Amsterdam's photo fair for emerging photographers has an extensive exhibitions and events programme, and is now running a multi-faceted photography platform
For three days this week, from 22 to 24 September, the Dutch capital will host the sixth edition of Unseen Amsterdam. With an extensive and exclusive programme, the event prides itself on incubating and exhibiting photography from both established and emerging artists. This year is no different: the old gasworks factory, the Westergasfabriek will host more than 53 international galleries with new additions from Mexico and Lebanon, showing over 160 artists and about 80 ‘premieres’ – brand-new work that will make its debut at the fair, featuring projects by Todd Hido, Gregory Halpern, Peggy Franck and Ricardo Cases.
Founded in 2012, the event has always been keen to embrace elements and experiments beyond its primary identity as a fair. This year the Unseen Photo Fair & Festival has become Unseen Amsterdam, drawing together the fair, book market, speakers programme, onsite projects and exhibitions, talent awards, city programme, magazine and website under one umbrella. This change is a move to becoming a multi-faceted photography platform that will function throughout the year with smaller events abroad.
A common theme of the many branches of this year’s Unseen Amsterdam is collaboration. From students, collectives and established artists, to international institutions and museums across the city, the programme engages with all layers of the industry. “The need for collaboration in the arts is so important, both to bring new voices to the table and to challenge the medium in unexpected ways,” says Emilia van Lynden, Unseen’s new artistic director.
One highlight is CO-OP, a new space given over to 13 global collectives to show their work, as well as developing new commercial formats within which to frame it. Led by independent curator Lars Willumeit, CO-OP features groups from Europe, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia and Colombia.
“We wanted to invite these collectives to explore the possibilities of the art market and position themselves by looking at different commercial models and interacting with our audience,” says Van Lynden. “We noticed that they were very capable of creating fantastic presentations of their work but didn’t necessarily know how to make sales. By doing this, we want to give the artists the reins and hopefully contribute to the sustainability of their collectives. It’s also a great opportunity for galleries and collectors to meet people whose work is more underground.”
In the past five years Unseen has created a number of awards, the winners of which will exhibit at the festival, such as Robin Lopvet, an ING Talent Award recipient, alongside Tom Callemin, Andrea Grützner, Alexandra Lethbridge and Stefanie Moshammer. There is also the Grolsch Unseen Residency, a scholarship in a European city to produce new work, awarded this year to Croatia-born artist Lana Mesić.
Another notable collaboration lies behind Unseen’s key exhibition, Photo Pleasure Palace. The brainchild of artists Thomas Mailaender and Erik Kessels, this interactive event is a photography funfair of sorts, where visitors are invited to play. “Both artists have a fascination with the absurd and showing photography in ways that explore how images are disseminated and digested. We asked them to make a big exhibition that lets our audience engage with photography in a completely different way to the fair,” Van Lynden comments.
Students also have a presence at the event as Unseen has joined forces with the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague. The work of second-year students, who have been studying ‘fiction’ under artist duo Broomberg & Chanarin and ‘documentary’ under Raimond Wouda, will be presented in an onsite exhibition.
Collaboration of a cross-institutional kind extends to The Living Room – Unseen Amsterdam’s speakers programme. The Center for Creative Photography in Arizona has organised a series of talks encouraging photography specialists to talk about their most recent artistic discoveries. With the likes of curator Susan Bright and collector Bill Hunt lined up, the talks are set to explore what talent means and where to find it. London’s Barbican Centre also joins the roster, with its variety of issues including a conversation between artists Richard Mosse and Edmund Clark about the refugee crisis.