If photographic institutions were members in a sprawling global art family, Unseen Amsterdam would be the headstrong youth, staying up late, throwing wild parties and waking up frustratingly fresh and ready to go again the the morning. Ever since its foundation, Unseen has established itself as one of Europe’s foremost platforms for contemporary photography, teeming with energy, activity and emerging talent, fuelling debate and discussion and, above all, driving the medium forwards. Its events continue all-year-round, but late September marks the beginning of the main annual function – a weekend-long celebration in Amsterdam’s Westergasfabriek. So, what to do if you’re there this weekend? Here’s our round-up of the essentials.
1. The Fair
No fewer than 53 international galleries participate in the fair, which takes place in the grand Gashouder at the beating heart of Unseen Amsterdam, a web of artists, curators, collectors and enthusiasts all meeting to discuss and discover photography. The works on display have often never been seen before – hence the event’s name – so you can be sure you’ll experience something new, too. There are free tours to be had every day at 3pm. Watch out for New York and London’s Webber Gallery at stand 47, which will be displaying the work of Thomas Albdorf, Marton Perlaki, Theo Simpson and Daniel Shea.
What does photography look like when created by an image-maker whose primary occupation is with “the realm of the invisible”? Unseen’s resident artist Lana Mésic has the answer. Her exhibition Souls, ties and a pile of carrots and Towers presents a collection of works which explore the structure of Amsterdam’s financial sector and those who work in it, only not as you’d expect.
It wouldn’t be an arts event without a giftshop, and souvenir stores don’t come much better than a book market comprising 60 independent publishers. Photo-books, the experts who publish them, and all related ephemera are to be found here – as are Christmas presents for everybody you know.
As at all of the best parties, the most fascinating conversations happen in Unseen’s Living Room, where a programme of speakers comprising editors, curators and practitioners will debate the state of photography today. Swing by on Saturday afternoon, when AnOther will be moderating discussions between the likes of Alix Marie and Douglas Mandry, Tanya Habjouqa and Ali Mobasser, and Marton Perlaki and Esther Teichmann. Be sure to say hello.
Have you ever heard of an exhibition title as appealing as Photo Pleasure Palace? Such wordplay could only be the work of Erik Kessels and Thomas Mailaender, two brilliant artists preoccupied with the decontextualisation of found images, creating insightful narratives and examining sociological behaviours. “Kessels and Mailaender welcome you to their weird-and-wonderland,” Unseen promises, “a place where pleasure is guaranteed and photos are in imminent danger”. Sounds enticing.
Unseen Amsterdam runs from September 22 – 24, 2017 at Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam.