A brand new spot with a French Riviera flourish is springing up for spring, and will shortly be bringing its buzz to Monaco… From 5 to 8 April, PhotoMonaco, an international fair on artistic photography and collection, will be launching its first edition in the Principality. An interview with Renaud Siegmann, the event’s director.
He’s known for his commitment to images, and appreciated for his inspired take on contemporary creation for nearly 30 years now. After curating the Marrakech Art Fair in 2010 and 2011, and steering the Monaco Art Fair as its executive director in 2016, Renaud Siegmann is taking on the 8th art… The aim being to revisit the photographic medium in depth. As an active commentator on emerging scenes in places ranging from China to Brazil via Bahrain and Russia, this rigorous curator, formerly a cultural engineer for the Scottish Executive in Edinburgh, is delighted to be launching a new platform: an international fair on artistic photography and collection in Monaco. An event soaked in typically “Grimaldi” elegance, placed under the high patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco. Its aim? To enlighten gazes, to play with light… In short, to trigger original encounters with images that will captivate the public. For this first edition, Renaud Siegmann is backing the notion of “experiencing photographic moments”. Intimate moments, characterised by fleeting beauty and literary nostalgia, that will make your pupils dilate… The theme is “Le Temps du Regard” (The Time of Vision), soon coming to Monaco!
In a cultural landscape filled with fairs and biennales where photography is already well represented, what’s special about PhotoMonaco?
PhotoMonaco is special because it offers experience of the photographic moment. This is not yet another fair focusing solely on the commercial aspect. The cultural aspect is dear to me, a position shared by my business partner Stéphane Gautier, who is also communications director at PhotoMonaco. Because while the market generates taste, it isn’t the only guarantor of creativity. I see our fair as a significant step towards defending images but also publishing, measured against extremely rigorous standards. For example, at every edition of PhotoMonaco, I intend to present a large collection of photographs, whether historic, modern or contemporary, to bring a qualitative tempo to the event. This year, I’ve chosen to show the collection of Rolf Mayer, originally from Stuttgart, whose interest in art photography dates from 1975, and who owns one of the finest sets of works, still in private hands, from what is known as the “archaic” period, 1840-1880. In other words, 70 of the most beautiful prints out of a 134-print collection. Seventy of the most representative shots by photography pioneers: the Muybridges, Nadar, Atget, Cameron, Fox Talbot, with examples from the great heliographic campaigns carried out in the East by Maxime Du Camp or Désiré Charnay… Offering a coherent platform where the market meets the museum, where visitors can embrace the full amplitude of photography: this is what makes PhotoMonaco special. Beyond the commercial vocation of the four-day fair, I also wanted to offer a cultural itinerary that promotes local heritage via photographic images, by placing the 8th art in the spotlight at a few of Monaco’s attractions. Three of the Principality’s important heritage spots will be welcoming our cultural programme: the State Apartments of the Prince’s Palace, the Oceanographic Museum, and the Antique Cars Collection of His Royal Highness the Prince of Monaco.
The fair’s strategic positioning seems very balanced, playing on both dealership and culture, also offering a balance between galleries and publishers…
Inaugural editions always act as moulds from which the following ones are fashioned. This year, 35 exhibitors are gathered, including fifteen international galleries, generally Nordic, from Oslo, Copenhagen, Cologne and London, as well as the United States, with one brand from Miami. There’ll also be many galleries from the south of France at PhotoMonaco. It’s important for me that the Principality can also federate galleries within a closer perimeter – I’m thinking of Rodez, Aix-en-Provence, Opio, Six-Fours, Nice, Monaco… Around twenty other exhibitors make up the fair’s publishing sector, which was something I really wanted to have represented. It’s an essential field as photography is publicised by this means, which, historically, has played a role as a revealer, before images are even hung up as works of art. Publishing reveals artists who manage to get their works seen this way… and also read – for while photography, naturally, is a medium that we look at, it also lends itself to reading, it hones the eye. Publishers are therefore present, thanks to a selection made with the collaboration of the Friends of Cosmos, a laboratory supporting contemporary photographic and visual-arts practices, well known for organising the collective participation of specialist publishers, namely at the Rencontres d’Arles. So it’s true, PhotoMonaco offers balance, necessary crossovers, a way to cross the photographic space in any case. A positioning that contributes to mutual promotion, both aesthetic and commercial, of the image.
What angle have you chosen this year to stand out from other events in this tight niche market?
The chosen theme for this first edition is “Le Temps du Regard” (The Time of Vision), which is a mechanical and technical notion in photography. It refers to the angle of the shot, the posing time, the eye of the photographer, covering a timespan measured in fractions of a second. Time constitutes an image’s depth, its intensity. Once the image is recreated from this past instant, something is generated: if not nostalgia, then a story in any case. The story of a gaze, which is also the point of view of the viewer of the photo. Through this theme of “Le Temps du Regard”, PhotoMonaco also broaches the time of collection, the meeting of the image with its public, and the relationships between images, all tested by the notion of duration. This is the bold equation that is so exciting, this combination of different eras, genres and auteurs. And the product of their association highlights a singular dimension of the image, which is immense.
The market’s dynamism is a good indicator… Would you say that the photographic medium is popular today?
In terms of figures, if we refer to the auction market, the price of an original print has at least tripled in the space of a decade. For example, the global auction income for photography has gone up from €50 million in 2002 to €150 million in 2015, in other words 4 % of the art market’s global income. In terms of value, the medium’s price index has increased by 48 % since 2000, whereas the fine-arts market has grown by 36 % over the same period. So in this way, investments in aesthetic value are financial-investment assets. But apart from this, one of the merits of photography is that you can buy a print by a great master for a sum, which, on the contemporary-art market, won’t even get you a minor work. Otherwise, if photography stirs such great enthusiasm, it’s because it’s now part of the way we see the world. It has transformed a considerable number of fields of activity, the artistic field of course, but also industrial space. Photographic images have transformed architecture, fashion, design; they’ve even changed the way we conduct scientific research. Images have this virtue of being at the crossroads of all of our era’s preoccupations, they’re used in every sphere, they simultaneously represent conceptuality and sensitivity, heritage and contemporaneousness, anthropology and history. They act as witnesses.
This raises a curious paradox: the photography market is narrow, but from Arles to Bamako, all we hear about is images…
Because the world has changed, it has exponentially become the object of images. We’re at the heart of a civilisation that is no longer centred around books but images. Everything transits through them. But photography is an intelligent vector, indispensable to the balance of our gaze. And we know that the way we look at things is also the way that we consider the world… Fundamentally, images, today, enable us to restore a genuine aesthetic relationship with what is real.
One issue that fairs face is bringing in collectors. What’s your method?
Highly aware of the contemporary importance of images, Prince Albert II of Monaco has accorded us the great honour of agreeing to be the honorary president of PhotoMonaco. The impact of this patronage is obviously enormous. We also have connections with a major partner, Larry’s List, a collective of international collectors from over 70 countries, comprising more than 3500 members, including 1800 big collectors or owners of private foundations. We’re part of their VIP Tour, a Pass given to all its members. PhotoMonaco’s attractiveness also lies in its cultural itinerary, featuring three visually interesting spots. And then, thanks to my experience, having also previously managed the European Art Fair in Monaco, I can rely on a network of influence and friendships with committed collectors who are interested in art… and increasingly, in artistic photography.
What is your target public? Are the prices at your salon in the mid-range?
I underline the fact that PhotoMonaco is a fair for artistic photography and collection; participating galleries are well known for their rigour, with work from very diverse fields varying from photo-reporting to fiction, humanist aesthetics and art photography… I’d say that we range from €5000 to €15000 for an accomplished work that is known and recognised, sometimes with a pedigree. We also present a few exceptional prints, for which we might go over €30000. You’ll find few emerging photographers here – our artists tend to be established and mid-career artists, producing vintage, modern and contemporary works.
The display borrows from the decompartmentalizd scenography of fairs like Fotofever, Unseen or Cutlog with very open stands…
The idea is the “imaginary museum” dear to André Malraux, where everything is up for sale. Once again, the underlying idea is experience of the photographic moment. The galleries are therefore not separated, in order to encourage a visual promenade, strolling. At PhotoMonaco, we cultivate the gaze; we don’t visit transport crates, we don’t exhibit visual freight. Our scenography fosters a genuine display of work, without any vis-à-vis, where every space is privatised like a collector’s cabinet, which nonetheless remains open.
What are two or three spots that you recommend I visit?
Go and have a look at the Galerie Quai Antoine Ier, with a solo show featuring Nikos Aliagas, our ambassador this year. Just as there are men of letters, Nikos is a man of images, attached to the markers of time. Alongside his television career, he pursued very personal photographic work for a number of years, marked by a distinctly humanist spirit, with large formats in black and white. His exhibition gathers around thirty prints on the theme of the Mediterranean, with a strong presence of faces, hands… Also go and see Studio Harcourt. Every year, a space will be set aside for a brand that is exemplary for its technical or stylistic features, or for its history. The Studio will be in Monaco for the fair, giving everyone a chance to get a genuine Harcourt portrait with that inimitable film-set lighting like no other.
Is Monaco a good springboard for developing a European strategy?
This is the best springboard that one could dream of. All potentials from the art market in the 21st century are gathered here, in the Principality, with a privileged space accorded to the dealing of art in general, and collector’s photography in particular. There are many reasons for this. Monaco’s relationship to the image is well known thanks to the Riviera lifestyle. We know that the light of the South has long attracted major artists and big names in photography, like Helmut Newton and Karl Lagerfeld. But also, more concretely, Monaco offers a bundle of advantages, in terms of security, and transaction confidentiality… Apart from the fact that it’s a very professional financial market, Monaco is known for it capacity to respond to and welcome collectors, namely thanks to its palaces like those of the famous Société des Bains de Mer. This is living heritage, history that nurtures a stay in Monaco. Not to mention facilities for getting here, with seven-minute helicopter connections via Monacair, from the Nice-Côte d’Azur international airport.
