Photofairs New York will be “innovative,” says new director Helen Toomer

New York’s new photo fair, Photofairs New York, has taken a step closer to its grand opening with the appointment of veteran fair director Helen Toomer as director. The inaugural edition of the fair will be held this fall (September 8-10) at the Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side. Toomer promises that “the fair will showcase the most cutting-edge work being produced today and provide a focal point for discussions centered on the immense richness of photography and new technologies.”

Previously, Toomer directed New York’s IFPDA Fine Art Print Fair, Pulse Contemporary Art Fairs (now Volta art fair) and the Collective Design Fair in New York, which she co-founded 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,” says Toomer, adding that she plans to work with local museums and schools, for example. “I’m a big employee; I can’t do this without collaborating with others.” The new fair also coincides with The Armory and “cements this week in September as a key week in the New York art world calendar,” adds Toomer.

The fair’s program has yet to be announced, but “Artists can do at Photofairs New York what they can’t do at other shows,” she says. “We will have the space for galleries to bring in digital, experimental and interactive work.” Toomer says a section called Context will feature modern and contemporary works.

Toomer says she is also aware of the position of galleries post-Covid and amid a global recession. “I’m always aware of the costs galleries incur at fairs and the financial journey they take; all of this is taken into account,” adds Toomer. The gallery selection committee is now assembled with “global representation”; the gallery list is to be announced this spring.

Photofairs New York is the sister show of Photofairs Shanghai, the largest commercial photography event in Asia Pacific, launched in 2014. Both the New York and Shanghai fairs are organized by art events company Creo and its business partner, exhibition company Angus Montgomery, a stakeholder in most 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 through his subsidiary World Photography Organisation. Accordingly, Photo London co-founders – Michael Benson and Fariba Farshad – have a 10% stake in the New York fair. The remaining 90% is shared between Creo/Angus Montgomery Arts (71%) and Chinese publishing entrepreneur Thomas Shao (19%), who publishes 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 canceled in 2019. “There have been photography fairs in New York, but none have focused solely on photography and new media work,” Toomer points out in an interview with The Art Newspaper. “The contemporary market is here in New York. Nowhere else do you get such a concise overview of the market.”