“So over the last 17 years we’ve got more and more involved with Japanese art and culture. In general, we are in love with both the country and the art and design there. Everything is made with so much care and a concerned eye for detail and originality”.
Alex Daniels Reflex Gallery Unseen Interview
For 25 years Reflex has been situated in the heart of Amsterdam opposite the Rijksmuseum. The program developed from Modern to contemporary art. The gallery represents artists including Nobuyoshi Araki, Roger Ballen, Marcus Harvey, Daido Moriyama, Harland Miller, David LaChapelle, Erwin Olaf, Yasumasa Morimura, Andrew Moore, Bill Owens, Larry Sultan, Phyllis Galembo, Mahomi Kunikata, Robin Lowe, Miles Aldridge. Upcoming shows are with Todd Hido and Andrew Moore
BF: You will be showing some very high placed Japanese photographers this year at Unseen Daido Moriyama and Araki to name a few. What brings you focus on Japanese artists within your roster?
AD: In the 90’s, we for the first time saw Polaroids by Araki and we fell in love with them right away. Since then, we collected hundreds of them and we have slowly grown into the subject of Japanese Photography. We have made four solo shows with Araki and we have travelled to Tokyo several times to visit. In Tokyo, we also got introduced to the work of Daido Moriyama and made 2 books and 3 shows with him since then. Later on we also started working with Yasumasa Morimura. We made a beautiful show with all his Polaroids from 1990 up till 2008. We also had a n exhibition. Also in Japan, we met Takashi Murakami, and he introduced us to a very young talented artist, Mahomi Kunikata, with whom we made her first solo exhibition. So over the last 17 years we got more and more involved with Japanese art and culture. In general, we are in love with both the country and the art and design there. Everything is made with so much care and a concerned eye for detail and originality. Our relation to Japanese artists is growing and intensifying; we are currently working on Daido Moriyama’s upcoming solo show and his new project, which we are very excited about.
Also, in 2013, we made a beautiful show with the talented Japanese photographer Hisaji Hara. He is printing in the albumen technique, one the very earliest processes of printing photographs, which I think is very original in these times with so many quicker and new techniques. It suited the subject matter but still this process is very demanding and requests a lot of patience but the outcome was breathtaking.
BF: Besides the brilliant monochrome works by Araki and Moriyama, you also exhibit Roger Ballen. These three artists in particular, continue to work with monochrome. I would suggest that they tend to elude the nostalgic terms that a lot of black and white imagery suggests by its genesis. In a commercial world dominated by colour photography, It feels like a fresh move to work with these kind of pieces. Do you find that potential clientele respond well to this transition towards black and white?
AD: We don’t really think about it, it is a personal choice of our gallery to work with these artists, and not in particular for their black and white medium, but because of their extraordinary visions. I think all three have a very contemporary vision and at the same time, a timeless character. We think there is so much happening now in photography that it is still sometimes the best to stick to the classics. Also these classics re-invent themselves all the time, and still their quality stands out despite all the developments within the medium nowadays. The vision is incredibly strong. You can also see the artists are well developed and specialized in black and white photography. You got to have a very big dedication and passion to come to such unique imagery.
10103 @ Todd Hido
from Another Country in New York @ Daido Moriyama
”We think there is so much happening now in photography that it is still sometimes the best to stick to the classics. Also these classics re-invent themselves all the time, and still their quality stands out despite all the developments within the medium nowadays”.
BF: Amsterdam is becoming a cultural hub for photography. Do you think it has to do with its location at the heart of Europe or is it potentially that the Dutch are very open-minded towards photography in general? The Netherlands have a sincere history of avantgarde design and aesthetics. Do you consider the history of design intent part of the larger reason why Amsterdam welcomes photography to its home?
AD: My personal experience has been that we come from a background where we started first selling Cobra artists and Nouveau Realists like Karel Appel, Daniel Spoerri, Arman. Cobra artists, in particular, partly came from Amsterdam, so for a long time these were the aesthetics here. This is what people saw as art. And this is also where the market was. So it was quite tough pioneering here in the end of the 90’s when we did our first photography shows with American artists like Chris Verene, Sandy Skoglund, and later on Erwin Olaf and Larry Sultan. However, it probably was an eye-opener, but there were also of course some other galleries who had a program with artist working in the medium of photography. However, from there the whole scene changed a lot and made a big development. Photography is now an art form generally accepted here, and even stronger than before. You can find a lot of talent here, and it’s now the right place to pioneer or premiere artists by showing new works of young as well as known photographers.
BF: Unseen offers both artists and exhibitors a chance to mine fresh work. Often times with larger expensive fairs, galleries tend to choose works that are iconic and/or desired as trophies, while Unseen seems to cater towards works that will be icons of the future. Is this a relief as an exhibitor to be able to show such fresh work?
AD: I cannot speak for others, but we tend to show the freshest work from quite established artists. So, at one end we show something fresh for the first time. On the other hand indeed, we do show younger artists as well. I think in general if you look at a lot of art, you will also see quality in an artist who is still young and unknown, which indeed can be an icon in the future. That’s the adventure of collecting.
BF: With its emphasis on education, the dummy award, does the fair represent a singular presence in the market? Do you feel it has the potential to overcome the staggering need to be more commercial by these implements?
AD: There is commercial art, and there is high level art of which one needs to think commercial about to bring it to the attention of a larger audience and to show that this is quality. Every tool, which is useful for this, should indeed be used. This gives a first good platform for a beginning photographer and in which he can explore bookmaking.
BF: What are you looking forward to most during the fair, outside of your own booth, of course?
AD: Making sales. Enjoying the fair, meeting people from all over and creating potential for new and strong projects for the future… from one, comes the other
(All rights reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm and ASX. Images @ the artists and Reflex Gallery.)