Ghislain Pascal is the Co-founder of The Little Black Gallery.
It is with much anticipation and expectation that Photo London has finally arrived, returning to London after more than a decade’s absence in the new hands of Candlestar (who also organise the Prix Pictet). Some may say that it is extraordinary that London does not have a major photography fair but then with only a handful of photography galleries in London, compared to the hundred plus photography galleries in Paris and New York some may argue it is not? And with many big fairs (Frieze, Masterpieces etc) already in London some may argue there is no room for more fairs? As a gallery we do not do art fairs as we’ve never found that they work for us but with the return of Photo London we thought long and hard and decided that it would be very strange if as one of London’s leading photography galleries we were not there? Only time will tell …..
Arriving at Somerset House on the set-up day in the sunshine was a good omen. The beautiful neoclassical building designed by Sir William Chambers in 1776 is a truly impressive setting, easily matching the Grand Palais for Paris Photo. We have a beautiful small room on the first floor in the South Wing with a great view over the River Thames and Big Ben and The Shard – my new office for the week (pic 1)! What is particularly nice is that each gallery has a room rather than a stand in a tent with real walls, high ceilings & fireplaces – so each room lends itself more to a genuine gallery space. After a long day of hanging (of our Anja Niemi (pic2), Vee Speers, Bob Carlos Clarke and Tyler Udall) we took the time to wander around and look at the other galleries. I was mightly impressed by the level of work on display and the overall feel of the space. I bumped into the legendary Sebastiao Salgado and his wife Lelia looking for his gallery, and Nadav Kander in the room of his gallery Flowers, both who had very generously donated to the Survival Interantional Benefit Photo Auction I had curated for Paddle8 (www.paddle8.com/auction/survival). Then our good friend Steven Kasher from New York, hammer in hand, jet-lagged but busy finishing his hang so my business partner Tamara Beckwith Veroni thought she would lend a hand (pic3)
Up early for the first day, Preview & VIP Day. It is going to be a very long day 9.30am – 9.30pm! Last minute touch-ups made to our stand, including the delivery of our stunning flower-boxes by Nikki Tibbles of Wild at Heart (pic4) – bringing a little bit of Chelsea Flower Show to Somerset House. Then the doors opened and in streamed the VIP visitors including many of our guests and two of our artists Anja Niemi coming in from Norway and Vee Speers from Paris (pic5). The day whizzed by with a constant flow of visitors passing through our room – all commenting on the stunning setting of Somerset House and our lovely room with sunlight streaming in, colourful flowers, and our chilled music & tubereuse diffuser wafting down the corridors. Someone very sweetly tweeted that we had the ‘best room in show’!! We met some nice new clients including art collector Mervyn Metcalf, and by the end of the day we had sold 11 photographs which was a great start to the week. But at 9.30pm we were exhausted so locked our door and collapsed into the nearest taxi home.
Day two: thankfully the sun is still shining as I arrive early to have a nosey around the other galleries whilst they are empty and unmanned – to check out the competition. Stand out images for me were the Pieter Hugo at Yossi Milo (pic6), Diane Arbus at Timothy Taylor (pic7&8), Tim Hailand at Kasher Potamkin (pic9), Norman Parkinson at Eric Franck (Pic10&11), Sebastiao Salgado at Peter Fetterman (pic12&13), Jim Krantz at Danziger (pic14), Horst at Bernheimer (pic15), and Garry Fabian Miller (pic16&17)at both Ingleby and Hacklebury. Although I thought it was a bit unfortunate that both Ingleby and Hacklebury were showing Garry Fabian Miller. I think it is always best when galleries don’t exhibit the same artists. I was disappointed that Atlas and Camera Work were still peddling the exploitative works of Jimmy Nelson (pic18). I also thought that the Mezzanine level was very difficult to find and when I did find it it was dark and hot – even at 10am in the morning. It made me love our room even more! At 11am the doors reopened and the visitors started again. Day two was definitely a different crowd, more voyeurs than buyers. My business partner, Tamara Beckwith Veroni, took advantage of our daily reservation at Skye Gyngell’s ‘Spring’ restaurant at Somerset House hosting a girlie lunch for several of our top clients, whilst my colleague Polly Stone-Lee tucked into our packed lunches. We never got a minute to sit idle though as our room bulged with visitors all eager to talk to our artists Anja and Vee. Only a couple of sales materialised during the day which was disappointing but we put aside any concerns and Tamara, Anja and myself made our way to the VIP bar for a drink before dinner with the delectable Andi Potamkin at Tom Aitken restaurant to plot our impending invasion of New York with Anja Niemi next year (pic19).
Day three: I cannot believe how lucky we are that the sun is still shining! Oh what a difference it makes and creates such a good vibe! Music switched on it was straight to work as people streamed in. Today was my turn for lunch at Spring with Holly Ross and Anna Scott from Vanity Fair Magazine to introduce them to Anja Niemi (pic 20). And what a delicious and beautiful lunch it was. It was hard dragging myself away from the rose wine back to our room which I had left in the capable hands of my business partner Tamara & colleagure Polly who managed to sell our last ‘The Trunk’ by Anja Niemi. The afternoon whizzed by with many anticipated visitors including Eva Vincent and Siri Aronsen from the Norwegian Embassy (pic21) to meet and support their national, Anja Niemi. Friday turned out to be a very fruitful day with some nice sales.
Day four: sadly rain for the first day of the bank holiday weekend. My artists Vee Speers and Anja Niemi spent quality time in our room meeting and greeting their many fans, our clients and large number of visitors. By far the busiest day and it was very difficult to cope with so many people in our little room that we had to ask some of our clients to leave! It was nice to get some respite in the afternoon for a meeting with Daniel Hettman from Citizen K Magazine who had come from Paris to meet Anja to discuss a project with her. The VIP bar was very useful for all our meetings although it was a shame they did not serve food in the afternoons? Saturday did however turn out to bring more good sales to keep our artists happy?
Sadly this copy has to be filed before the last day (Sunday), which means I cannot tell you about our uber-cool photographer Tyler Udall flying in from Canada. However I can reflect on the week, and say that Photo London has been a great success, easily surpassing everyone’s expectations, and I think I can say confidently was even better than Paris Photo. Don’t just take my word for it – many visitors said the same. With a little fine-tuning I think next year can be even better. Maybe not hold the fair on a Bank Holiday Weekend, or during Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix – as I felt there was a distinct lack of the super-rich – who we are used to seeing in our Chelsea gallery. But overall well done Michael and Fariba – a job well done!
My wish list from Photo London:
If I Had All The Money In The World: Diane Arbus at Timothy Taylor (pic7&8)
If I Had A Huge Country House: Peter Liversidge’s ‘Bear’ at Ingleby (pic22)
The Picture I Couldn’t Resist: Brooklyn Boys by Danny Fitzgerald from Steven Kasher (pic 23)
21 – 24 May, 2015
London WC2R 1LA