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Unseen Amsterdam : an interview with Emilia van Lynden (Artistic Director)

[19 Sep 2017]
DAISY 1, from the series Last Child in the Woods © Melanie Bonajo_AKINCI_selection made by Unseen

DAISY 1, from the series Last Child in the Woods © Melanie Bonajo AKINCI selection made by Unseen

Unseen Amsterdam is returning for its sixth edition this year. What kind of evolutions did you notice for this event throughout the 5 past years?

Unseen was founded in 2012 with the purpose to create a fair that was focused on emerging talent and the newest works by established artists. A fair that would show the diversity of the medium of photography, that focused on the current state of photography and that welcomed not only established collectors but also young budding collectors and enthusiasts. An event that showed the accessibility of photography and the photography market.

We evolved through the years and set up Unseen Photo Festival alongside Unseen Photo Fair, a jam-packed programme of various exhibitions all over the city of Amsterdam. Highlighting the wealth that Amsterdam, and the Netherlands, has in regards to the Arts.

We have now rebranded Unseen into a year round platform for contemporary photography with our main event Unseen Amsterdam taking place in September in Amsterdam. The event in Amsterdam consists of the Fair, CO-OP (a space for artist collectives), the Book Market, the Living Room (our speakers programme), exhibitions, a city programme and much more. With the platform, we want to emphasize the breadth of artists working in photography and the new themes, techniques and presentation models that artists are using in this day and age. We will do this by continuing our leading event in Amsterdam, but also by creating more visibility for our artists throughout the year through online and offline activation. We work with over 200 artists annually and we want to share their stories with a larger and more diverse audience.

How does Unseen Amsterdam stand out in the context of the global art fair calendar?

Unseen largely stands out due to the fact that our concept is all about new works, new artists and new developments. We want to show our audience what is currently happening within the industry and therefore also really ask our artists to come with premiering work. A premiere is work that has never been seen before in any gallery, institution or at any art fair.

94 of the 142 artists showing work within the fair are attending Unseen Amsterdam this year with a premiere. This is a phenomenal amount and one that we are very proud of. This means that people really come to Unseen Amsterdam to discover. It is an aspect of the event which I believe truly makes it exceptional, as these works are entering the market for the very first time. It also means that our collectors have the possibility to find emerging artists and their newest works before the rest of the Art Market.

Unseen is a very international venue. How many countries are represented this year? Could you tell us a bit more about the international evolution throughout the years?

Since its inception, Unseen has always aspired to be as international as possible. This is why we invite galleries from all over the world, including of course those located in the Netherlands. It is important to show our audience the variety of galleries that exist globally and especially the artists that they represent. Therefore, we always try and find new and exciting artists and galleries from regions that are still underrepresented or explored both at Unseen Amsterdam, as well as in the Netherlands in general.

We will be welcoming galleries from 14 different countries with new exhibiting galleries from Lebanon, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan, Switzerland, France and Germany.

In addition to the fair, one of our main programme elements for this year is CO-OP. A space dedicated to thirteen artist collectives. We are thrilled to have collectives from Bangladesh, Colombia, Nepal, Indonesia and many other European countries. It is important, especially for the artists coming from afar, to gain as much visibility as possible.

The international component of Unseen is essential and we aim to further expand on these opportunities for our artists in the future.

Could you comment on the selection process of galleries and artists?

Unseen Amsterdam annually invites galleries to submit a proposal for the fair, highlighting a maximum of four artists per presentation and stipulating the newest works of those artists that they wish to exhibit. We travel throughout the year to pick up on new artists and galleries, so that we can invite participants that have not yet been included within the fair. Once these galleries have submitted their proposals, we review them with our advisory committee which is comprised of specialists working within the field, ranging from independent and institutional curators to auction house specialists. We select the proposals that we believe adhere the most to our concept, showing artists that are exploring photography and pushing the boundaries of the medium in innovative manners.

What do the artworks presented at this edition reveal about current trends and tastes in the Art Market?

A lot of the artworks presented at the fair this year touch many different mediums, incorporating sculpture, painting, audio, moving image and much more. This highlights that many artists working with the medium of photography use photography as one of their tools but not necessarily as their only tool. These practitioners also don’t necessarily want to be labelled as a photographer but as an artist working with a diverse range of techniques and materials.

We have seen that many collectors are also very interested in exploring this side of the Arts, as the majority of our collectors do not solely collect photography. It highlights that photography has truly become one of the Fine Arts and that it does not have to be compartmentalised any longer. This is definitely a positive change and one that Unseen embraces.

Unseen is very engaged in the evolutions with the photographic medium through discussions and debates organized during the fair. According to you, what are the main directions of these evolutions?

This refers to my previous answer, highlighting the evolution of the medium to be more inclusive and to have less rigid boundaries.

Artists are exploring different manners in which to tell their personal stories by including a variety of materials into their works and approaching their subjects from different positions. Highlighting these different perspectives enhance the notion that the personal or societal themes that artists are tapping into are hugely complex and cannot be approached from one particular stand point.

What is the best advice you can give to a potential collector?

Regret is a useless emotion. If you love it and it fits within your budget, then buy it. Tomorrow it might be gone.

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