Shanghai photo fair focuses on up-and-coming artists, with Asian galleries strongly featured

China’s first dedicated photographic art fair brings works from 50 galleries. Women artists feature heavily and there is a re-imagining of a 1999 show that was closed down by authorities

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 6:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 8:39am

Work by up-and-coming artists rather than celebrity names is in focus at this year’s Photofairs Shanghai, China’s first dedicated photographic art fair. Now in its fifth year, the show has also given over more space to Asian photographers.

Some 50 galleries from 16 countries are represented at Photofairs Shanghai, which started today and ends on September 23. Art galleries from Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong are still well represented, but more galleries from Japan are showing this year, and there is more space devoted to Japanese and South Korean artists, according to Liu Heung-shing, a veteran Chinese photojournalist and founder of the Shanghai Centre of Photography.

“So it’s become more pan-Asian,” he says.

Group fair director Georgia Griffiths says organisers made a conscious effort to boost Japanese involvement in Photofairs Shanghai this year. The show shines a spotlight on Hiroshi Sugimoto’s works, and Japanese exhibitors such as the Taka Ishii Gallery, Art Space AM and Rin Art Association are taking part. New York’s Christine Park gallery is representing a pan-Asian roster of artists.

Hong Kong’s Novalis Gallery is taking part for the first time.

“This is the focus of photography in Asia,” says Novalis’ curator Chiara Caratti. “It’s important for us to understand what collectors like from all over Asia.”

There are more photographs by women artists on show this year. Three of the four photographers s featured at the Novalis booth are women – Margot Errante, Valentina Loffredo and Constanza Gastaldi.

Austrian feminist performance artist Valie Export’s work is included in the Thaddaeus Ropac gallery’s show, and Norwegian woman photographer Anja Niemi is among the artists represented by Photo 12 Galerie.

Griffiths says: “To be perfectly honest, in some parts this was intentional and in some parts a happy coincidence. For example, Thaddaeus Ropac were originally only supposed to be bringing Irving Penn and another male master. It then became this idea of balancing this with the likes of Valie Export, who I just love [and who is] already well known in Europe and North America.

“It’s great to give her a platform in Asia – she’s an example of someone we really wanted to champion.”

Can Shanghai photo fair persuade Chinese art collectors to invest in contemporary works?

A highlight of this year’s fair is the re-imagining of a 1999 exhibition, “The Same But Also Changed”. One of the first group shows of contemporary photography in Shanghai, it was abruptly shut down by the government before it could admit members of the public.

Curated by Victor Wang, this exhibition features some of the artists represented in 1999, including Chen Zhe. “I hope to highlight the rich ‘unofficial’ exhibition histories of contemporary art in China, and the role photography and art can play to help illuminate the larger social and cultural landscape of China at that time,” he told the Photofairs Shanghai website.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong-born Taiwanese photographer Stanley Fung showcases his series of white horse bones.

“My work has evolved a little. I’m still using quite the same method, natural light and similar subjects, people, still life objects [but] I approached [these from] more of a sculptural angle,” he says of the meditative images.

China’s art photography market is young but collectors are on a steep learning curve. Where previously they would choose works by the likes of Patrick Demarchelier and Herb Ritts, “now there’s this new confidence where people are buying more experimental and conceptual [works],” says Griffiths.

She says Chinese collectors are also showing more interest in Chinese artists’ work, pointing to the success of Chen Wei and the artist known as Birdhead.

Photofairs Shanghai, Shanghai Exhibition Centre, 1000 Yanan Road, near Tongren Road, Friday 6-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am-6pm.