With plans to open outposts in Berlin, Miami and Shanghai, Fotografiska now bills itself as the world’s largest private art museum.
In 2010, the photography-centric, cultural hub unveiled its first location in a former customs house in Stockholm dating back to 1906. A New York City one in the 1894 Renaissance revival Church Missions House and a Tallinn, Estonia, locale in an 1890s former factory followed nine years later. The architecture that houses each museum is integral to the community that it attracts and the new addresses are no exception.
In Berlin, Herzog & de Meuron and Studio Aisslinger will be working on the 58,000-square-foot site. Formerly known as the Kunsthaus Tacheles, the location once housed a department store in the city’s Jewish Quarter. In Miami, Rockwell Group is reimagining a former factory near Superblue and the Rubell Museum. And the Shanghai Fotografiska will be based in a former factory in the city’s cultural district. All three locations are slated to open next year, with Miami scheduled for the second quarter and Berlin and Shanghai planned for the third quarter.
The expansion plan builds from Fotografiska’s merger in March of this year with the private work space and social venue NeueHouse, which formed the parent company CultureWorks. Both entities are under the investment and strategic platform. Miami, Berlin and Shanghai were chosen for “amplifying out culture and had a population of culture makers and mavens, and creative communities and companies that were working to amplify out moments of art, photography and culture,” said Josh Wyatt, CultureWorks chief executive officer.
Over the next two to three years, $50 million to $100 million in expansion capital is being committed globally to build out the three locations and a few others that are being “actively worked on, but have not yet closed, Wyatt said. Yoram Roth, who serves CultureWorks chairman, is the majority investor from his personal family office vehicle. Revolt Ventures is another investor, said Wyatt, who added that a Series C fundraising round is underway.
Currently, Fotografiska Stockholm is attracting more visitors than it did before the pandemic, with 450,000 expected to walk through the galleries this year. “It’s quite incredible to see the local and regional tourism bounce back strong in Scandinavia and northern EU,” Wyatt said.
The second most trafficked museum is in Manhattan. During New York City’s shutdown, the location’s physical aspects and curation were spiffed up. In the last 12 weeks, weekend visitors are averaging around 2,000 and about 4,000 during the week, Wyatt said. In the next year, Fotografiska New York aims to attract about 300,000 people.
There are three types of shows: global, local and “culturally significant or activist-based significant shows,” Wyatt said. The traveling global ones are like the “Virgin Mary. Supermarkets. Popcorn. Photographs 1999 to 2020” exhibit by British photographer Miles Aldridge that was in New York and will be shown in Stockholm. One featuring the work of Morocco-based photographer Hassan Hajjaj is another example. On the local side, “Ruth Orkin — Expressions of Life” that is now on view in New York is an example.
In terms of the culturally significant or activist-leaning shows, Stockholm recently had one about the Syrian refugee crisis, “which is more of a European topic. Most Americans, while they might be somewhat aware of the Syrian refugee crisis, they’re probably more focused on the humanitarian crisis at the Mexican-U.S. border. So we would do a show on the Mexican-U.S. border and do a Syrian refugee story in Europe,” Wyatt said.
Being able to read societal shifts and pressing issues and put together shows in six months — versus up to the three years that’s more the norm with some larger museums — is an advantage for Fotografiska, Wyatt said. Increasingly connection and visual culture are areas of focus for many New Yorkers, as was the case in the ’80s and ’90s thanks to Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Mudd Club, he said. “There were these moments of people coming together through art and photography. Now we’re sitting in the confluence of NFTs, music.”
Working under the premise “that New Yorkers want to celebrate being back together again and celebrate creativity,” the museum decided, “What greater track record [is there] in New York City than the world of fashion that brings together moments of fashion, art, music?” That led to a current roster at the downtown location that includes “Andy Warhol Photo Factory” and Janette Beckman’s “Rebels: From Punk to Dior.” (Another show features the work of fashion photographer Sarah Moon.)
Along with the fashion-minded curation, Fotografiska earlier this year launched Chapel Bar, a members’ only bar that plays up connections through photography, art, music and media. Art fans can become patron members for $2,000 annually which provides VIP access to Chapel Bar, preview events and openings, and NeueHouse. Another option is the collector membership for $200 annually.
Members or not, Fotografiska hopes visitors will spend two to three hours checking out a photo exhibit and/or attending a programming event, such as Leica-led photography workshops and launches, like ones that were held for Marina Abramović’s book and Quentin Tarantino’s NFT.
Along with ticket sales and special programming, which each account for 25 percent of Fotografiska’s business, the food and beverage sector accounts for 25 percent. Corporate events, fashion shows, weddings and other private events generate the remaining 25 percent. Early next month photographs and costumes from the new film “House of Gucci” will be exhibited first to the cast, crew and press, and then to the public. Private parties will also be held around that.