‘Unseen Photo Fair closed its doors on Sunday 23 September 2012 with reports of strong sales and a high level of gallerist and visitor satisfaction. With the collectors and institutions visiting Amsterdam’s new photo fair from the Middle East, South America, across Europe and the USA, Unseen was an international success.’
We are now approaching the second instalment of Unseen (26 to 29 September 2013), the first attracting over 22,000 people (according to its website) to its inaugural photofair presenting a dazzling array of works. Highly applauded for its challenging approach to combining the photofair model, with a festival type of programme, and with a wide range of events, it risked dilution, or over saturation of events and works, but its structured approach, “flair and tight organization” averted any of these risks which are sometimes a common experience of photo festivals.
Features of it were The Unseen Collection; a Fashion exhibition; launch of Foam Magazine Talent issue; and the Unpublished Dummy Award was also announced at Offprint Amsterdam.
Two of Street Level’s staff, Ida and Julie made the trip, with one even making it as part of their own holiday time, such was the temptation! Here is a look back to last September.
A selection of 55 international galleries presented high-quality work by emerging talents and established photographers.
Although mobbed, we had a chat with Laura Noble, who was launching her new L A Noble Gallery at Unseen. Since 2009, Noble had been the co-founder and director of the London-based photography gallery Diemar/Noble, that recently closed.
Laura recently visited Street Level Photoworks to give us an instruction session around print sales. She showed us some of the works on show in her booth – for example Emily Allchurch whose project ‘Tokyo Story’ consists of digitally manipulated and almost painterly photographs of areas in Tokyo. Later during the fair, Noble sold at least one of Emily Allchurch’s colourful photographs. At L A Noble Gallery, the work of German photographer Herb Schmitz was strong and stood out. Schmitz early seventies fashion and beauty photographs depicting models with various costumes and make-up, had a soft tone and subdued colours and were also front mounted.
Thursday the 20th
The first official day of Unseen had an interesting line-up of events, including film screenings and talks. Amongst these were the conversation between Danish photographer Trine Søndergaard and deputy director of artistic affairs at Amsterdam’s FOAM Magazine, Marcel Feil. Søndergaard and Feil were discussing her project “Strude”, depicting women wearing an old face costumes worn on the Danish island Fanø (see image below). Søndergaard pointed out that these pictures refer to the idea of “photography as something that was”, as well as a comment on female Muslim head costumes, which was a debate at the time when she made the pictures. Martin Asbæk Galleri represented her at Unseen Photo Fair, showing Søndergaard’s series “Interiors”. She also had one photograph from “Strude” represented in The Unseen Collection. Also during this session of Unseen Speakers, photographer Adam Bromberg gave a talk about his collaborative work with Oliver Chanarin. The work of these artists has been nominated for the 2013 Deutsche Borsceh Prize. Their work deals with politics and racism. They were represented by Galerie Gabriel Rolt at this event.
Shinji Ontani’s book project is called “The Country of the Rising Sun”. The judges said that Otani’s book was the most consistent in its design, concept and photography. Otani’s book consists of photographs of Swedish suburban neighbourhoods that in a sense share similarities with any suburb and it speaks about the familiar and neutral places.
Unseen Portfolio Pitch was on Thursday evening. 15 young photographers had been selected by FOAM’s Marcel Feil, the director of Vandejong, Pjotr de Jong and Lars Boering from Fotografen Federatie. Each photographer had 3 minutes to present their photographs and it was up to the audience to vote for 3 photographers to participate in an exclusive “Master’s Dinner”. The images shown ranged from documentary to portraits. This event gave a good insight in the work of young photographers.
The Unseen Collection was on display inside a big greenhouse and the concept was to sell prints for what was considered to be an affordable price of under €1000
There were more than 80 photographs in the collection, of which a few had been sold when we visited on the Friday. Among the 80 photographers were artists such as Roger Ballen (Alex Daniels Reflex Amsterdam, NL), Cooper & Gorfer (Christian Larsen, SE), Ed Van Der Elsken (Annet Gelink Gallery (NL), Elspeth Diederix (Galerie Diana Stigter, NL) and Nina Poppe (Robert Morat Galerie, DE).
The Unseen Collection emphasized the fact that it is important to keep affordable prices for buyers of art to reach a wide audience and it was a good contrast to the Unseen Photo Fair, where some prints were in a much higher price range. This collection also showed the significance of having a broad selection of photographic genres within a selection of prints for sale.
