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Q&A- Fariba Farshad and Michael Benson

Directors, Candlestar cultural consultancy, London

Photo London

21-24 May, Somerset House

Candlestar directors Fariba Farshad and Michael Benson (pictured) launch the inaugural annual Photo London at Somerset House in May. This world-class photography fair will host international galleries, including New York’s Howard Greenberg and Tokyo’s Taka Ishii, and showcases photography from the 19th century to today alongside events across the city.

What sparked your vision for Photo London?
Michael Benson: We had the idea when Candlestar moved to Somerset House [in 2013]. We’d just come back from Art Basel or something ghastly like that and we thought how nice it would be to create an art fair where you can sit down, rest between the zones and just enjoy the experience. Photo London was conceived as an antidote to the huge grid-tented fairs. Fariba Farshad: From the beginning the idea was to have a fair that is smaller, more curated and in a place that actually captures the flavour of London – the excitement, the difference – and celebrate that.

Was it inspired by international fairs such as Paris Photo?
MB: It’s really a response to Paris Photo, the Arles Festival and the Unseen Photo Fair in the Netherlands. We’re admirers of all three; we looked at their models and thought about how we could synthesise the things we admire.

Photo London is the biggest Somerset House takeover. How many galleries will there be?
MB: We managed to convince 69 of the world’s finest photography galleries to be here. We started in America – a real stronghold of photography – but we’ve also got major galleries from Japan, Turkey, Australia, India and many from Europe. What we’re hoping to achieve, and the way we’ve curated the show, is for people to go around Photo London and experience a series of surprises.

Why is this the right time for an event such as this?
MB: London has fallen in love with photography, to put it mildly. Over the past 10 years the great museums, galleries and art collectors have started taking photography seriously as an art form. There’s a real momentum and this was the right moment to develop an art fair that helps build that momentum and make this a great city for photography.

How do you ensure it’s more than just a yearly splash?
MB: We’re trying to make this a real magnet for photography. We’ve created a whole public programme to draw people in, including an installation by Rut Blees Luxemburg and major exhibitions from the V&A and the Kaveh Golestan archive. The idea is that we establish these five days in May as London’s photography week. You think: “We have to be in London because we’re going to see the best photography on the planet.”
FF: It’s going to be “wow”. As soon as you walk in you’ll know you’re at Photo London.

In the spotlight

New York [ART FAIR]

Frieze New York
14-17 May
The New York edition of Frieze, the contemporary-art fair established in London in 2003, returns to Randall’s Island Park for its fourth edition this May. The event will welcome 40,000 visitors to more than 190 international galleries as diverse as Greece’s The Breeder (“Fortunately Absurdity is Lost” by Stelios Faitakis, 2014, pictured right) and South African space Stevenson (Portia Zvavahera’s “Living the Dream”, 2014, pictured far right). This year’s big addition is Spotlight (first seen at Frieze Masters in London). Curated by Museu de Arte de São Paulo’s Adriano Pedrosa, it presents solo-artist work made in the 20th century, with a focus on countries underexposed in the art world, as well as lesser-known collections from famous artists. For Victoria Siddall, incoming director of Frieze New York, Spotlight “demonstrates our commitment to discovery”. Alongside the non-profit Frieze Projects, the event also features plenty of local talent. “Some of the city’s most established galleries are joining us this year,” says Siddall. “Acquavella, Matthew Marks, Pace and Skartstedt are all showing for the first time.”

Picture house

Köln [AUCTION]

Lempertz 29-30 May Among the 200 lots under the hammer in the Lempertz spring showcase is Hilo Street by Thomas Struth (below), which is expected to have bidders jostling around the €30,000 mark. In the past the art-photography focused auction house has previewed 19th-century images alongside newfangled contemporary photography, as well as a healthy smattering of bare-skinned beauties and a cosmic collection of Nasa photographs. — mka lempertz.com   The highlights

Thomas Struth

“Hilo Street”, 2003 (below), chromogenic print flush-mounted to Plexiglass, 140cm x 182.6cm Estimate: €30,000-€40,000  

Bill Brandt

“London” 1952 (bottom), printed later, gelatin silver print, 33.5cm x 28.8cm Estimate: €7,000-€9,000  

Otto Steinert

“Die Bäume vor Meinem Fenster II” (Trees in Front of My Window II), 1956, vintage ferrotyped gelatin silver print mounted to original card, 48.8cm x 61cm Estimate: €8,000-€10,000

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