Part Art and Book Fair, Part Photo Fest, Unseen Delivers Energy, Mixed Reviews From Sellers in Second Year

© Amber Terranova

© Thijs Boontjes

In its second year, Unseen Art Fair drew an international audience to Amsterdam to view previously un-exhibited work from established artists and emerging talents. Set against the industrial backdrop of a repurposed nineteenth century coal gas power plant, the “art fair with a festival flair,” as organizers dubbed it, featured plenty of energy and excitement, but drew mixed reactions from gallerists, with some noting that combining an art fair, book fair and photo festival, with artist talks and other programming, distracted from the business of print sales.

Caroline O’Breen of Seelevel Gallery Amsterdam, on the other hand, said, “A lot of international collectors are coming to Unseen and [are] especially interested in collecting new photography works.” O’Breen felt the fair had grown from its first year. “In other fairs, especially Dutch fairs, it´s always very difficult to get international collectors to come over, and here they are present”. Seelevel showed brand new work made by a group of artists including Marrigje de Maar, Marnix Goossens, Isabelle Wenzel and Lieve Prins.

“I think the organization is terrific, [the] welcome is amazing,” said Jules Wright, director of London gallery The Wapping Project Bankside, which showed a new project by Edgar Martins on The European Space Agency. “[The] layout of space is elegant and democratic. However there are not buyers of any significance here,” Wright added. “However warm the welcome, and it certainly has been unlike any other fair I’ve been to, we have to sell. We have sold, but not sufficiently well.”

“For us, Unseen was everything an art fair should be: great encounters, great conversations and great sales,” said Robert Morat of Hamburg’s Robert Morat Gallery. Sales were especially good for “the two very young, emerging photographers we presented, Mårten Lange and Peter Puklus,” Morat added, though he acknowledged that Puklus’s simultaneous solo show at FOAM Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam “was certainly very helpful.”

Christophe Guye of Christophe Guye Gallery in Zurich, who showed work by emerging artist Lina Scheynius, said, “Unseen Amsterdam is not only an exciting and wonderfully organized fair but also a great opportunity to introduce emerging artists to an important international audience.”

Others felt that having the festival component could be more closely tied to the fair, so it would run less risk of distracting potential buyers.

“It´s been proven that it is possible [to have both a fair and festival],” noted Lars Boering, owner of Lux Gallery in Amsterdam, which did not have a both at the show. “But there´s also a danger that the festival and content of the fair are getting disconnected. I think the connection between festival and the content of the fair should be a little bit tighter, because I sense that some people get lost in between. Some really love the festival and don’t care much about the work, and I think that it should be about the work, because that´s the basis of why we [the galleries] are here.”

Photographer Todd Hido, who gave a presentation of new work and signed his book, “The End,” praised the book portion of Unseen. “I love the galleries but there´s nothing like the energy of the book market,” he said. “You walk around the tables and everyone´s showing what they recently created, and that´s really exciting, seeing old friends showing new work.”

“The thing that I like about Unseen Fair in general,” Hido added, “is that it´s got a very edgy but good group of young people showing work. I like how complete it was, having the books and the fair together.”

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