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Felicity Hammond, A Global Sense of Place, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.
Felicity Hammond, A Global Sense of Place, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

New Owners of Unseen Amsterdam Commit to Reimbursing Unpaid Artists

After the Dutch photography fair Unseen Amsterdam declared bankruptcy and did not pay a number of arts professionals who had completed work for its last edition, the Unseen Foundation, an affiliate, but independent, charitable organization, and Fons Hof and Johan de Bruijn, founders of the website, came under scrutiny for trying to secure the fair’s future. As Hof, who serves as the director of Art Rotterdam, and de Bruijn were in the process of placing a bid for the assets of the Unseen platform, artist Felicity Hammond published an open letter accusing those who were attempting to save the brand of using the bankruptcy proceedings to sidestep its obligations to pay artists.

Upon learning of the open invoices, Hof and de Bruijn have decided to compensate the unpaid workers. In a letter addressed to Hammond, which the artist posted on Instagram, they said: “We were not aware of, nor responsible for, dealing with creditors left unpaid by the former owners of Unseen. However, as we are committed to art, and artists such as yourself, who make this sector thrive, we have decided to use our own funds to reimburse the artists who are owed money by the prior Unseen management and who made Unseen a success.”

It continued: “This Saturday we received a list of twenty-six outstanding artist payments owed by the bankrupt agencies. We herewith offer to take over theses twenty-six claims of the artists to the bankrupt estate. This means we are going to pay you in full out of our own resources and then will try to collect whatever of your claims can be paid out of the bankrupt estate for ourselves. Please understand that we operate without any relation to the former management of the foundation. We organize future editions of Unseen with the same transparency and trust we’ve shown doing twenty-one years of Art Rotterdam.”

Hammond, who was commissioned to work on advertising for the fair, created a series of works that were displayed in twenty locations throughout Amsterdam in the lead-up to its 2019 iteration and was owed 5,000 euros. Het Parool reported that Karolina Wojtas, who won the ING Unseen Talent Award last year; Daria Tuminas, the head of the fair’s Book Market and the Unseen Dummy Award; and Jasper Bode, director of Ravestijn Gallery, are among the arts professionals who are also owed money.

Unseen was founded by the photography museum Foam and two Amsterdam-based agencies, Vandejong Creative Agency and Platform A. However, not long after Foam parted ways with Unseen, and two longtime backers, BankGiro Loterij and Blockbusterfonds, pulled their support in 2017, the fair experienced financial trouble.

In addition to Hof and de Bruijn, Westergas, the arts and culture village in Amsterdam’s Westerpark, also acquired a stake in the fair. According to a release, the new management team claims it intends to “keep Unseen’s idiosyncratic character.” The 2020 edition of Unseen will take place at Westergas from Thursday, September 17, through Sunday, September 20. Hof will serve as the fair’s director.