by Chiara Caratti, photo editor Yourpictureditor
Two more weeks and PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai will open the doors of what is considered the leading photo event in Asia. This is the place to go to have the best insight of contemporary Photography in this part of the world and to foresee how collectors’ tastes are changing.
Now at its 5th edition, the fair has contributed to the interest in Photography to the point that the number of photo exhibitions in the city has increased 250% between 2014 and 2017 and that the last four editions of the fair have welcomed 100.000 visitors between collectors, curators and buyers.
Besides the artworks showcased in the booths of the fifty participating international galleries, the fair presents a well articulated program, with five curated exhibition platforms: Staged, Connected, Spotlight with Hiroshi Sugimoto, Insights curated by international curator Victor Wang, Conversations.
In many of these events Photography is combined with video, art, site-specific installations and as with everything is pushing the limits of this fascinating and almost bicentennial means.
YP has interviewed Georgia Griffiths, Fair Director of PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai.
How has the fair changed in these five years and what are the differences of this edition compare to the previous ones?
Over the last five years PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai has developed in content – both in terms of the extended public programming but also in our expansive interpretation of what photography can be. For example, the Fair whilst presenting masterpieces of classic photography now also presents VR installations, moving image programmes and large scale installations that challenge our understanding of the medium.
What is the highlight of this edition?
For me personally, I would say the Staged programme is a highlight as it brings together artists from around the world engaging with technology, from the giant ‘selfie’ wall of Giovanni Ozzola through to the site-specific architectural installation created by SeungWoo Back using Photoshop techniques. I am also a huge fan of Valie Export, so I feel extremely privileged to have this ground-breaking feminist performance artist speaking with Gianni Jetzer (curator at large, Hirshhorn Museum e.d.) about her practice in the Conversations program on Friday, September 21st.
What kind of galleries are present at this edition?
The Fair welcomes approximately 50 galleries from 15 countries this year – offering visitors a true site of discovery. You can see from the gallery list that we very much ‘root’ ourselves in Asia-Pacific, celebrating the artists and talent from across the region but also offering international galleries and artists a strong platform in Asia.
Do you see a growth in the photo market in China? Are there major trends in the collectors’ interest?
Over the last five years there has been a significant growth in the market with four major photography museums opening and over 70+ exhibitions celebrating photography. It has been really exciting to see collectors’ embracing and championing younger artists beyond the big brand names and see these artists’ careers take off to new heights, as for example Chen Wei and Birdhead.
In the Conversations program you inserted a conference about the role of the museum in the collections. Are museums the “big fishes” for the fair?
Museums are incredibly important for any Fair, as our job is to ensure that galleries and artists are connecting with them. It is so important for artists to be collected and shown in an institutional context. For us it is also important to engage with changes within the art market – the role of museums and the line between public and private is rapidly changing so it is vital that we provide a space for people to engage with this.
Which are the three photo events “not to be missed” in Asia according to you?
PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai of course! I feel that engaging with the galleries is the most important thing we can do as a Fair. There are fantastic art scenes around Asia offering vital spaces for artists to expand and explore their practice. I also think that the Daegu Photography Biennale is very important, as well as Lianzhou Foto Festival.
What do you wish visitors take away from the fair?
I want our visitors to leave the Fair feeling that they have discovered something new – whether that is a new artwork, artist or a new understanding of photography. PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai aims to inspire and encourage the next generation of art lovers, collectors and curators.
Our last question is more personal: as a child did you have a dream job? And is your actual one not far from that dream?
I wouldn’t say I had a ‘dream job’ – but definitely I have always wanted to work closely with artists. Directing an art fair offers great opportunities to work with artists in a variety of ways – from exhibitions and talks, through to new commissions. It is a privileged position.
Photo credit: Valentina Loffredo, Alike 2017. Courtesy of Novalis Contemporary Art, Hong Kong