Art

Photo Finish

by

though Evelyne Daitz is
fond of puns, this one was
unintentional. When she named her early summer group show “Clothes Off,” she didn’t know
it would also be the Witkin Gallery’s closing exhibition.
As Witkin’s owner and director since the 1984 death of founder Lee Witkin, Daitz was determined to match his 15 years
in the photo business with 15
of her own. Having met that
goal and seen Witkin through
to age 30—a record for a public photo gallery in New York—she’s ready to retire to private dealing. She’ll retain a few artists—notably Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Pierre Verger—and has
already been finding new
homes for others. (Brazil’s Mario Cravo Neto will go to Yancey Richardson; Jerry
Uelsmann had already been lured away by Laurence Miller.) Though Witkin has not been
an active player in the current high-stakes photo market, it
helped create that market,
and has a solid reputation
at an important, if conservative, end of the business that few younger gallerists are serving.


For now, Daitz is preparing for the gallery’s closing July 2 with decidedly mixed feelings. “It’s bittersweet,” she says, but she won’t much regret withdrawing from a scene that little resembles the one she entered in 1976 when Witkin hired her to take charge of his photo sales. Daitz and her husband Howard, now a private photo dealer, were early customers and friends of Witkin’s when he was virtually the only game in town. She joined the gallery upon its move to 57th Street and took it to Soho after Witkin’s death from AIDS, maintaining a sense of classic traditionalism in the face of an exploding and decidedly unconventional market. Though Daitz shows young
contemporaries like Cravo
Neto and Robert Flynt, “trendy, far-out” work is not for her, and cutthroat competition is not her style. “I think I reached the point when I just saw the whole field of photography changing,” Daitz says. “It’s just packaging, just business and money now.” “Everyone keeps saying, ‘It’s
the end of an era,”‘ associate
director Jill Seymour notes. “But in this case the cliché is true.”