French photography fair Fotofever’s inaugural Brussels edition

 Yesterday was the press preview in Brussels of Fotofever, the fine art photography fair launched in Paris last year. With over 60 exhibitors (all of them European photography galleries), an emerging talent prize as well as well as a young editors’ fair-within-a-fair, expectations were riding high. What’s more, with the first edition of Amsterdam’s Unseen a little less than two weeks ago fresh on our minds, we’d have a benchmark against which to evaluate Fotofever. The works on show? The best booths? The standouts? Here are the impressions we were left with…

On the fair

If Amsterdam’s Unseen was the edgy, slightly offbeat yet nonetheless high-minded daring newcomer to burst onto the photography fair circuit, Fotofever was its somewhat less exciting, uninspiring and unfulfilled counterpart. Although the mix of galleries on show was, to a large extent, qualitative and varied, seen together the fair’s exhibitors sat awkwardly side-by-side, an odd-fitting tribe of print purveyors that sometimes seemed ill-fitted to cater to what today’s collector really seeks out of a fair: to be dazzled. Don’t get us wrong: the galleries present brought some strong works along, but, somehow, an opportunity was missed. The fair’s (cheap) walls didn’t scream ‘buy me’.

On the work on show

The sheer size of art fairs means there’s often a lot of poor work on show, with only a handful of pieces that deserve mention. Fotofever was no exception, and here’s our rundown of those pieces and stands you’d want to see:

Paris-Bejing‘s Linge qui seche by Laurent Chehere from his Flying Houses series because it brings a smile to your face.

Galerie Rothamel‘s 3/28/2010 6:43 am – 7:43 am S: 08 27.131’ E by German photographer Hans-Christian Schink because it’s the kind of print you’re likely to find in Don Draper’s office. Whilst in Rothamel’s stand, make sure to take a look at Frank Gaudlitz‘s print called Jaen Peru.

Knokke’s Samuel Maen Houdt shows four lively and exquisite prints by Rob Carter. The colour-scapes achieved in two of them, Cancun public beach and Tulip fields, are nothing less than fantastic.

Pennings from Eindhoven shows two prints by Mischa Keijser. The first, entitled Forest by night, depicts, as its name suggests, an eerie forest at night, disturbed only by the photographer’s flash. Think of a slightly less abstract version of Korean stalwart Bae Bien-U. The second shows a somewhat warm wide-shot of a greenhouse against a sunrise backdrop.

Paris’ K+Y gallery shows what is probably one of the fair’s standout artists, Mikael Lafontan. Showing his most recent series, Fontainebleau, a warm yet haunting depictions of forests (in this case Paris’ Fontainebleau) which manages to bring a disconcerting living-room cosiness to the wild through its sepia tones and detailed depth of field.

K + Y director Fanny Moreaux

Antwerp’s Stieglitz 19, probably the younger-minded gallery at the fair, shows the liberated and auto-biographical works of  Sabrina van den Heuvel and Lara Gasparotto (whom we recently interviewed).

Sabrina van den Heuvel

Lara Gasparotto

Also from Antwerp, Fifty One presents some at times sobering, and other times uplifting works by the grand daddies of African photographers Malick Sidibé, Seydou Keita and Adama Kouyate.

Lyon’s Vrais Reves shows Danilo Sartoni’s lovely dreamscapes which uses ancient Polaroid film as filters to magnificent effect. Depicting the beautifully soft adventurse of a scarf, the prints sit somewhere between painting and photography such is the depth of their texture.

On special projects

For Galila’s eyes, curated by photography magazine Eyemazing‘s founder Susan A. Zadech, provides a fascinating glimpse into the photography collection of Galila Barzilai. A self-described impulse buyer for as long as her fetish themes are somewhat present (eyes, eggs, hands and printed money), Barzilai has been developing her dark yet oddly tongue-in-cheek photography collection over the last eight years which never really leaves you sure whether you should smile, cry or run for cover – Vibeke Tandberg’s We had dog, it died being the perfect example. If Dali had a photography collection, it wouldn’t be all that different from this one.

Collector Galila Barzilai

Eyemazing founder Susan A. Zadeh

Despite her strong work, Fotorize winner Anna Orlowskai is, sadly, relegated to the back of the fair – evidence if ever there was any of the importance emerging photographers get given. That being the case, it is worth dropping by the booth as her slightly unsettling work draws you in for closer inspection.