"London is what's special about Photo London" - interview with Michael Benson, fair's director

By Anna Savitskaya - Monday, January 26, 2015
"London is what's special about Photo London" - interview with Michael Benson, fair's director

Recently a lot of photo fairs of all scales have appeared in Europe and photography is very well shown at both: established and newly born fairs. How can London Photo find its place in the art world and what will be special about London Photo?

"London is what's special about Photo London" - interview with Michael Benson, fair's director

One more art fair… One more art fair solely dedicated to photography… One more art fair solely dedicated to photography in London… One more art fair solely dedicated to photography in London, organized by Candlestar. One word makes a difference here – Candlestar. Organisation, specializing in art projects and education, involved in many widely discussed activities from Prix Pictet and Syngenta Photography contests to World Photography Orgainization and Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design. Apparently, Candlestar managed to spot a niche in this highly competitive art fair world. What is so special about the first edition of Photo London (21-24 May 2015) – in the interview with Michael Benson, Candelstar’s and fair's director.

© Corinne Mercadier, Courtesy Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire, Paris

Artdependence Magazine: Recently a lot of photo fairs of all scales have appeared in Europe and photography is very well shown at both: established and newly born fairs. How can London Photo find its place in the art world and what will be special about London Photo?

Michael Benson: London is what's special about Photo London. Photography is an increasingly important part of the cultural fabric of what is indisputably one of the world's great cultural capitals. So the question isn't 'why have a photo fair in London?' but 'why isn't there one already?'. The time is right. That said, we need to work hard recruiting a strong group of galleries and encouraging collectors from around the world to come to the fair.

AD: How are the applications being reviewed and selected. What are the selection criteria?

MB: We have a selection committee made up of distinguished curators who review all applications. The selection criteria are first and foremost, artistic excellence; something new to say and a coherent grouping of work.

 © Camille Silvy, Courtesy Robert Hershkowitz Gallery, UK

AD: Will you have a theme of the fair, for example Country/guest of honour?

MB: No. However, there is a strong emphasis on emerging photography and we will award a prize (a two month residency in New York) to the best emerging photographer shown at Photo London.

AD: What will be the price range for the works at your fist edition? 

MB: Difficult to tell at this stage as gallery presentations are still being finalised.

© Massimo Vitali, Punta Tegge Diptych, 2013, Courtesy of Grimaldi Gavin, London

AD: What would be the highlights of the upcoming first edition?

MB: A great group of galleries. Two major commissioned exhibitions including one from the photography archive at the Victoria and Albert Museum. An innovative installation programme. A series of talks and lectures on collecting photography. A programme of evening performances on the theme of music and photography.

AD: Tell us about Candlestar, please. Apart from educational and curating activities Candlestar is very much involved in establishing new art fairs and organizing art events for its clients. Why did Candelstar decide to produce Photo London as its own project? 

MB: Candlestar has, over its first decade, produced outstanding, innovative projects for its clients ranging from Art Dubai, the Sovereign European Art Prize and the Prix Pictet to the creation of a College for Conde Nast. To mark the company's second decade we decided to create a project of our own. Photo London (which took three years to plan) is the result of that.

© William Eggleston, courtesy Rose Gallery, CA

AD: It's a well known fact that for a fair the main assets are reputation and clients. Do you agree? By what means are you planning to built up your reputation and clientele?

MB: Yes, reputation and clients are crucial. In fact Candlestar has built an outstanding reputation for its dealings with artists, curators, galleries and others. It is this that gave us the confidence to attempt Photo London and this that we will carry over in to our dealings with everyone involved in Photo London.

AD: Mr. Benson, are you a collector? And if yes, can you please name some of your favorite artworks.

MB: My collecting is unusual. Every work that I own has a deep personal significance. Some are by well known artists others by young unknowns. None are favourites, all are favourites!

AD: Thank you, Michael Benson, and good luck with Photo London Fair!

More information about Photo London and Candlestar.

© Anthony Hernandez, Discarded #9, Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne

Images are provided by Photo London from participating galleries.

Anna is a graduate of Moscow’s Photo Academy, with a previous background in intellectual property rights. In 2012 she founded the company Perspectiva Art, dealing in art consultancy, curatorship, and the coordination of exhibitions. During the bilateral year between Russia and The Netherlands in 2013, Perspectiva Art organized a tour for a Dutch artist across Russia, as well as putting together several exhibitions in the Netherlands, curated by Anna. Since October 2014, Anna has taken an active role the development and management of ArtDependence Magazine. Anna interviews curators and artists, in addition to reviewing books and events, and collaborating with museums and art fairs.

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Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

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