The inaugural edition of the exhibitions Insights | New Approaches to Photography Since 2000 is co-curated by Biljana Ciric and Alexander Montague-Sparey, PHOTOFAIRS Artistic Director. The exhibition will feature thirteen international artists who challenge traditional photographic techniques.
What was the motivation behind the Insights exhibition?
AMS: With Insights we wanted to create an intimate and focused setting, which would take people away from the fair and provide a refreshing experience. In curating a museum quality show, we hope to engage collectors and visitors with current trends in contemporary photography, and to help them understand the medium and its evolution within history of art. The theme “New Approaches to Photography Since 2000” was chosen because in contemporary photography we have literally come full-circle, with many artists returning to older techniques. What this show underlines, is that technically speaking, a photograph can sometimes be more than an image printed on paper.
Which works in the show are the strongest in your opinion?
AMS: Each work in the show has been selected because it brings something special to the table and underlines a particular trend within the theme. From Helmut Newton’s unique polaroids, to Peter Beard’s iconic technique of applying cow’s blood to his prints. One of the biggest missions with this show was to really focus in on rising stars from Asia who have shown great prowess in flipping the medium on its head, such as local artist duo Birdhead, who hark back to Traditional Chinese Painting, or Timur Siqin, with his photographic sculptures.
Why are these new approaches important within the history of photography?
AMS: Today contemporary artists are using photography in a much more open-minded way, giving the medium a new lease of life. Ironically, photographs from glass-plate negatives were partly sought after exactly for their rarity, scientific prowess and fragility. What we are seeing today is quite different. The medium is so free, that artists are tearing their photos and painting on top of them, almost to break away from printing an image digitally. Artists are coming up with original ways to create something other than photographs.
How does this show differ from other shows on this theme?
BC: This exhibition provides an overview of new techniques with a deeply international perspective; though the focus is specifically on works from China. It is the first time this theme has been analyzed on this scale within the local context. One of the important aspects of this exhibition is that we decided to include a number of artists who use photography as a medium within their wider practice. By creating works, which are mostly unique, these artists move away from the editioning system, closer to the system that is in place for paintings — where there is only usually one example available on the market.
This show underlines the notion that photography can reinvent itself. How do you see this trend developing further?
BC: One of the most exciting things about photography is that the possibilities are endless and the boundaries are always being reinvented. Insights demonstrates how artists are trying to contribute to the overall conversation that has been developing now for centuries. This ongoing conversation keeps pushing limits of our vision further. Today we can produce much more than we can imagine. Art gives us the power to imagine, without any defined boundaries. Photography, as such, is not only a routine operation that involves the pressing of a button.
How does Insights relate back to the fair and its overall mission?
BC: In a very short period of time, PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai has done a fantastic job of promoting photography in Asia. The Insights initiative is yet another layer of originality and freshness the fair is bringing to the local scene by providing a unique platform that expands the horizons of the medium for collectors, buyers, and general public.