What’s Wrong With Art? Photo London

Tabish Khan loves art and visits hundreds of exhibitions a year. But every now and then he comes across something in the art world that doesn’t meet his approval.

The 3rd edition of Photo London has now concluded, even though it now feels like an age ago. The numbers suggest it was bigger, more popular and commercially successful than ever.

While there were many good works across the participating galleries, there were a few kinks that still need working out.

The venue

Somerset House is a fantastic and cavernous venue but there are a few downsides. The corridors are narrow and it’s difficult to navigate, this could be helped by having the staff directing people to the less obvious areas. For example on Sunday the wings were busy but the best work was on the mezzanine which felt very empty — maybe because people had missed it as it’s tucked away.

Parts of Somerset House have to be open to the public so this results in queues as people hop from section to section having their tickets scanned at each point. Some people were able to avoid this via wristbands, but this didn’t apply to regular ticket holders. There must be a more efficient way to administer this.

Too much of the same

It did seem like at every turn there was a black and white nude photography. Of course nudity is part of photography but it seemed to be everywhere. A bit of smarter curation could have limited it, or at least asked some galleries to bring different artists to the fair.

The price

£29 is far too much for this fair even though it’s very big this year. This has Photo London drifting towards Frieze costs and that’s a high bar to meet. Frieze has ups and downs but it’s truly massive, littered with performances and the full portfolio the art world has to offer — including photography.

Photo London has some good works, but it’s nowhere near the level of excitement that Frieze generates. It also makes it far too restrictive for people who genuinely love photography from having access to it.

The verdict

It was still another solid year for Photo London, but it feels like it still have lots of room to grow and I’d expect an improvement next year.

For more in this series, see my thoughts on  The Turner Prize, Art for art’s sake, Conceptual art is complicatedCondoHow performance art is presented in museumsFrieze week floozies, too much respect for an artist’s legacyopinions not being welcomean exhibition across three countriestackling race and gender in artartist-curatorsart fair hypetop 5s and top 10sour political art is terriblegap left by Brian Sewellhow art never learned from the Simpsons, why artspeak won’t die, so-called reviewsbad reviews are bad for business, the $179m dollar headline, art fairs appealing to the masses, false opening hours, size matters and what’s wrong with video art.

Image copyright Guy Bourdin

About Tabish Khan

Art Critic for both FAD and Londonist. See as many exhibitions as possible and write reviews, opinion pieces and a weekly top 5 for FAD.