Preview: UNSEEN Amsterdam 2017 photo fair highlights

Presenting the never-before-seen work by 95 artists from 14 countries, this year’s edition of Unseen Amsterdam sets the stage for leading international photography.

Art Radar picks highlights from this year’s edition, taking place from 22 to 24 September 2017.

Jacqueline Hassink, 'Langisjór 1', from the series Unwired Landscapes, 2015, digital photograph Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam © Jacqueline Hassink-Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen

Jacqueline Hassink, ‘Langisjór 1’, from the series “Unwired Landscapes”, 2015, digital photograph Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam. © Jacqueline Hassink-Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen.

Organised by Unseen, a platform for showcasing leading contemporary photography, Unseen Amsterdam returns with its sixth edition at the Westergasfabriek, a former gas works factory located in the Dutch capital. Part of a raft of year-round events organised by Unseen, the fair provides a channel for the international photography community to converge. With 53 galleries from 14 different countries participating in the fair, including galleries from Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Japan, the fair promises a hard look at some of the latest developments in the practice of contemporary photography.

This year, the fair has also included new additions and developments in their accompanying programmes and events. New elements feature the “Unseen CO-OP”, touted as a space for showcasing the work of artist collectives from different parts of the world, as well as “Photo Pleasure Palace”, an interactive programme that depicts a bizarre wonderland filled with photo fortune tellers, photographic tattoo artists and print prizes. Particularly noteworthy in the line up of events is “Unseen Premieres”, a platform for debuting never-shown-before works.

Art Radar rounds up the highlights of this year’s Unseen Amsterdam Photo Fair.

Mohau Modisakeng, 'Passage', 2017, Ink-jet on Epson Hot Press Natural, 200 × 150 cm. Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam. © Mohau Modisakeng, Galerie Ron Mandos

Mohau Modisakeng, ‘Passage’, 2017, ink-jet on Epson hot press natural, 200 × 150 cm. Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam. © Mohau Modisakeng, Galerie Ron Mandos.

Unseen Premieres 2017: fresh works in photography

This year’s edition of “Unseen Premieres”, an exhibition showcasing inedited works, sees a grand total of 87 participating artists, with the highest number of works in its history. Besides artists such as Gregory Halpern, Kadir van Lohuizen and Jacqueline Hassink, other notable photographers include the South African Mohau Modisakeng (b. 1986, South Africa), known for her evocative portraits exploring the themes of racial and ethnic identity, mourning, loss and struggle.

At “Unseen Premieres”, Modisakeng’s work Passage (2017) depicts a surreal figure dressed in black and white, sprawled across a boat left to float across an ocean surface. Part of a larger series of work, portraying the eventual submergence of the boat itself, Modisakeng’s work evokes feelings of helplessness, tragedy and loss. Also participating in the exhibition is Tanya Habjouqa (b. 1975, Jordan) with her work Adam and Eve (2016), from the “Sacred Space Oddity, The Un:Holy Land” body of work, representing the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. A photographer with a particular focus on uncovering gender, social, and human rights across the Middle East, Habjouqa manages to inject a whimsical, almost absurdist sensitivity in her works.

Yosuke Yajima, ‘Anonymous works’, 2017, digital photograph. Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam. © Yosuke Yajima

Lumix Meets Beyond 2020 by Japanese Photographers #5

Showcasing six emerging Japanese artists, Yusuke Yamatani, Haruyuki Shirai, Kohey Kanno, Yosuke Yajima, Kenji Hirasawa, and Junpei Ueda, the exhibition presents works that build upon the theme “Portraits in the Post-Truth Era”. Bringing together a range of subjects and responses from the six photographers, the exhibition is an eclectic mix: Yusuke Yamatani portrays houses lit in an eerie, neon-like glow, whilst Kohey Kanno references formal studio photography in his streetwear-like portrait shot. Junpei Ueda and Yosuke Yajima choose more enigmatic portrait views: Yajima’s subject has her back turned towards the viewer, her face hidden, whereas Ueda’s depicts a boy’s vaguely unhappy side profile. Haruyuki Shirai’s bizarre work pictures the scene in which, crawling out of the shrubbery, a figure clad in futuristic, day-glo dress creeps out from behind trees. Selected by the iMA Media Project, the range of responses are varied, presenting a slice of contemporary Japanese photography.

