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GriefThe Biography of a Holocaust Photograph$
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David Shneer

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190923815

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190923815.001.0001

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How Grief Became a Commodity

How Grief Became a Commodity

(p.153) 6 How Grief Became a Commodity

David Shneer

Oxford University Press

In 1990, the G. Ray Hawkins Gallery in Santa Monica hosted Dmitri Baltermants’s first commercial exhibition. By most measures, it was a success. This chapter describes the transformation of his war photographs that portrayed deep human emotion into commodities on the marketplace. Since 1990, Baltermants’s work, especially Grief, has appeared on both sides of the Atlantic at art photography auctions and in exhibitions, often selling over the expected price and garnering much critical attention. In 1999, the Baltermants archive was sold to an American collector hoping to generate enough attention in the photographer to make back his investment. He failed to do so and sold it back to anonymous buyers in Moscow, who ended up incorporating Baltermants’s archive into a massive photo fund. The fund went belly up eighteen months after its founding, and the location of his archive remains a mystery.

Keywords:   commodity, auction, appraisal, curator, investment, art fund, Moscow, oligarch

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