In Rotterdam, Haute Photographie revamps the fair concept

Putting on a museum-quality collective show, Haute Photographie, held in Rotterdam from 8 to 12 February, is renewing the concept of image-related commercial events. A lowdown on the first edition…

Haute Photographie is a new fair concept tested out by Dutch gallerist Roy Kahmann during Art Rotterdam Week, from 8 to 12 February. After a pilot initiative last year, Haute Photographie has just welcomed crowds of visitors to its first edition, held over five days. Organisers filled a 1,250 m2 space adjacent to Rotterdam’s FotoMuseum. Some 250 works by around fifty artists were presented by five galleries.

This new type of fair was designed to offer a more intimate and convivial version of the big yearly events that punctuate the photography market, of which Paris Photo has become emblematic. “I hate the current system of fairs organised by stands that are limited in size and in which the visitor’s attention gets lost,” explains the Haute Photographie founder. “I wanted image presentation to be closer to that in a museum while offering the possibility of buying works. Here, visitors can discover pieces in a relaxed atmosphere before going off for a meal in the starred restaurant or looking around the bookshop.” Instead of the customary stands, organisers have taken the collective-hanging approach, with each artist being accorded wide picture rails. These were presented in a highly organised space that facilitated circulation and offered armchairs and benches. Particular attention was paid to lighting.

Young and vintage talent

At the fair’s entrance, visitors were ushered in by a selection of three large prints by Antoine d’Agata, hanging opposite three images of Rotterdam’s parks by Jeroen Hofman.  Polaroid nude shots by Carla van de Puttelaar were on offer at €1,450 while black-and-white portraits of young sailors by Belgian Stephan Vanfleteren were priced at €2,950. This series, one of which was chosen for the fair’s poster, met with great success; over thirty prints were sold by the fair’s third day. Several young Dutch artists benefited from a dedicated space for their first exhibition. Thanks to his magazine GUP and his yearly work New Dutch Talent compiling 100 young Dutch artists, Roy Kahmann proves to be an expert on his country’s scene. Two young artists recently taken on by his gallery were also presented facing one another: Laura Kampman, an ex-model turned photographer, and Laura Hospes, whose black-and-white self-portraits are redolent of Francesca Woodman’s universe. In the space dedicated to vintage photography, prints by Christer Strömholm, William Klein, Gérard Fieret and Louis Faurer were shown.

Four guest galleries

Haute Photographie logically places a spotlight on artists from Kahmann Gallery which opened in 2005 in Amsterdam. Half made up of international photographers, with the other half consisting of Dutch artists, Roy Kahmann’s selection features prestigious names (such as Albert Watson) and younger talents, with a distinctive taste for black-and-white and a fairly conservative aesthetic. To complete the show, four guest galleries from cities abroad were invited: Howard Greenberg (New York), Esther Woerdehoff (Paris), Grundemark/Nilsson (Stockholm/Berlin), Ibasho Gallery (Antwerp). These guest galleries were attributed a series of picture rails while also presenting vintage prints in a dedicated space. Also of note: these four galleries were not charged participation fees, but committed to handing over 10 % of their sales. “We met Roy Kahmann at Photo London last year. The fair proved to be a difficult experience for him because his stand, located in the basement, was not easily accessible,” recalls Sabine Guedamour from Esther Woerdehoff gallery. “We met again at Unseen in Amsterdam, then at Paris Photo. During these successive encounters, he talked to us about his concept. It’s a very attractive project, and an opportunity to approach a market that we’re not very familiar with. Since Roy is very well established in the region, we knew that Dutch and Belgian collectors would travel to the show.” Recontacted after the fair, the Parisian gallerist declared that she had sold vintage prints by Leonard Freed and René Groebli. The two contemporary artists presented by the Parisian gallery roused lively interest despite not generating any firm sales during the fair.

Rotterdam, an international platform

The choice of Rotterdam corresponds to the organiser’s desire to explore a new territory, and also echoes the current dynamism of the port city. “In the last 35 years, Rotterdam has developed incredibly,” observes Henk Roskamp, an entrepreneur residing in Rotterdam and executive partner of Roy Kahmann. “This city is in the process of becoming an international platform that is attracting many young people and artists thanks to far more affordable real-estate prices than Amsterdam. We welcomed 1,200 visitors on the opening night,” enthuses Henk Roskamp. To draw out the venture, the two partners hope to find a sponsor to support the event in the next five years…




Supporting the purchase of artworks

From picture rail to picture rail, a discreet sticker marked “KunstKoop” could be seen attached to certain works. Aimed at supporting the purchase of artworks, the KunstKoop system was set up in 1997 by the Mondriaan Foundation, a public body supporting the visual arts and cultural heritage in the Netherlands. It enables individuals to buy artworks via payment instalments staggered over several months, up to a maximum period of three years. The artist and the gallery are paid directly, while the buyer benefits from the staggered payment arrangement without any extra charges. Since its creation, the system has been used by 47,000 persons to acquire works with a total value of €150 million.