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For its debut in New York, PHOTOFAIRS features a significant section devoted to solo shows of prints, video, and photography, by names like Nicole Wilson at Praise Shadows Gallery, Maleonn at Shun Art Gallery, and Ole Marius Joergensen at Momentum. Other not to miss booths include Elijah Wheat showing Rhiannon Adam, Kenny Dunkan at Postmasters Gallery, and Delphine Diallo at Fisheye Gallery.
In addition to the launch of the 21c Acquisition Prize, special programming includes partners like Fotografiska, For Freedoms, Jamaica Art Society, Baxter St at the Camera Club, and more. Whitewall spoke with PHOTOFAIRS director Helen Toomer about how the fair offers a chance for discovery while pushing the boundaries of photography and image-making.
WHITEWALL: This is the first edition of PHOTOFAIRS in New York. What can visitors expect from this inaugural edition?
HELEN TOOMER: They can expect to be pleasantly surprised! PHOTOFAIRS New York is a place for discovery—a showcase of innovation and a celebration of photography, which is at the heart of the fair. Physically, it's an exciting mix of photo-focused galleries, interdisciplinary contemporary art spaces, and organizations that champion lens-based artists and those at the forefront of emerging technologies all in one place. It's exciting to provide a platform for artists to not only share their work but their voice alongside industry leaders on ever-evolving discussions around image-making.
WW: PHOTOFAIRS first launched in Shanghai. How does this fair feel particularly “New York.”
HT: Just by being at the Javits Center, surrounded by buildings and the Hudson River feels very "New York"! There's no energy or art market like there is here and I think we've managed to harness it by our location, timing, and by welcoming a tight-knit roster of global exhibitors, partners and soon-to-be visitors! It's going to be eclectic and surprising, just like New York City itself.
WW: Can you tell us about the location, at the Javits Center, alongside The Armory Show?
HT: It's great and we love our neighbors! Having both fairs under the same roof provides distinct yet complementary experiences for audiences and collectors. The result is an unmissable moment on New York’s arts calendar for artists, curators, collectors, and visitors, who can even access both fairs with one combined ticket on our Friday public opening.
WW: The fair is dedicated to photo-based and digital works. How do the works on view expand our notion of the idea of the “photo”?
HT: Even more than the idea of the photo, the fair explores the practice of image-making, and how that landscape has and is evolving. Audiences will be able to experience analog photography, works created with new technologies like AI and ChatGPT, and mixed media projects that focus on the materiality of photography and bring in elements of collage, painting, and sculpture. Photography is at the heart of the fair and image-making is the thread that binds it together, cementing the centrality it plays in our visual culture.
WW: Over one-third of the presentations on view will be solo presentations. Are there any highlights you can share?
HT: Every presentation at the fair, whether staged by an exhibitor or one of our programming partners, is thoughtfully curated, and we’re especially excited that many are in-depth explorations of a single artist’s practice. Among the many incredible solo presentations, I’m looking forward to seeing the work of Rhiannon Adam (Elijah Wheat), Chris Engman (Luis de Jesus Los Angeles), Huntrezz Janos (TRANSFER), Elliot and Erick Jimenez (Spinello Projects), who are all pushing the medium forward in fresh and exciting ways.
WW: Are there any emerging artists we should keep an eye out? And conversely, presentations of very established photographers we should be sure not to miss?
HT: Yes there are lots to keep an eye out for! Which is why I encourage everyone to visit the fair as there's nothing like experiencing art in person!
It's exciting to watch the trajectories of artists like Larry Cook (Chela Mitchell), Sarp Kerem Yavuz (Von Lintel), Delphine Diallo (Fisheye Gallery) and seeing their work at PHOTOFAIRS New York alongside some of influential photographers Edward Weston and Arnold Newman (Howard Greenberg), Ansel Adams and Larry Fink (Robert Mann).
WW: Can you tell us about the 21C Acquisition Prize?
HT: We’re thrilled to be collaborating with 21c Museum Hotels, one of our programming partners, to launch the 21c Acquisition Prize during our inaugural edition. The award was created in partnership with Alice Gray Stites, Chief Curator and Museum Director of 21c, a dear friend and wonderful champion of artists! It's amazing to be able to collaborate with peers who share the same drive to support artists and bring people together.
From the artists exhibiting at PHOTOFAIRS New York, Alice will select work to bring into 21c’s collection, and we’ll announce the recipient on Friday, September 8, our first public day.
WW: Can you share some highlights from the partner presentations, from organizations like Fotografiska, For Freedoms, Jamaica Art Society, and Baxter Street?
HT: Yes, I'm excited about these! Fotografiska is presenting a special installation of recent portraits by Native American photographer Cara Romero, For Freedoms is showcasing photographic work by a cohort of their Fellows, Jamaica Art Society is staging an exhibition of video works titled Memories Don’t Leave Like People Do, which is curated by their epic founder Tiana Webb Evans and features work by artists Simon Benjamin, Zachary Fabri, Ania Freer, Timothy Yanick Hunter, and Jamilah Sabur. And Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, which has been at the forefront of supporting lens-based artists for years, is mounting an impactful project by an alumnus of their Guest Curatorial Program, Emma Safir.
WW: Outside of the fair, what else around New York are you looking forward to seeing during the New York art world’s back-to-school season?
HT: I hope to see as much as possible, running around with people I love and admire! I truly appreciate all the work put in from artists, galleries, museums, and us "arts organizers" and am excited to experience what is being thoughtfully shared with us this week and beyond!