Pasi Orrensalo, 'Number 1', 2017, digital photograph. Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam. © Pasi Orrensalo, mirko mayer gallery

Pasi Orrensalo, ‘Number 1’, 2017, digital photograph. Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam. © Pasi Orrensalo, mirko mayer gallery.

Nico Krijno, 'Flowers for Gundula', 2017, digital photograph. Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam. © Nico Krijno, The Ravestijn Gallery

Nico Krijno, ‘Flowers for Gundula’, 2017, digital photograph. Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam. © Nico Krijno, The Ravestijn Gallery.

Meijburg Art Commission, Third Edition

A collaboration between Unseen and the Dutch tax advisory firm Meijburg & Co., the Meijburg Art Commission is a jointly run prize aiming to support the work of emerging, talented photographers from all over the world. The commission allows selected artists to further develop a site-specific artwork focused on the practice of photography, and later added to the art collection of Meijburg & Co. Selected by a three-person panel, the Meijburg Art Commission recently announced the international line-up of nominees: Nico Krijno (b. 1981, South Africa), Yoshinori Mizutani (b. 1987, Japan), Pasi Orrensalo (b. 1969, Finland), Jannemarein Renout (b. 1969, The Netherlands) and Tom Zwerver (b. 1951, The Netherlands).

The finalists represent a diverse cross-section of international photography. Finalists have distinct practices, addressing specific themes in their work. Nico Krijno, for example, builds his practice around site-specific installations. His work includes portraits of himself playing instruments in deliberately constructed sets such an electric piano in a bathtub like in his Self Portrait Bathtub Performance With Electric Piano (2015). In Flowers for Gundula (2017)Krijno depicts a bouquet perched amidst an elaborate table placement in what appears to be a fresh take on the still life genre. Surrounded by consciously placed fruit and petals, the bouquet, in its staged setting, speaks to Krijno’s background in theatre and experimental video.

RUANG MES 56 Collective, 'Alhamdulillah We Made It', 2015, digital photograph. Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam. © Hani.A.Musa-RUANG MES 56 Collective

RUANG MES 56 Collective, ‘Alhamdulillah We Made It’, 2015, digital photograph. Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam. © Hani.A.Musa-RUANG MES 56 Collective.

Launch of Unseen CO-OP, 2017 

A brand-new initiative, “Unseen CO-OP” is billed as a space exclusively dedicated to showcasing the work of artist collectives from all over the world. Taking place in the Transformatorhuis at the Westergasfabriek, the project aims at creating a social hub designed to explore the latest in commercial and fine art photography. Curated by Lars Willumeit in collaboration with the Unseen committee, 13 art collectives will be participating in the first edition of “Unseen CO-OP”. These include Britto Arts Trust (Bangladesh), Ruang MES 56 (Indonesia) and Nepal Picture Library (Nepal).

RUANG MES 56’s work entitled Alhamdulillah We Made It (2015) was originally commissioned for the OzAsia Festival. Drawing on posters created by the Australian Government, which was disseminated around Yogyakarta to warn refugees that they would be refused entry into Australia, the image deals with the thorny issue of refugee and migrant rights. Established in the late 1990s between a group of students at the Institute of the Arts Yogyakarta, Indonesia, the artists created the organisation RUANG MES 56 as a response to the lack of gallery infrastructure at the time.

Tanya Habjouqa, 'Adam and Eve', from the series Sacred Space Oddity, The Un-Holy Land, 2016, digital photograph. Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam. © Tanya Habjouqa-ILEX Gallery

Tanya Habjouqa, ‘Adam and Eve’, from the series “Sacred Space Oddity, The Un-Holy Land”, 2016, digital photograph. Image courtesy Unseen Amsterdam. © Tanya Habjouqa-ILEX Gallery.

With a vast programme, a crowded participation of leading galleries and a dynamic location, Unseen Amsterdam 2017 uncovers the depth of contemporary photographic practice happening around the world today. An ambitious platform, Unseen Amsterdam remains a must-see for those interested in catching up with the world of photography today.

Junni Chen


Related topics: photography, fairsfeature, events in the Netherlands

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