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Images as art

Lin Qi
Updated: Jun 14,2016 9:19 AM     China Daily

Photofairs Shanghai offers a good platform for Chinese artists to showcase their works to international galleries and collectors.[Photo/China Daily]

Photofairs Shanghai, an annual international event, will be held at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in September this year.

In its third edition, the fair, previously called Photo Shanghai, will continue to serve as a launch pad for Chinese artists engaged in contemporary photography, exposing them to international galleries, dealers and collectors, from Sept 9 to 11.

The fair also hopes to further cultivate the interest of Asian collectors, especially from the younger generation, in not only vintage photograph but in experimental works in which photography is merged with other mediums, notably video art.

The highlights this year include a section displaying celebrated artists’ works focusing on photography and the moving image and a section for artists who have not exhibited before on the Chinese mainland.

The fair will also have a themed annual exhibition, Insights, which will center on new approaches to photography since 2000, and feature Chinese artists, including Geng Jianyi and Jiang Pengyi.

Confirmed exhibitors include Hong Kong-based Blindspot Gallery, ShanghArt Gallery that has spaces in Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore, and Camera Work from Berlin.

Works featured in the Shanghai event last year include Untitled (Parrot) by Giovanni Gastel and Horse Pool and House by Luis Barragan.[Photo/China Daily]

Last year’s fair drew more than 26,000 visitors, with works priced between $1,000 and $120,000 sold.

Well-received exhibitions in the past two years have included an Asian debut show by American artist Taryn Simon, whose Birds of the West Indies series was shown at the Gagosian Gallery booth.

An increasing number of Chinese artists have taken up photography to express themselves, and the boundaries between this and other artistic forms are becoming blurred.

Meanwhile, the number of collectors of contemporary photography and mixed-media works involving photography is rising in China, says Jin Hongwei, a Chinese-American collector.

Jin runs the Cipa Gallery in Beijing’s Caochangdi art district, and exhibited at the same Shanghai fair earlier.

He says while Westerners today buy more than 80 percent of photos shown in the capital’s 798 Art Zone, the market is developing fast as contemporary photography is gaining more recognition among both emerging Chinese artists and collectors.

“It took 50 years for the (photo) market to evolve in the United States,” he says, adding that the 1980s saw an upsurge in interest, thanks in part to a group of pioneering photographers such as Robert Mapplethorpe, who is known for his sensitive treatment of niche topics.

Since then, people have recognized the value of photography as an independent category of art collection.

Works featured in the Shanghai event last year include Untitled (Parrot) by Giovanni Gastel and Horse Pool and House by Luis Barragan.[Photo/China Daily]

Commenting on the quality of works seen in China, Lin Tianmiao, a contemporary artist who incorporates photography in her mixed-media works, says contemporary Western and Japanese photography are quite insightful in scale and scope because they touch viewers by reflecting the dynamics of life.

“In this respect, Chinese artists who are into contemporary photography have a long way to go.”

Photofairs Shanghai is organized by the World Photography Organization, founded in London in 2007. It also runs the Sony World Photography Awards.

It will hold Photofairs San Francisco from Jan 27 to 29, 2017, in the Festival Pavilion at the Fort Mason Center.

Photofairs San Francisco will not only cater to Silicon Valley, but also aims to showcase Chinese artists to the US West Coast.

If their works are well received, more artists in China would be encouraged to engage in photography, says Scott Gray, the CEO of World Photography Organization.

And, it may well bring Western collectors and galleries to future Shanghai fairs.

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