Photofairs Shanghai is returning for its fourth edition from September 8 to 10 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center, bringing with it 50 galleries and institution from 16 countries and regions, the most international edition to the date.
Launched in 2014, Photofairs was created to serve China's growing demand for contemporary photography collections and to bridge individual collectors and curators from public museums and private collections with Chinese and foreign artists.
This year's fair focuses on artistic presentations that challenge the traditional understanding of the photographic medium. Aside from the 50 exhibiting galleries, it also features a new expanded public program of art installations, performances and exhibitions, all which aim to show the scope of the photographic medium while challenging audience expectations.
The Global Times recently spoke with Scott Gray, CEO and founder of Photofairs Shanghai, about the highlights of this year's event and what role it plays in driving the Chinese art photography market forward as a collectable medium.
GT: What are the highlights of this year's Photofairs Shanghai?
Scott Gray: I am thrilled to see a number of notable newcomers joining the fair this year, not only from China but internationally. Dealers like Robert Mann Gallery (New York) and Ag Galerie (Tehran) offer our collectors new discoveries and demonstrate a growing interest and confidence in the Chinese photography market. We have also launched a series of new initiatives this year, including Spotlight, which is an exhibition that re-examines the work of the late Ren Hang. Staged is a series of projects that interrupt the space of the fair with large-scale installations and performances. Other highlights include Conversations, a series of talks and artists, and Insights, which is an exhibition that examines the history of color photography.
GT: What changes has this fair brought to Chinese contemporary photography? What do you think is the most significant overall change in China's photography and art collecting market?
Scott Gray: Since the launch of the fair, we have seen steady growth in the understanding of collecting photography and the appreciation of its value as a collectable medium. We see this at the fair and it is further demonstrated by institutions such as the YUZ Museum, who are holding their first-ever photography show this year. The market in China is still relatively young and new to the medium, but offers such versatility within the contemporary art sphere that it is being fully embraced. In addition to this, I also expect to see increasing interest in Chinese artists from international collectors and institutions. We have seen this interest at our San Francisco fair and this will also support growth back in the local market.
GT: What is the standard to selecting galleries? Is there a balance between Chinese and foreign galleries?
Scott Gray: The fair selects each gallery on the basis of their artistic presentation, which is why you can find established dealers like Taka Ishii Gallery and ShanghART Gallery alongside emerging galleries such as Rubber Factory and Kahmann Gallery. Whilst the 2017 edition will be the most international to date, with galleries coming from 16 countries and regions including Russia, Iran and Japan, we are very much rooted within China and look to champion galleries and artists here. I am delighted to say that this year we have both returning and new galleries from Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu.
GT: What are some trends in sales statistics over the past several years? Who are the major buyers? What are their preferences?
Scott Gray: Every buyer and collector has their own approach, with some preferring more contemporary art pieces whilst others look to focus on more classical, iconic works. The beauty of photography is in its diversity. As such, it provides genuine options for all buyers and collectors. Our Collectors' Exhibition Telling Tales, curated by Erin Barnett (International Center of Photography, New York), is an example of collectors' individual tastes and interests but with a shared commitment to photography.
GT: What expectations do you hold for Chinese contemporary photography and its respective collecting market?
Scott Gray: I genuinely believe that the photography market in China can become one of the biggest in the world, as it is such a diverse and vibrant medium. The ingredients for a successful market are here; there is a significant and growing interest in the medium domestically as well as international interest in Chinese artists. The market is well-positioned and we will continue to work hard in supporting its growth and development.
Date: 11 am to 6 pm, September 8 to 10
Venue: Shanghai Exhibition Center
Address: 1000 Yan'an Road Middle
Visitors at the exhibition Photo: Courtesy of James Ambrose
A woman enjoys photos exhibited in the event. Photo: Courtesy of James Ambrose