Are you thinking about developing partnerships? For example with banks that are very active in corporate collections…
We already have a main sponsor, the Société Générale Private Banking, in Monaco, which is committed to contemporary art and a major sponsor that led the way in corporate collections. As for partnerships, I’m very much in favour of “made in Monaco”. I favour players involved in the Principality’s economic and cultural life.
What’s the last work you fell in love with? An image that caressed your eye recently…
I’d like to mention Patrick Chelli, who is our official photographer for this edition, and who we’re holding a solo show on. Patrick Chelli, yes, an exponent of the humanist tradition in black and white. A real portraitist, known for his images of art openings and international fashion parades, taken off the cuff. I like his theatricality, the very sensitive way he has of capturing celebrities from the art and fashion world, for example. Patrick is also a visual artist, a collagist, a very talented mixed-media creator, I find, who masters the art of photomontage and double exposure. “Floreana”, his exhibition at Castelroc restaurant-gallery, on the Place du Palais, will reveal his universe, close to that of Jean Cocteau or Jacques Prévert. This is what I like, this capacity for photo to metamorphose, to create dreamlike spaces, poetic dialogues…
PhotoMonaco. From Thursday 5 to Sunday 8 April 2018. Opening on Thursday 5, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., by invitation only. Open to the public from Friday 6 April, at 1 p.m. Free admission. Exhibition hall, 4 quai Antoine Ier, Port Hercule, Monaco. Organiser: Imagenko (Art Business Marketing Culturel): 28 boulevard Princesse Charlotte MC 98000, Monaco. www.photomonaco2018.com
A Rock triptych
On the fringes of the artistic photography and collection fair, PhotoMonaco is multiplying its presence at three of the Principality’s major attractions. A cultural itinerary on the Rock.
A collection of archive photos are on show in the State Apartments of the Prince’s Palace (from April to October)… With discovery being a family trait, the princes of Monaco have always played a role in the Principality’s cultural adventures. When photography was invented, Albert I opened the way, heralding over 150 years’ commitment towards the arts and human sciences. Showing the same taste for knowledge, Rainier III, then Albert II of Monaco have prolonged the spirit of patronage. Monaco’s heritage is retraced through their travels and experiences in this historical exhibition, showcasing images from the Archives of the Prince’s Palace.
An exhibition of photographic images, in conjunction with Energy Observer, at Monaco’s Oceanographic Museum (in May)… Based on Energy Observer’s documentary reports, the “Oceania” exhibition presents a set of photographs by Jérémy Bidon. Between art and ecology, the exhibition shows the influence of humans on the ocean environment. The Energy Observer team set itself the challenge of carrying out the first planetary circumnavigation using renewable energies such as hydrogen, without any emissions of greenhouse gases or fine particles. The expedition is also a human challenge: a world tour lasting six years, covering 50 countries and 101 stops. An odyssey of discovery, revealing all those who sketch out the world of tomorrow…
A scenography of photo installations at the Automobile Museum (from April to October)… A symbol of the Industrial Revolution, the automobile has at times left behind its function as a mere vehicle and driven over to the world of art. It is thus a frequent source of inspiration for artists, who see it as a fascinating object or else a means to criticise consumer society. From César to Bertrand Lavier, from Ichwan Noor to Gabriel Orozco, the automobile has been hijacked countless times. Shown alongside the Prince of Monaco’s car collection, the exhibition “Sur les chapeaux de roues” (On The Hats of Wheels) extends the aesthetic dialogue between art and industry. This exhibition will bring life to a car fleet via an arrangement of scenes in relief, featuring museum images.
Cultural director of Imagenko, Renaud Siegmann was executive director of the European Art Fair Monaco in 2016. A historian and art critic for over twenty years, he was also general curator of the Marrakech Art Fair in 2010 and 2011. A publishing specialist, he participated, in 2009, in the launch of the art magazine Diptyk, published by the Compagnie Marocaine des Œuvres et des Objets d’Art (CMOOA). As private secretary of Lucien Bodard (1986-1990), he started off his career with Artcurial (1994-1998), before becoming an independent curator for UNESCO (1998-2001), then cultural engineer for the Scottish Executive in Edinburgh (2001-2004). An art journalist for L’Œil, La Gazette Drouot and Le Journal des arts, his writing has led him to travel the world since 2000, covering the emerging scenes in China, South Korea, Japan, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Turkey, Morocco, Russia, Cuba, Brazil and Mexico. As an author of books on art, he produced a book of interviews with Lee Ufan to mark the Praemium Imperial artist’s retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York in spring 2011, as well as an anthology on modern art in Bahrain, released in autumn 2015. With a Masters degree in media management, Renaud Siegmann is also a sailing enthusiast and a merchant navy officer with the rank of captain (200 UMS).