Fotografiska to open a London Museum of Photography

Swedish organisation Fotografiska is to open a new centre for photography in London’s Whitechapel. The 89,000 sq ft lower ground space plus office, which is located near Whitechapel Gallery, is due to be completed in the second half of 2018, and has been rented by Fotografiska for 15 years (with a break option at 12 years).

“Fotografiska has for a long time been searching for suitable facilities in London, one of the world’s most dynamic cities when it comes to photography,” said Tommy Rönngren, founding partner and chair of the board of Fotografiska London. “Whitechapel, which is one of London’s most dynamic areas, will be a perfect location. It will be really exciting to bring the concept of Fotografiska to London.”
Fotografiska already runs a 59,000 sq ft contemporary photography centre in Stockholm called The Swedish Museum of Photography, which opened in 2010 and shows four major exhibitions per year. Previous exhibitions include solo shows by Guy Bourdin, Sarah Moon, Annie Leibovitz, Lars Tunbjörk and Anders Petersen. The organisation also reportedly signed a lease this summer for all six floors, 45,000 sq ft, of the 281 Park Avenue South building in New York.
The White Chapel Building, CG image courtesy Derwent London
Founded by brothers Jan and Per Broman, Fotografiska is privately-run, doesn’t conduct research and is for-profit, leading to some to question its use of the name ‘museum’. According to an article published in 2012 in the journal Homo Oeconomicus, the majority of its shares were owned by the Broman brothers, while the rest were owned by seven partners with business backgrounds, including investment banker Sven Hagströmer.
Homo Oeconomicus stated that the majority of Fotografiska’s revenue comes from its entrance fees – the Swedish centre currently charges SEK135 [£12] for adult admissions, while children under 12 years old go free, and it claims to attract over 500,000 visitors per year. The building, an Art Nouveau former customs house whose SEK250m (£24m) restoration was funded by the City of Stockholm, also includes an award-winning restaurant and can be hired for events; in addition, Fotografiska runs a poster shop, limited editions, and photography courses.
The White Chapel Building was formerly known as Aldgate Union, and was occupied by RBS from 2005 to July 2015, when property developers Derwent London acquired it for £132m. The eight-storey building is being reconfigured by Fletcher Priest architects and is due for completion in 2018; Phase 1 of the redevelopment created a new public entrance and atrium, including a cafe and bar, and was fully let earlier this year to clients such as the Government Digital Service.
The White Chapel Building entrance, CG image courtesy Derwent London
Derwent London describes itself as typically acquiring “central London properties off-market with low capital values and modest rents in improving locations, most of which are either in the West End or the Tech Belt”; its portfolio also includes the Tea Building E1, home to the private members’ club Shoreditch House.
The White Chapel Building is located opposite Aldgate East underground station, and close to what will be the Liverpool Street and Whitechapel Crossrail stations. It is close to Central House, which is currently home to the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design but was controversially sold to property developer, Fraser’s Property (UK) in February 2016; and to Whitechapel Gallery, which was extensively expanded in 2009.
In April this year, the V&A also announced a new photography centre in London, which is due to open in Autumn 2018. Read the BJP story here.

Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is the editor of BJP, returning for a second stint on staff in 2023 - after 15 years on the team until 2019. As a freelancer, she has written for The Guardian, FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, Aperture, FOAM, Aesthetica and Apollo. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy