New York’s new photography fair, Photofairs New York, has moved a step closer to its grand opening with the appointment of the veteran fair director Helen Toomer as director. The fair’s inaugural edition takes place this autumn (8-10 September) at the Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side. Toomer is promising that “the fair will present the most cutting-edge works being made today and provide a centralised point for discussions focused on the vast wealth of photography and new technologies”.
Toomer has previously led New York's IFPDA Fine Art Print Fair, Pulse Contemporary Art Fairs (now Volta art fair), and Collective Design Fair in New York, which she helped launch in 2013; in 2017 she co-founded Stoneleaf Retreat, an artist retreat in the Hudson Valley, New York.
Photofairs New York will be a “point of convergence,” Toomer says, adding that she plans to, for instance, work with local museums and schools. “I’m a huge collaborator; I can’t do this without collaborating with others.” The new fair also coincides with The Armory, “cementing that week in September as a key week on the New York art world calendar”, Toomer adds.
The programming of the fair is yet to be announced but “artists can realise at Photofairs New York what they can’t realise at other fairs”, she says. “We will have the space so galleries can bring digital, experimental, interactive works.” Toomer says that a section called Context will include Modern and contemporary works.
Toomer says she is also aware of the position of galleries post-Covid and amidst a global recession. “I am always conscious of the costs incurred by galleries at fairs and the financial journey they go on; this will all be taken into consideration,” Toomer adds. The gallery selection committee is meanwhile being assembled with “global representation”; the gallery list is due to be announced this spring.
Photofairs New York is the sister fair of Photofairs Shanghai, Asia-Pacific's largest commercial event for photography, which was launched in 2014. Both the New York and Shanghai fairs are organised by the art events company Creo and its business partner, the trade fair company Angus Montgomery, a stakeholder in the bulk of East Asia's leading commercial art events, including India Art Fair in Delhi, Art Central Hong Kong, and Art SG in Singapore.
The New York launch follows Angus Montgomery's acquisition of a 25% stake in the Photo London fair early last year via its subsidiary World Photography Organisation. Accordingly, Photo London's co-founders—Michael Benson and Fariba Farshad—hold a 10% stake in the New York fair. The remaining 90% is divided between Creo/Angus Montgomery Arts (71%) and the Chinese publishing entrepreneur Thomas Shao (19%) who produces The Art Newspaper China. Shao also owns a 19% stake in Photofairs Shanghai.
Photofairs in San Francisco, Creo’s first foray into the US market, was cancelled in 2019. “There have been photography fairs in New York but none have focused purely on photography and new media works,” Toomer stresses. “The contemporary market is here, in New York. You won’t get as concise a view of the market anywhere else.”