Fairs Switzerland

Holding back the years

Liste is 16 years old but the satellite still presents some surprising exhibitors

"Raj", 2011, by Berlin-based artist Natalia Stachon, part of a group show by Museum Haus Konstructiv

basel. The 16th edition of Liste (14-19 June), the self-styled “young art fair”, attracted a crowd who cheerfully queued at the doors of the former Warteck brewery when it opened on Monday. “Upstairs? Let’s go!” barked one visitor to his partner, keen to discover which artists the 64 galleries from 19 countries had brought to Basel this year. Things had inevitably quietened down yesterday, as the main Art Basel fair opened to VIPs, but sales were still being made.

The Horts of New York, Miami’s Rubells, and the London-based Zabludowicz clan, alongside curators from the Centre Pompidou and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, as well as Chris Dercon, the director of London’s Tate Modern, and fellow power curators Beatrix Ruf and Hans Ulrich Obrist, were among the early visitors to Liste—as well as many dealers and fair directors. They were ­attracted by Liste’s track record in spotting interesting emerging galleries and artists.

The emphasis might be on youth, both in terms of the artists, who must be under 40 years old, and the galleries, who generally only show for three years at a time, but the overall look of Liste was noticeably grown-up this year. Some galleries are now showing for their fifth or sixth time, while others are presenting artists who are becoming big names on the international circuit. There is no doubt that the fair goes down well with collectors: Berlin’s Circus (3/5/2) sold a triptych of photographic works by Özlem Altin (born 1977) in her solo show within the first half hour. An Escaped Pause (Coat), 2011, by the German artist went to a European collector for €3,500. The New York gallery Foxy Production (0/7/3) sold out its booth of eight colourful portraits with an op-art twist by the 20-something US artist Sascha Braunig, including four snapped up by the Horts, ranging in price from $7,000 to $8,000.

RaebervonStenglin (0/10/4), found in the fair’s black marquee, used Liste to launch itself with aplomb, winning the award for outstanding newcomer, chosen by a jury that included Mirjam Varadinis, a curator at the Kunsthaus Zurich, and sponsored by Redtoo, a Basel-based IT company. The gallery, which was founded only last year, ­attracted attention with work such as a floor piece by Berlin-based Swedish artist Sofia Hultén.

The fair’s selection panel, which is made up of curators rather than dealers, is drawn to just this mix of energy and ambition. Peter Bläuer, the director of Liste, said the selectors, who are anonymous, “look for interesting new artists. They are not interested in the market,” adding that the fair’s priority is not commercial. “We don’t make money,” he said, but aim to balance the budget. Any question of Liste capitalising on its brand by expanding to other cities was rejected. “There is too much of everything in the world, and there are too many art fairs,” he said.

Nevertheless, the fair is changing. Liste was first set up to cater to galleries too young to get into Art Basel. Now the fair is happy to welcome back galleries who have shown in one of the Art Basel sections, including Neue Alte Brücke from Frankfurt (1/2/2) and Monitor from Rome (0/6/1). Paola Capata, Monitor’s director, who is showing in Liste for the fifth time, said Art Statements had brought international exposure, but added, “Liste has always provided a good landscape for galleries of our generation.”

Prices are also rising: for many years, €20,000 has been a top price at Liste, with many galleries showing works for far less. But this ceiling is being breached: Plan B, from Cluj in Romania and Berlin (2/1/1), had sold Adrian Ghenie’s Self-portrait as Monkey 2, 2011, a medium-sized work, for €35,000, although they also had less expensive pieces by super-hot artist Navid Nuur on show.

Making a special guest appearance, and adding to the ­curatorial tone of the fair, Zurich’s Museum Haus Konstruktiv has organised a group show among antique printing machinery that includes the work of young Polish-born, Berlin-based artist Natalia Stachon. Her installation of more than 40 crumpled, copper sheets was attracting much attention. A unique work, it is priced at €22,000, and available directly from the artist, who was at the fair. Looking like giant sweet-­wrappers, Raj, 2011, is a reference to a Polish expression for something too good to be true, she explained. “The hand-­polished ­copper will oxidise,” losing its sheen over time. Exactly the opposite of Liste, which is ageing well.

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