Redefining 'Going Dutch'
Next week is the opening of Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam, an innovative Dutch event that is blazing a trail for the international photography world.
The event has as a mission to exhibit ‘unseen’ photography - either by emerging photographers who are new to the market, or new work by established artists that are also new to the market. Unseen calls itself a 'photo fair with a festival flair’ - I look forward to seeing this first-hand.
The event is innovative, the concept is new and the work promises to be exciting, but it is the connection between museums, collectors, government and the fair that I find very exciting about this new concept. In general, The Netherlands is innovating in the way that organisations collaborate on initiatives – initiatives that will help the overall craft grow in appeal. This was already clear when in 2012 I found that museums didn’t find it innovative to build bridges between private individuals and themselves (what Vastari was selling at the time); they collaborate with the market frequently and enthusiastically.
Before writing about Unseen’s fantastic programme and giving you a live update from the fair next week, I’d like to highlight another exciting initiative in the south of the Netherlands where these collaborations are clear: Strijp S in Eindhoven.
Eindhoven is becoming more known in the last few years, not only because of the Ryanair flights coming into their airport but also because of the way they are using resources to support art and design.
Though Eindhoven’s Van Abbemuseum is a strong proponent of contemporary culture in the region, Strijp-S has with a finger on the pulse for developments in the art & tech scene, in what used to be the massive Philips factory and glassblowing facilities, nearly 100 years after Anton Philips set up the factory in 1916.
The area has been re-appropriated and the buildings’ massive spaces now house design boutiques, workshops and exciting events.
I walked into their annual Chilllifest on Saturday, where I got to try amazing sambal, chili sauces, Mexican food and even chili marmalades. What a treat! The idea of craftsmanship that I was expecting from the design boutiques was also to be found in the artisanal spices brought to this location.
And it brought some interesting characters to the area…
All along the eastern-block, 20th century brutalist designed buildings is a new flow of innovative, colourful and inspiring creativity. The Government has agreed to invest money into the re-appropriated buildings and the studios for artists, which has led to many exciting new projects. To think that discussions of reinvigorating the area started in 2000, much has already been achieved in this area, by the government, designers, entrepreneurs and youth working together.
It was truly beautiful to experience beautiful photography scarves, unique flower arrangements, retro curtains by Henri van Nuenen that felt like they’d been taken from the 60s to 2014, and beautiful asymmetrical contemporary porcelain designs.
A subsequent visit to the workshop of Piet Hein Eek showed more ways that Eindhoven is at the forefront of design. Eek reuses wood from a variety of sources - boat rigs, scaffolding, etc and has a distinct style that works brilliantly in the warehouse lofts and brutal modern structures that exist in the ex-Philips buildings.
Eek bought this property from Philips, so the buildings from the industrialist were again a place of innovation. I was also inspired by the work of two young designers, Rene Siebum and Steven Banken who have a studio near Eek. The two were very busily preparing for the Dutch Design Week coming up in Eindhoven in October, and the inspiration was palatable in the air.
Amazing space-saving wardrobe by Rene Siebum
Now on to the Unseen Fair, opening on Wednesday. The VIP programme includes visits to private collectors, the important museums and a government archive collection in the Hague. The fair’s brochure is a design by Lorenzo Vitturi, the same artist who just had a solo exhibition called the Dalston Anatomy at The Photographers Gallery in London.
Dutch collaboration at its best celebrates the designers/photographers/makers by bringing together museums, government, industry, entrepreneurship and galleries, as has been done in Eindhoven’s Strijp-S.
The Unseen fair brings together private collectors, museum curators and galleries in a beautiful symbiotic relationship, unique for photography, innovative in regards to the current divisionism in the art world seen as the status quo for other parts of the world – a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘going Dutch.’