A few of the photographs at the Unseen Collection with for example Nina Poppe’s picture ‘Untitled’ (from the series AMA, 2011, girl by beach, edition of 10) for €500 and Seza Bali’s image ‘Grandma’s Ironing Board’ (from the Home series, 2008, edition of 7) for €1000.
Kurt Tong who previously exhibited at Street Level Photoworks at Unseen Collection. “Rollerskates” from the series In Case it Rains in Heaven, 2009, represented by The Photographer’s Gallery (UK).
After the Unseen Collection, Foam Magazine hosted their Talent Issue Launch in the Speaker’s Corner venue. This gave the 16 selected photographers a chance to give a presentation of their work. The audience could ask questions to the young photographers. The selected works covered most photographic genres and the images were also exhibited outdoors in Westerpark.
On the Friday we went for a meeting with Michelle Lemesle at Rockarchive to speak about her experience of print sales. Michelle is from Paris and has been working in marketing for about 20 years, but has for the past 8 years been the owner/director at Rockarchive in Amsterdam. Rockarchive offer an immense amount of rock photography, also as silver gelatine prints. Rockarchive for instance represents Jean-Pierre Leloir whose photographs include among other famous musicians include Billie Holiday, Frank Zappa and Jimmy Hendrix. More than 50 photographers have their work in the archive.
Michelle points out that the Rockarchive functions more like a permanent collection for people to visit rather than a gallery. She also notes that her visitors don’t come in to see an exhibition but to buy their youth.
Saturday we went for at meeting at Foam Editions with Floor Haverkamp. Foam Editions has been a part of the Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam since 2007 and Foam also publishes a contemporary photography magazine 4 times a year. Floor recently started in the role as manager of Foam Editions and the space is located just around the corner from their museum. It is in a spacious room shared with Foam’s magazine, book and merchandise shop. (The Director of Street Level visited Foam in 2009 and met with their print sales person to discuss their approach to setting up a print sales department – they had in turn used models such as the Photographers Gallery).
Since its inception, Foam Editions have been asking international photographers who have exhibited or are planning to have a show at Foam Photography Museum, to make a special edition of one or more prints to sell at Foam Editions. So as Floor explained they don’t as such represent the artists. Most photographers say yes to selling a special edition, says Floor. The shop has a wide range of photographic works for sale by artists such as Pieter Hugo, Alex Prager, August Sander and Kim Boske. Alex Prager who was exhibiting at Foam Museum during Unseen and also showed her work with The Photographer’s Gallery at the fair, sold all of her editions at Foam Editions’ shop.
Foam Editions have a large display room for the photographs for sale. The room functions as an exhibition space, where the photographs are hung in one smaller room and there are also prints standing on shelves behind the sales desk. Floor explains how they have 4 themes a year for the photographs on display: fashion, film, music and design. This gives the displayed images a coherency, but when they get new editions in these will be displayed even though they don’t relate to the current theme. In the collection, they also have artist books that include a photographic print when bought. Floor told how this was becoming popular and that the prices for these books range from €100-€150, and that they usually come in an edition of 100. For these books+prints, Foam take 40% commission and these books are displayed on top of the print storage unit in the space. At Unseen Photo Fair we saw these books at the
Swedish Gun Gallery and in the Unseen Collection, where Danish photographer Trine Søndergaard sold a print from ‘Strude’ with a book of the series included in the price for €1000.
Floor Haverkamp thinks that the sale of prints at Foam is going well, especially because they aim to keep photographs at affordable prices. Floor aims to keep a profound record of the buyers of the special editions at Foam in order to invite them to openings and events –like for instance Unseen Photo Fair. To develop their prints sales, Floor arranges courses on collecting photographs about twice yearly. Laura Noble from L A Noble Gallery has recently been visiting Foam Editions to teach such a course. 28 people attended and the courses were €50.
The lecture ‘Unseen Art of Collecting’ took place in the Speaker’s Corner on Saturday afternoon. Host François Hébel was in conversation with collector Martin Margulies, collector W.M. Hunt, Deutsche Börse’s collection curator Anne-Marie Beckmann, Simone Klein from Sotheby’s Auction House and Ariel Shanberg from Woodstock Photography Centre.
Private collector Martin Margulies from Miami spoke about his immense photographic collection. Margulies bought his first photograph when he was only about 12 years old and it was one by Thomas Ruff of a young girl whose gaze instantly intrigued Margulies. Since then, Martin Margulies has expanded his collection of photographs and this includes works by artists such as Thomas Struth, Pieter Hugo, Olafur Eliasson, Robert Adams and Bernd & Hilla Becher. As Margulies’s collection grew and he didn’t have enough space in his house for it, he decided to share his collection to the public by displaying exhibitions in an old warehouse, where he arranges lectures and educational programmes about his contemporary photography collection. Margulies explained that he buys prints to encourage his enthusiasm about art. And as he said, he is not into pretty pictures but into something that he can relate to or communicate with.
