In conversation with Emilia van Lynden

by Unseen January 22 2019

After nearly six years at Unseen, Emilia van Lynden has decided to leave her position as Artistic Director to focus on new professional pursuits. Preparing for her departure in April, Emilia reflects on her time with us, an experience which has seen her move from strength to professional strength – from an intern to company director. 

You've been at Unseen for six years. Can you tell us about how you came to join?
I joined the team as a VIP intern in 2013 after having completed my Masters in Dutch Art History. I had visited Unseen in 2012 and was stunned by the diversity of artists showcasing their work, the rich artistic programme and the dynamic and festive atmosphere. I was excited to join a team of young art professionals who wanted to reevaluate the structure of an art fair and think about how the art market could be made more accessible to a broad and varied public. After being part of the VIP team for the 2013 edition, I headed up the Exhibitor Relations Team and focused primarily on the Fair exhibitors and their artists.

What have been the most exciting changes you've seen Unseen undergo in those years?
It has been incredible to see how the organisation and Unseen’s programme and international reach has grown over the years. When I started, many people within the industry didn’t know about Unseen, but today we welcome professionals and photography enthusiasts from all around the world and collaborate with boundary pushing artists, leading institutions and innovative global brands. Launching a year-round platform giving artists and their newest projects the visibility they deserve and audiences the context around this work has been a fantastic and essential addition to Unseen’s activities. This, of course, is closely linked to Unseen Magazine, our now bi-annual publication that I have proudly worked on since its launch in 2014.

One of the most exceptional changes I’ve experienced has been working towards and witnessing the growing relevance of photography and artists as they explore, research and critique key issues of our time. Not only do they share their own interpretation of where we are today, but they also shed light on the possible future(s) of tomorrow.

As the Artistic Director, one of your primary focuses is ensuring that artists and their work is showcased in new and inventive formats. How do you work with the artistic team to achieve this? Where/who do you look to for inspiration?
The artistic programme is a collective effort that I work on mostly with the Unseen curators, but we also get a huge amount of input and ideas from other members of the team. It is imperative that everyone can be part of creating the programming for Unseen Amsterdam, ranging from the Head of Production to the Head of VIP Relations. We want to cater to a broad and varied audience, so it is therefore essential that many different voices are heard and reflected on within our programming. Our network, which has been built up over the past 8 years, continuously helps in advising us and pushing us to be inventive and accessible players within the photography industry.

With regard to inspiration, we travel to different photography festivals, art biennales, art fairs and major art events throughout the year and get a lot of inspiration from the industry at large. We also look to different online platforms and institutions – not specifically focused on the contemporary art world – that are trying to innovate within the realm of digital communications and media.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? 
There are too many things to name but I think the two most rewarding parts of my job are working with our talented team and with so many inspiring and pro-active stakeholders. The Unseen team is energetic and passionate about their work and it’s exhilarating to work with such a warm and welcoming group of creatives. Having worked with so many different artists has also been a true inspiration. Seeing the world through their eyes and learning about our society through these different lenses has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Finally, it’s been a pleasure to work with the people and gallerists that enable artists to gain more visibility and sustainability within their practice. I have a huge amount of respect for gallerists for dedicating their careers to creating a platform for these makers.

Where do you hope to see Unseen in five years time? 
I’m extremely excited to see the Unseen team move from strength to strength as they continue to develop the main event, Unseen Amsterdam, and welcome a growing and more diverse audience. Unseen Platform too, which was launched in November 2018, is evolving and flourishing on a daily basis, so I very much look forward to following its development and discovering new projects that shed light on societal changes and push the boundaries of the medium. Unseen has been a game changer within the photographic industry and I know that this will continue in the years to come. I am intrigued to see how it continues to empower the most exhilarating artists of our future.

Applications for the position of Artistic Director are being accepted until the 22nd of February 2019. See the full vacancy and apply here