New York’s 1500 Gallery has been representing Brazilian photographers since 2010. Claire Rigby caught up with its co- owner Andrew Klug at September’s SP-Arte/Foto

You’re one of just two foreign galleries at SP-Foto. What brings you here?

This is one of the main fairs of the year for us, because it’s the largest one in Latin America. There’s a potential goldmine of photography talent here that’s completely unknown to the rest of the world; but at the same time, we also want to bring other artists, international artists, here – to complement our New York gallery with a gallery in Brazil. We hope to leverage the potential opportunities that result from the differences of the two markets.

With the photographers you represent at the gallery, is ‘Brazilian-ness’ an important factor – is there a recognisable school of Brazilian photography?
Well, with artists like Bruno Cals, there’s nothing especially Brazilian about his work – it’s architectural photography. But there is a kind of school of Brazilian photography that was pioneered by two artists – Mario Cravo Neto and Miguel Rio Branco. Their styles are
quite similar – they deal with a lot of themes like macumba and candomblé, and street scenes in Bahia – poverty and favelas. Their style visually is quite dark: some saturated colours, lots of shadows. It has been an inspiration for new generations of young Brazilian photographers – people like Julio Bittencourt, whose work has a dark, very gritty, shadowy feel to it.

Is there a lot of appetite in New York for Brazilian photography?
Of the people who come to our gallery, only a small percentage are Brazilophiles – most people come because it sounds interesting, and then they connect with the work. Here, some of the works go for astronomical sums because the market appreciates them; but we brought some works by Rio Branco and Cravo Neto to the Pinta art fair in New York, and they didn’t sell. People don’t know them. You can get a Mapplethorpe for US$10,000, so why would you spend US$50,000 on a Rio Branco, who you don’t know?

And yet does the fact of your being a New York gallery create high expectations amongst artists here?
Yes. We systematically have to tell them to tone down their expectations price-wise in New York. We charge slightly lower prices there than we do here in São Paulo. First of all, the currency is very strong. So if you take your Brazilian prices and translate them into dollars, that would give you an over-valued price to begin with. On top of that, you have to take into account that the demand there is not the same as here. This is a booming market; the US is recessionary. If I was using New York language, I would say, ‘Don’t price for 2007.’

So how has it been going here at the art fair?
We’ve been selling faster than we can register sales.

And who’s buying?
They’re paulistanos – all people that I would describe as collectors.

This is your first time in São Paulo – how have you found it?
I think for many people who haven’t been here before, it’s a surprise to find it such an amazingly developed and sophisticated city. But then Brazil itself is a surprise to people. People in the US and Europe have no idea – they’ve heard that Brazil’s economy is doing well, but to come down here and realise that this place is as sophisticated as any city you’ll ever see in the world. I don’t know if it has always been, but certainly now it is.

What sort of places have you been going to here in São Paulo?
I’ve been to Dalva e Dito – it was excellent. It’s authentic Brazilian food, but of a very high calibre – a world-class restaurant, absolutely.

I’ve heard people comparing São Paulo to Manhattan before – does that ring true to you at all?
Well, I guess they might be referring to it as a financial centre, but it doesn’t really seem like New York to me. As much as São Paulo is extremely urban, the buildings are not anywhere near on the scale of Manhattan. I find a lot more similarity with San Francisco, in terms of the feeling – they both have the hilly thing going on, and in the density of the buildings
and also the size of them. And the climate – it’s humid and cool. This is exactly what San Francisco feels like in this season.