Inside Fotografiska, Manhattan’s New Photography Hotspot That’s Part Museum, Part Bar
A new photography museum—and hangout space—is opening in Manhattan. Gillian Sagansky gets the preview.
Opening a museum in New York, a city that already boasts nearly 150 of them, is a move so bold that it rarely happens. “It’s kind of a stupid thing to do, isn’t it?” asks Jan Broman, who is nevertheless doing just that, with his brother, Per, this October, with the opening of Fotografiska New York, a photography museum on Park Avenue South, in Manhattan. (It’s the same space that the fraudster wannabe socialite Anna Sorokin, aka Anna Delvey, claimed she was developing as a cultural center.) Since the siblings founded the original Fotografiska, in their native Stockholm, in 2010, the museum has drawn over 4 million visitors; this past June, they opened an outpost in Estonia, and after New York they plan to launch in London and Shanghai.
The brothers have been steeped in the world of photographs for as long as they can remember: Their father, a professional printer, gave them cameras as kids and built a darkroom in the family basement where they could experiment. Although they pursued separate careers in photography, they teamed up in 2008 as curators to show the work of the photographer David LaChapelle at a temporary gallery in Stockholm. The response was so enthusiastic that they quickly decided to open their current space, a 60,000-square-foot former customs warehouse in the trendy Södermalm district. In the past decade, Fotografiska has hosted more than 200 shows, featuring historically significant names like Sally Mann, Guy Bourdin, and Robert Mapplethorpe.
The New York museum will occupy a six-story Renaissance Revival building that was originally built for the Episcopal Church in 1894. It will open with five exhibitions, spanning a gamut of subject matter ranging from global warming to sexuality and religion, featuring five different photographers: Ellen von Unwerth, Tawny Chatmon, Helene Schmitz, Adi Nes, and Anastasia Taylor-Lind. “Apart from anything illegal, we’re pretty open and ready to try any sort of programming,” says Amanda Hajjar, its director of exhibitions. “I like that we won’t have many rules in the space. We can show a famous artist or someone who’s straight out of college and say, ‘This is what emerging photography looks like in New York right now.’ ”
Fashion shows, wine tastings, poetry readings, and DJ nights are all to be part of the mix. Closing time on weeknights is 11 p.m., and there is a swanky eatery helmed by the famed restaurateur Stephen Starr on the second floor and a cocktail bar in what used to be a cozy chapel. “We never worked in institutions, so we didn’t have that baggage,” Jan says of the siblings’ unorthodox approach. “Our purpose was to be a part of the serious photography community in New York, but also to build a place where we wanted to hang out.”