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March 22nd, 2007

THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PHOTOGRAPHY ART DEALERS, AND THE MAN WHO IS TURNING THE SOUTHWEST INTO SOHO

by Mr. Norman Maine

Having just celebrated 25 years with his successful Etherton Gallery in Tucson, Arizona, photography dealer Terry Etherton is happy to talk about the accomplishments and future of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD), of which he has been a member since 1985.

The fast talking, continually optimistic and energetic Etherton was on the board of this most distinguished group for 12 years beginning in 1993.

AIPAD was first organized in 1979, Etherton says, to give the collecting public faith in the dealers; this is an organization that polices itself, he says. Members of the organization, according to the published mission statement, agree “to conduct dealings with the public, museums, artists and other dealers with honesty and integrity.” As Etherton says, a client can feel secure in the knowledge that the seller has been checked out by other photography professionals and that those professionals adhere to a code of ethics. Dealers must meet a variety of criteria in order to qualify for membership in the association, including demonstrating that they have a high quality of work for sale and that they can point to exhibitions they have mounted. Any person looking to apply for membership must meet specific criteria for a minimum of five years before they can even apply and they must get the sponsorship of five current members of AIPAD. This, Etherton says, ensures that the public can feel secure that the seller has been evaluated by other professionals. “We exist to make the buyer feel secure that they are purchasing from a reputable dealer and, additionally, we are an organization buyers can come to in the event they have any issues that need to be addressed.”

In this vein of offering information as well as goods to the buying public, AIPAD hosts a variety of seminars and lectures during The Photography Show, their large annual show, held at the 7th Regiment Armory at 67th Street and Park Avenue, April 12 through April 15. They also hold an annual benefit preview in conjunction with the show, with proceeds going to a needy organization. This year the Benefit Preview is from 7 to 10 pm, April 11, and will benefit the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless (A.C.E.) and its initiatives, the SoHo and TriBeCa Partnerships. Details of the weekend events will be posted on AIPAD’s site: www.aipad.com In the past, Etherton notes, the organization has held seminars on regional collecting as well as hosted panels on private collecting. Lectures during the show have featured a variety of well-known curators, collectors and photographers. One of the biggest seminars AIPAD held was on conservation in collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. AIPAD used the Metropolitan’s conservation laboratory and brought in several conservation specialists to discuss the issues surrounding the dating of countless vintage photographs.

The association currently has 129 members, of which approximately 85 participate in the annual show. The membership roster on their website shows dealers from all over the world, including Israel, France, Australia and Germany, with the bulk of dealers being from the United States.

Etherton says this is the second year that The Photography Show has been held at the 7th Regiment Armory, a move that he says was a big plus because the show is now on one level and in an elegant showplace that is known for its high quality art shows. “We are thrilled that we are now at the Armory because this venue has given the show panache and more democracy in the way dealers get booths. Previously we were at the Hilton where we were on two floors and some of the dealers weren’t always thrilled with their placement. Now there isn’t a bad place to have a booth.”

Etherton, who in the early days literally sold photographs out of the trunk of his car during the summer to simultaneously support both his fledgling Tucson gallery and his coast to coast baseball habit, has been pleased with the New York show. He notes that originally the show would shift venues from the West Coast to the East Coast – one year in San Francisco, then Washington, D.C. and then Los Angeles. The show settled in New York City in 1995 and has been going strong since. Currently, according to Etherton, AIPAD is investigating the possibility of a second annual show that would take place on the West Coast.

As for Etherton, after 25 years in the business of selling pictures, he says nothing makes him happier than placing a great photo in the hands of a curator or a new or seasoned collector. Trade fairs and the internet have replaced his epic summer road trips. He is still a passionate sports fan, and you can always ask him about the St. Louis Cardinals, a team he has supported since growing up in the Illinois area. His Tucson, Arizona gallery is known as one of the top photography galleries in the Southwest and he has participated in most of the top photography and art shows in the country, including Art Chicago, Photo San Francisco and Photo L.A. People visiting the prestigious Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, which houses the Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and W. Eugene Smith archives among many others, often find their way to his gallery, housed in a historic Odd Fellows Hall in downtown Tucson.

Etherton’s love of photography dates back to his years in San Francisco when he was pursuing a career in filmmaking following his completion of a bachelor’s degree in Cinema and Photography. “I was a full-time documentary and commercial filmmaker in the San Francisco Bay Area. Between film shoots, I took photography workshops and visited dealers, galleries, auction houses and museums. I began collecting photographs in 1974, when I bought my first print–a Danny Lyon.”

The booming photography market and the top prices paid for photos during recent auctions continue to fuel his hunt for great inventory. His gallery inventory reflects his passion for both top vintage and contemporary artists, including major holdings of work by Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Frederick Sommer, Danny Lyon, Brett Weston, Paul Caponigro, Mark Klett, Wright Morris, W. Eugene Smith, Kate Breakey, Holly Roberts, Flor Garduno, Graciela Iturbide, Edward S. Curtis, Timothy O’Sullivan and many others.

He expects this year’s AIPAD show to be one of the best yet, given this is the second year at the Armory and people know where they’ll be. Also, there’s only a small chance of a major snowstorm like the one that hit last February during the show; April in New York is not usually as unforgiving a month weather-wise. And of course Etherton is happier to leave his desert environs in the spring rather than the winter, when many of his collectors come to the desert to seek him out. After 25 years, has he had enough? “What else would I do?” Etherton asks on the sly: he’s got a guy on the other line offering him 7th row seats to the Suns/Spurs game up in Phoenix and he’s got to take the call.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF A GOTHIC MASTERPIECE

New York’s 7th Regiment Armory established a distinctive architecture standard in 1879, when it opened to house not only a National Guard unit, but social and civic events for the city’s elite. This photo, from 1910, shows the Park Avenue structure shortly after its original tower had been removed and two more floors of office space were added to its immense size. The armory, listed on the National Register, remains in service for the National Guard and civic events. Architect Charles Clinton, a member of the 7th Regiment, drew the plans for the unit’s armory building that cost nearly $600,000 to construct. This photo, taken in the 1970s, shows the interior Veterans’ Room, one of the ornate meeting places designed by architect Stanford White and furnished by Louis C. Tiffany, both members of the 7th Regiment.

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