PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai supports the future of photography

The Exposure Award embraces and supports emerging artists and galleries working on the edges of the photographic medium. Now in its third year – applications are open now! – we take a closer look at the Award’s history and how it aligns with the fair as a leader in discovering, collecting and learning from photo-based art. 

Booth installation of 2019 Exposure Award winner Noémie Goudal at PHOTOFAIRS, Shanghai

Awards, grants and residencies have been intrinsic to the development of photography. Over the past century the medium’s pioneers – such as Dorothea Lange, Fan Ho and Cindy Sherman – have been financially rewarded and supported by agencies, organisations, companies, fairs and charities. Groundbreaking work has been created and remembered and without these programs some of history’s most significant contributions to photography might not exist – or be part of our cultural consciousness. 

Acknowledging the importance of supporting forward-thinking photographic artists and the galleries that represented them, PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai initiated the Exposure Award. An annual initiative launched in 2019, the Exposure Award grants one photographer pushing the boundaries of photography and their respective gallery a complimentary solo exhibition. 

Booth installation of 2019 Exposure Award winner Noémie Goudal at PHOTOFAIRS, Shanghai

The financial difficulties of presenting an experimental booth in a new market are inevitable. By offering an exhibition platform, the Exposure Award helps minimize these risks and enables galleries, artists and collectors to truly explore photography’s potential.  

Judges are invited to be on the Exposure Award jury for their experience and expertise within photography. Applications are assessed by the artist’s ability in executing a technique and creating a concept that is imaginative and of an excellent standard. Attention was paid to experimental and innovative forms.

In its inaugural year the programme rewarded recipient Noémie Goudal, represented by Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire in Paris, a complimentary 20sqm stand at the 2019 edition of PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai. Goudal was chosen for her bold concepts, visual elegance and imaginative presentation. Her display brought together three of her most recent series, including Soulèvements, Southern Light Stations and Observatoires, and garnered much attention at and beyond the fair. 

Selected works of 2019 Exposure Award recipient Noémie Goudal

Sensitive to the challenges and uncertainty faced by the artist community last year, PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai decided to continue with the Exposure Award for 2020 despite having to cancel the September fair. Seeing the dramatic cultural, economic and political shifts the world was facing because of the pandemic, PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai was responsive to this time also being a period of change and that it might have opened up creative possibilities for artists to think about their practice differently. 

Working with their dependable partner Modern Eye, PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai wanted to provide a platform for new voices. Together, Modern Eye and PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai saw the importance in supporting artists that are making experimental work that raises questions relevant to our contemporary society.

Taking a slightly different form for 2020, the Exposure Award 2020 was displayed through an extended digital presentation of work by the recipient, runner-up and seven shortlisted photographic artists. All artworks were for sale reinforcing PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai’s aim to connect international collectors with exciting, emerging and experimental artists and galleries.

Selected works of 2020 Exposure Award recipient Xu Guanyu

Alongside 2020 recipient Xu Guanyu from Gaotai Gallery, Urumqi was runner-up Sameer Twade from UP Gallery, Taipei and Roland Bierman from Galerie Du Monde, Hong Kong; Zheng Fang from Time Space Gallery, Beijing/Zhengzhou; Ma Hailun from Gaotai Gallery, Urumqi; Zou Jingyao from L.A.P Gallery, Wuhan; Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes from Unit 17, Vancouver, Zhang Yunfeng from West Gallery, Shanghai, plus Yichen Zhou from MiA Collective Art, New York/Beijing. 

Aligning with PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai’s objective, the Exposure Award champions artists and galleries working at the very edges of what photography can do, and become. Over the last six years every PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai edition has explored and shown the most relevant and exciting developments in the contemporary photography market and works with the world’s leading galleries, curators and artists. Since PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai was launched in 2014, there are now five photography museums across China, highlighting how the culture and market has grown with the fair.