Deutsche Börse has been collecting contemporary international photography since 1999 and they show about 95% of their collection in their offices and use the collection to educate too. Anne-Marie Beckmann gave a presentation of the images in their collection, which mostly consists of documentary photography. Of the approx. 87 artists and 900 photographs, artists include for instance Diane Arbus, Joel Sternfeld, Tsung Leong, Thomas Kern, David Goldblatt and Beate Güschou. W.M. Hunt, who like Martin Margulies, is a private collector but also a curator, teacher and author of The Unseen Eye. Hunt emphasized how his collection consists of photographs that he feels speak to him somehow. Hunt gave this advice to the audience, pointing out that it is your reaction to a photograph that matters when you consider if you want to buy it. He noted that “collecting should be delight and should be fun”. Hunt has previously shown his photographic collection in Arles.
Simone Klein who is responsible for Sotheby’s in Europe held a short discussion of how photographic prints gets sold at auctions, especially underlining how some photographs are sold at a very high price. At the moment, the most expensive photograph sold at Sotheby’s is Andreas Gursky’s ‘Rhein II’ that comes in an edition of 6 and is sold for $4.3m!!! Finally, Ariel Shanberg talked about the Centre of Photography at Woodstock’s photography collection which consists of works donated by exhibiting artists (see other post on this blog to Street Level’s visit to CPW: https://slpresearch.wordpress.com/?s=Woodstock). Shanberg also noted that they don’t have a budget to buy many photographs for their collection and that they also have a small staff number of 5 people.
Both prior to the lecture on collecting and following it, we made a visit to the Unseen Photo Fair. This was very useful as we managed to see a lot of the pictures and speak with both galleries and photographers.
Van Kranendonk Gallery (NL) Artist – Johan Nieuwenhuize
Photography of different genres, but mainly architecture and landscape. Focuses on young talent and well known artists from the Netherlands and abroad.
Johan was happy to have sold several pieces at the fair: he attributed his success to his decision to keep print sizes, and therefore prices, low for this fair. Street Level viewed his work back in 2008 on an international curatorial programme trip which involved visiting several photographers/artists in their studio’s in Den Haag (co-funded by Stroom and Mondriaan Foundation). He’s keen to come to Glasgow and work with Street Level.
Michael Hoppen Gallery (UK) Florence Mackenzie, Clemency Cooke
Established in Chelsea in 1992 and has since earned a formidable presence in the international collecting community. A venue for new and established photographers, and a resource for those interested in photographic art. The gallery reflects the diversity of the photographers represented by Michael Hoppen.
Florence was pleased to have sold out their stock of print by rising star Alex Prager. They were also delighted to have sold a print to one of the Dutch Lottery winners who each had €1000 to spend that day as part of the winnings.
Seelevel Gallery (NL) Manon Funcke
A small independent local gallery, they present the work of current leading fine art photography of Dutch talent – they have temporary exhibitions at various locations and through an online gallery. Seelevel Gallery focuses on ‘cutting edge’ photography, which can also function as a starting point or framework for multimedia installations, collages, fine art and conceptual art.
Opened in May 2008 by Greger Ulf Nilson and Karolina Strömberg. The Stockholm-based GunGallery features photographers with different artistic directions; both documentary and conceptual works. GunGallery curates eight exhibitions a year and participates in several art fairs. They were selling combinations of an original print boxed with a beautifully-made artbook, similar to FoAM.
m97 Gallery (CN) Steve Harris
An independent photographic art gallery in central Shanghai. Established in 2006, m97 represents a range of Chinese and international emerging and established artists. m97 is dedicated to promoting the art of photography in China.
We shared a cigarette with Steve outside: mentioned that Bill Hunt had recommended work by Hiuang Xialiang in his speech which delighted Steve as Bill had already bought a print by Jiang Zhi. Steve seemed upbeat: thinks the fair has been a success, and he’ll definitely be back next year.
Steve represents Chi Peng, who exhibited at Street Level as part of Takeaway China in February 2012, and which went on to tour to Holden Gallery in Manchester.
Photographs from the Camera Work Collection
A special selection was compiled from the collection of Camera Work. Camera Work owns one of the world’s largest collections of photographic works and books.
Works on display by Edward Steichen, Man Ray, Helmut Newton, Steven Klein.
Some famous, iconic images from the last fifty years.