. “Photography as an art form in WA is becoming increasingly prevalent,” she says. “We are seeing artists who have, in the past, used other mediums, now delve into the realm of photography, mixing it with other art forms. You will have noticed that a number of public and private galleries in WA – such as PICA, Turner Galleries, AGWA and the WA Art Collective – have shown significant photography exhibitions recently, paying homage to early photographic practices as well as new ones.”
Christine says the trend is definitely growing, with artists practising across techniques, borrowing from the past, and blending with new digital technologies.
Brad Rimmer, Sharon, Kellerberrin, Winter (from Silence) 2005. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased through the TomorrowFund, Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 2010.
Stefano agrees. “The scene here just goes from strength to strength,” he says. “There are great senior artists and mentors such as Max Pam, wonderful mid-career artists like Toni Wilkinson, Graham Miller and Brad Rimmer, and younger artists who employ the medium as part of a larger practice, such as Tarryn Gill and Pilar Mata Dupont. All of them have flourishing national and international profiles, too. It is also a supportive community, held in place by social networks and organisations like the Perth Centre for Photography.”
Stefano says galleries play a pivotal role in popularising photography as art, as well as educating visitors and making photographic art more accessible.
“I think the display of photography in galleries helps the public see that there’s something that is worth lingering over and that can make them feel comfortable about being there,” he says. “If galleries keep presenting engaging photographic exhibitions, the public will keep attending and appreciating them. Positive feedback through word of mouth and social media will inevitably encourage those who are keen to collect art to look also into this particular medium, and, as with anything in the arts, collectors buy what they love within their means – often for no other reason than they love it!”
New Passports, New Photography, AGWA.