guest curator

Rachel Peart

Photographs Specialist Phillips NY, USA (previously Director of Photography for Heritage Auction House NY, USA)

It’s with great honor that we welcome one of the leading ladies in Art Photography in NYC right now. We are excited to find out what she thinks of The Print Atelier’s artists and the place of photography in the market right now…

Rachel Peart, a Kansas native, earned her BFA in Art History from the University of Kansas in 2006.  After college, she interned with the Registrar at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City where she began to develop her interest in Photography. Rachel joined Heritage Auctions in 2007 as a Consignment Coordinator in the Rare Books department. A year later, she advanced to Project Manager and Lead Cataloger for the Fine Art Department. Rachel joined Heritage’s New York office in the Fall of 2011 and was promoted to Director of Photographs. She has brought numerous private and corporate collections to the market and actively travels the United States promoting Heritage Auctions while seeking new consignments in Photographs and Modern & Contemporary Art. Rachel is a member of ArtTable and the MoMA Junior Associates.


What initially drew you to art photography, how did you acquire expertise in the field and how did it lead you to become the head of photography at Heritage?
Growing up I loved going with my Mom to art museums either when we traveled or if special exhibitions came to town.  Photography in particular became an interest in college when I was getting my degree in Art History, and even more so when I started working at Heritage especially with senior specialists. I started at Heritage in 2007 as an Administrator and then worked through the various roles of cataloger, Associate Consignment Director in Photographs, and finally Director of Photographs.

Could you explain what an auction house such as Heritage is and what your job role entails exactly?
Heritage Auctions holds auctions in over 28 various categories.  It is a brick and mortar house that has all the traditional components of catalogs, lot viewing, and live auctions, alongside the incredible online capabilities of viewing lots and bidding in real time.  I love the diversity of what Heritage offers from a rare 1804 Dollar, a Crocodile Hermes Birkin, to a platinum photograph by Irving Penn.

My primary responsibility is to offer to two auctions a year comprised of Fine Art Photographs, which represent artists who have an established secondary market. I work with both the consignors and collectors on the selling and buying side.  It is very fulfilling to be able to transition a photograph from one great collection to the next.

How do you find the photographs for the two Heritage auctions you put together every year? How do you evaluate the work and the condition? Do you view the work in person or is everything done via the web?
Consignments come from a variety of places. Some collectors I have been talking to for years and sometimes it is a new client who has seen an advertisement and called or emailed me. A lot of conversations may start by sending images, but inevitably we take all pieces into Heritage for final evaluation, imaging, and cataloging which includes condition reports.

Is there always a theme for photography auctions? Do you pick it and why?
There seems to be a strong presence of 20th Century American photography, but each sale is a little different. I try to maintain an arch to represent early works to contemporary artists. We have offered featured collections which do have a theme such as ‘childhood’ or that just focused on gelatin silver landscape images. I like that each sale differs from the one before.

Who mainly comes to photography auctions…art dealers, artists, collectors? Do you see new faces or is it a small closed circle?
It is always a nice mix of people from various backgrounds.  There are certainly familiar faces mixed with people who are new to Heritage or collecting in general.  I like having the integration of seasoned collectors and dealers with people who are just starting to learn about photographs and/or auctions.

Clovelly Park Car 2, MAUDE ARSENAULT, available at theprintatelier.com

On average what’s the percentage of the catalogue you sell per auction? What happens with the unsold works?
Typically around 70-80%, for unsold lots we offer them in our ‘Post Auction Buy’ page for two weeks following the auction. It allows people to make offers to the owner or buy a piece at the reserve plus buyer’s premium. After that point, there is a discussion with the consignor if the piece is best returned to wait for a period of time before reoffering.

With your position , are you regularly in contact with most photography galleries in the US? Do you see most of the major shows and attend gallery openings?
I do try to attend as many major photograph fairs and gallery openings as I can. It’s an exciting field with a lot to see, so it’s hard to try and get to it all. The Photographs field in general is a friendly one and I really enjoy staying in touch and meeting new people at galleries, institutions, and foundations.

What’s trending these days in art photography? What are collectors and dealers looking for?
I like to see that a lot of artists are using and exploring techniques that make work unique such as Alison Rossiter, Chris McCaw, or Ian Ruhter as examples. As technology changes, photography keeps evolving, and I like that it is always in motion.

Do you keep an eye on the emerging scene? What or who ’s interesting right now?
Similar to what I mentioned above, but I personally enjoy artists who are using more traditional processes with a contemporary take. I don’t spend as much time as I would like on the emerging scene. New York is full of so many fabulous photo galleries I do try and see new shows. The Ken Kitano and Tomoko Sawada show at Pace MacGill Gallery was excellent and I loved Tomoko’s ‘Tomato Ketchup’, 2012 piece made of 56 c-prints with Heinz ketchup in 56 different languages. Bruce Silverstein has a great Deformations exhibit right now which includes a grid of 16 individual Andre Kertesz body deformation photographs.

Collectors, novice or experienced, may be interested in emerging artists for a variety of reasons. What advice can you give on how to evaluate the work of an emerging artist?
The first and important thing is to find work you like, because you cannot predict what an artist’s market or the art market in general is going to do. I do not discourage people from looking into art as investment, but you do need to enjoy what you are buying. The next step is to do a little homework; do they have a strong gallery representation? What fairs or shows has their work maybe been exhibited? Is their work being acquired for any institutions or private collections? Are they working on publishing work or any special projects or collaborations?

Dr. Sharon Flescher is Executive Director of IFAR and Ed Beardsley, Vice President and Managing Director of Fine Art at Heritage Auctions

What do you think about the way photography is being viewed and distributed through the web and online platforms these days? For example are Paddle 8, Artnet, Artsy a good advancement for the art world and artists?
I think making art more accessible through new platforms online is very positive. It breaks down geographical boundaries for artists, collectors, galleries, and auction houses. The traditional components of viewing work in person and building relationships are still very important, so that you really understand what you are buying. However, technology is opening a lot of possibilities for how we share art and the resources for learning about the marketplace.

What are you especially excited about for this year on the photography scene?
I am looking forward to the Spring season in New York. It is full of auctions, new gallery shows, exhibitions at the museum, and Aipad this April at the Armory. It’s a great time to be out and looking at as much photography as you can!

Do you collect art photography yourself? How would you describe your collection?
Currently, vernacular photography, old press photos with stamps and markings. They are such unique objects. I also enjoy buying photo books. Recently, I purchased books of Vera Lutter and Erwin Olaf’s work.

Is there one single photograph you wish you’d owned?
That is so difficult to decide, but I would start with a Harry Callahan, vintage print of Eleanor and Barbara in Chicago.

We are very happy to have you as our guest curator at TPA! That’s why we have to ask : what elements will you look for when reviewing your artwork selection from The Print Atelier’s artists to create your curated collection?
Just like I would tell people buying at auction or anywhere, you must select what you love or what speaks to you. I find some works to remind me of home, Kansas and the Midwest, horizon lines and open roads are elements I gravitate towards. Other times it is the basics of the composition, color, narrative, or simplicity that I find engaging.

From your point of view, what makes The Print Atelier different and interesting for collectors?
It holds a well curated selection of photographs and photographers. Each artist clearly has their own distinct vision and body of work, but I found it so easy to move among the artist’s work. There is an overall strength and beauty to the work on Print Atelier.