• Alex Mane

Photo London: The UK Photography Event of the Year

The second edition of London's annual international photography fair, Photo London, opens next week (19-22 May) at Somerset House. Described by the Guardian newspaper as "the UK photography event of the year", 80 galleries from Berlin, Helsinki, London, New York, Tehran, Tokyo, Zurich and others will be showcasing their wares. Flowers gallery in London will be featuring work from one of my favorite photographers, Edward Burtynsky, as a teaser to his major solo show at Flowers this September. The Photo London exhibition will be complemented by a series of talks from high profile photographers such as Ori Gersht, Mary McCartney, Martin Parr, Nick Knight and Rankin.

And like other art fairs, satellite events and exhibitions have sprung up around the main fair. One, just around the corner from Somerset House, is by the artist collective Specular Assembly at the quirky India Club on the Strand. I went to the first edition of this last year and was charmed by both the location and the work on display. The India Club is a bar, hotel and restaurant founded in 1946 by the very first Indian High Commissioner to the UK and frequented by Nehru and Lady Mountbatten. The building and its decor don't appear to have changed since the 1940s and the nine artists showing there during Photo London have created work in response to this unusual place.

I'm also planning to go to a lecture about ten of the world's most iconic photographs, presented by London Art Studies. London Art Studies, established by ex-CNN Arts Producer Kate Gordon, offers short art courses, either for a couple of hours during the day or in the evening, usually held at the Bulgari or Berkeley hotels in Knightsbridge. Kate founded London Art Studies because she felt there was a gap in the market for short art courses provided for people who don't have time for lengthier classes. She explains that "the courses appeal to both curious beginners and more knowledgeable art-lovers and collectors. Our aim is to take some of mystery out of the art world."

London Art Studies has also recently partnered with Phillips, the auction house, to run an evening class prior to auctions. The first of these will be a lecture on 17 May by curator and Sluice Art Fair director Ben Street on ten landmark photographs plus a sneak peek at the photographs in the auction on 19 May.  These ten iconic photos demonstrate how photography has come to be taken more seriously as art. The photographs, ranging from mysterious and painterly to challenging and candid, include works from Julia Margaret Cameron, Henri Cartier -Bresson, Robert Frank, Dorothea Lange, Bill Brandt, Diane Arbus, Robert Mapplethorpe, William Eggleston, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Jeff Wall.

At the Phillips auction, two Robert Mapplethorpe pieces are bound to generate keen interest. Number three in an edition of ten plus two artist proofs of Mapplethorpe's Self Portrait (1988) has an estimated price of £60,000-£80,000. All other editions are said to be in private collections. Similarly, edition number two Mapplethorpe's Calla Lily (1986) is from a sold out edition with the same estimated price. I'm also looking forward to seeing The Red Ceiling (1973) by William Eggleston, said to be the artist's most famous photograph. As The New Yorker said about William Eggleston's exhibition at the Whitney a few years ago, "you can always tell a William Eggleston photograph. It's the one in color that hits you in the face and leaves you confused and happy, and perhaps convinces you that you don't understand photography nearly as well as you thought you did."

Photography exhibitions on at the public galleries this month include British artist Martin Parr's curated show Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers (until 19 June) at the Barbican Art Gallery; at the National Portrait Gallery their special exhibition is Vogue 100: A Century of Style (until 22 May) and The Photographers' Gallery presents the Deutsche Börse Foundation Photography Prize.

Photo London, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA. Tickets £25/adults or £20/concessions

London Art Studies: Ten Landmark Photographs lecture plus champagne private view of the Phillips sale, 30 Berkeley Square, London, W1J 6EX. Tickets £50

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