Home Magazine MeetMe#27 | Photo L.A. 2020/Part. I

As every year during winter time Photo L. A. becomes a focal point for photography in US. Kooness interviews Claudia James Bartlett, owner of the fair since 2018. Claudia comes from a Contemporary art background and she chose photography because “is a convergence of art, contemporary culture and science”.  

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Claudia James Bartlett. Photo by Jeffrey Sklan. 

Claudia, your path in contemporary art and photography started many years ago in an important place as Gagosian. And then you worked for Artforum, you were director of different galleries … when did you decide to work with International photography?

I have always had an affinity with Photography.  My father had a darkroom at home and I went to art school and studied photography, printmaking and film. I came back to photography in a more serious way after a short hiatus from the art world. In 2013 I started working for Stephen Cohen the founder of Photo L.A. During that period I managed the Stephen Cohen Gallery and eventually directed the gallery (Cohen Gallery) while managing and helping Stephen direct photo l.a. I have had a lot of help and support along the way. 

Last year you were called to take control over Photo L.A. because the fair needed to go back to its golden age. How did you start to push it towards a more International direction?

In 2018, I purchased Stephen’s half of photo l.a. and am now sole owner. It is always a tough endeavor to take a fair that has been around for so many years and re-brand.  I have taken on this challenge knowing in by bones that Los Angeles is an incredible place for art and that the brand of photo l.a., that Stephen started, has a very strong following.  I am a native of Los Angeles and have seen the changes that have been inspirational to the art and the art community here.  This year as in years past we are proud that the local institutions like the J. Paul Getty Museum and LACMA have been so supportive. For a fair here in Los Angeles, this is what it takes.  Along with collectors that “buy in” Los Angeles and make their presence felt. In 2018, I knew that we needed to work on bring better work and more collectors to the table and that is what we are doing. Our team reaches out and stays in touch with galleries and collectors over the year to build those relationships.  These are the keys to both great local and international galleries participating. 


Photo L.A., Ellen Cantor.Courtesy of dnj Gallery


Photo L.A., Steve Schapiro. Courtesy of Monroe Gallery of Photography


Today Photo L.A. counts more than 60 galleries from all over the world. Do you think is important to have different visions from different countries? And how was to move to Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, as a new venue?

It is very important to our collectors and attendees to see and participate in a broad vision of what photography is and what it could be. That definitively includes an international vision. It enriches everyone’s perspective. The mix is really crucial for creating that feeling of discovery that we all aspire too. And, bring it to the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica has been great. You can’t beat Southern California in the winter!

How is the photo market in comparison with the contemporary art one?

It is somewhat same but…. of course different. People collect for many reasons. That is the same in both the contemporary art market and in the photography market. Some collect for the love or beauty, some because they are interested in participating in the market, some to support an artist that they admire and some for a combination of those reasons.  Not to mention, the drive that some feel to own something that inspires them.

I am an image geek. I love everything from picture of Africans standing next to their hyenas to surveillance photos. What I love about photography and what I feel is different is that it can be very democratic. In my mind photography is a convergence of art, contemporary culture and science. Photography, since its inception, has held a special place in the visual arts because of this convergence. Its relevance and place in our everyday lives makes it powerful, particularly in the hands of a substantial artist. This along with a price point that allows a broad spectrum of individuals to revere and collect, make the market different.



From left to right: Photo L.A., Tony Vaccaro. Courtesy of Monroe Gallery of Photography | Photo L.A., Tyler Haughey. Courtesy of Sears-Peyton Gallery.

Cover image: Photo L.A., Anja Niemi. Courtesy of Galerie XII.

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

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