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Alexander Montague-Sparey on The First Edition of PHOTOFAIRS San Francisco


The first edition of PHOTOFAIRS San Francisco launches this week, open to the public January 27-29 in the Festival Pavilion at the Fort Mason Center. On view will be presentations from 34 galleries from 14 countries throughout the Main and Platform sectors, as well as a specially curated “Insights” exhibition with work by John Chiara, Christine Elfman, Chris McCaw, Sean McFarland, Klea McKenna, Jacqueline Norheim, Meghann Riepenhoff, and Noah Wilson.

To learn more about the inaugural edition Whitewall spoke with the fair’s artistic director, Alexander Montague-Sparey.


© JORDAN SULLIVAN, Desert Imsomnia, 2016. Courtesy of Rubber Factory (New York)

WHITEWALL: PHOTOFAIRS has been taking place in Shanghai, until this year with a new edition in San Francisco. Why expand to San Francisco?

ALEXANDER MONTAGUE-SPAREY: San Francisco is a major photo capital—ironically, a lot of people don’t realize this. There are a huge number of collectors who live locally and the museums are incredibly dedicated to the medium. The Pritzker Center for Photography at SFMOMA is unparalleled in the USA and Pier24 has a curatorial vision, which most international photography institutions simply do not live up to.
WW: In September, you celebrated your third edition of PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai. There were 50 galleries from 15 countries, and 25% had never exhibited in China before. What can we expect for San Francisco in terms of scope?


© BOOMOON, Skogar #5594, 2015. Courtesy of Flowers Gallery (London & New York)

AM-S: The San Francisco fair will work with more American dealers. The scope is as international and will be the most international fair the city had ever seen. The fair will work very closely with leading Museums for the medium too, such as the de Young, Pier24, SFMOMA and the Getty Center, to name a few.

WW: How would you describe PHOTOFAIRS focus on the medium of photography and accessibility?

AM-S: We want to explore the more contemporary side of the medium. From photographers making unique prints, to others whose work is closely linked to video or installation art. PHOTOFAIRS is fast becoming the international platform for discovering and acquiring the works of the most cutting-edge artists working within the medium. Through a variety of diverse and dynamic initiatives such as STAGED (installations of photographs), CONNECTED (video curation presented by LEAP), CONVERSATIONS (experts and artist talks) and INSIGHTS, our private sales platform which puts a spotlight on international and West-Coast artists breaking the boundaries of the medium, in a curated setting at the center of the fair.


© ANJA NIEMI, The Stage. Courtesy of The Little Black Gallery (London)

WW: What type of collector demographic are you expecting to see in San Francisco?

AM-S: There are a lot of bay collectors dedicated to the medium but we are also working closely with a younger demographic who might have never collected before or who might have never even been to an art fair. The fair places a huge emphasis on the education of photography and the exploration of this fascinating and far-reaching medium.

WW: For those traveling to San Francisco for the fair this week, do you have any favorite spots to eat, get a drink, or see art you could share?


© SEBASTIAAN BREMER, Schoener Goetterfunken II B, ‘Daughter of Elysium’ (Tochter Aus Elysium), 2010. Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery (New York & Zurich)

AM-S: I love Cotogna, for the best Italian in the city. Nopalito is also amazing for Mexican food, followed by a stroll to Alamo Square and it’s beautiful houses. The roast chicken for two at Zuni’s on Market is a must.

Minnesota Street Project in the Dog Patch area of the city affords a very interesting look at the more cutting-edge local art scene, especially Casemore Kirkeby and Euqinom Projects. Ratio 3 in the Mission is also a must. 49 Geary houses the more traditional photography galleries. Gagosian‘s new space by SFMOMA is very handy after a tour of the amazing Pritzker wing and the Fisher Collection, which houses some of the most impressive Richters in a single collection. Pier24 Photography is stunning and on the water. They never fail in presenting contemporary and elegant exhibitions, which place an impressive spotlight on leading artists and themes within the medium.


© SEAN MCFARLAND, What May be Known But Not Always Seen, 2015. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby (San


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