Fotografiska breathes life into historic New York landmark

Fotografiska breathes life into historic New York landmark

The Swedish photography museum’s first global outpost is taking shape in the former Church Missions House

Located in a historic landmark and spanning six floors, the freshly opened New York outpost of Stockholm’s celebrated Fotografiska museum is set to become a cornerstone in the city’s cultural landscape. New York architecture firm CetraRuddy led the redesign of the Swedish institution’s first stateside location, in close collaboration with Fotografiska co-founders and brothers Jan and Per Broman.

While the ground floor offers a perfectly appointed café alongside a curated selection of books, prints and other wares, the second level is home to Verōnika, an elegant restaurant and bar helmed by Stephen Starr and designed by Roman and Williams. At the top of the Renaissance revival building lies a cosy living room-like space, home to rotating installations that will serve as backdrops for talks, concerts, and more. Sandwiched in the middle is the raison d’être of the museum, with three storeys dedicated to contemporary photography exhibitions. The inaugural shows are solo presentations of Ellen von Unwerth, Tawny Chatmon, Adi Nes, Helene Schmitz and Anastasia Taylor-Lind.

The curated art book and gift store. Courtesy of Fotografiska New York

The largest show, ‘Devotion! 30 Years of Photographing Women’, explores von Unwerth’s iconic fashion images – the German photographer and director was a model herself once. The playful and provocative photographs, often depicting celebrities, are arranged in seven chapters, among them Love, Power, and Passion. We see Rihanna staring straight into  the camera, lips crimson and wrapped in barbed wire (Rated R, 2009); transgender model Andreja Pejić perched on a bathroom counter in a sparkling robe (Houpette, 2013); and David Bowie and Kate Moss clinging to each other (Kate and David, 2003). A selection of von Unwerth’s short films, shot mostly in black-and-white also feature, while Lana del Rey can be heard in the backdrop of the show’s Lust section.

Soundtracks carry through many of the exhibitions, including Schmitz’s ‘Thinking Like a Mountain’, with its calming instrumental score, and Taylor-Lind’s ‘Other People’s Children’, which features mumbled conversations between kids and adults. Elsewhere at Chatmon’s survey, ‘Inheritance’, a documentary provides a behind-the-scenes look at her empowering portraits of African-American women and youth, atop of which she adds regal elements with acrylic paint and 24-karat gold-leaf in a style reminiscent of Gustav Klimt.

Much more than a photography museum, Fotografiska is a place ripe for discovery – for emerging and established talents, for connections between unsuspected pairings, and for new ways to engage with a contemporary institution. With institution set to open a London gallery in 2020, keep an eye on its forthcoming programming, which is sure to surprise and delight. §

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