August 12, 2009


Catching up on some old news from late 2008, we heard about an art piece entitled “Photo Booth,” by American artist Lorna Simpson, which was sold to the Tate Modern at the Frieze Art Fair in London for $70,000. In an article in the Telegraph, Jessica Morgan describes the piece.

As curator of contemporary art at Tate, I am on a committee that buys new work every year at Frieze. We have a budget of £125,000 (the money comes from a philanthropic organisation called Outset). This year we bought six pieces. I was particularly pleased to get Photo Booth by the American artist Lorna Simpson, whose work we have been trying to buy for several years. She works predominantly in photography and video.

For this piece she gathered 50 photo-booth portraits of anonymous African-Americans that she discovered in thrift stores in Harlem in New York, where she lives. She matched these with 50 watercolour-and-ink drawings that are subtle and very beautiful, and play off the formality of the photographs. The whole piece cost $70,000, which is a large part of our budget but by no means an unreasonable price given that Simpson is an established artist who has been working since the early Nineties.

You can learn more about the work and see the work on the Salon 94 Freemans website.

Photo Booth © 2008 Lorna Simpson

One Comment

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    What I find interesting is what monetary worth the public places on artist. I absolutely love her work but have we come to the point were celebrity out ways the content of the work? I understand an artist obtaining a certain level of respectably through exposure and longevity. I just hate to see work purchased based solely on high cost. I’m not saying that this particular article did that, I’m speaking generally.