Liste art fair is driving towards the digital


When young gallerists Eva Presenhuber and Peter Kilchmann launched Liste Art Fair Basel in 1996, they wanted to “create something which reflects the spirit of the younger generation and their needs”, says current director Joanna Kamm — somewhere young artists could get exposure and curators and collectors could find future stars. “Our prices are not as high as works you can see in Art Basel . . . It’s challenging in the sense that you have to take a risk — it’s not a safe value.”

Launching a smaller fair at the same time as the prestigious Art Basel might have been seen as a risk. But Kamm thinks the fairs complement each other and serve different audiences. Liste, she says, is for the curious. “You go to Liste because you are excited about discovering something new and unknown, maybe taking risks. For us, it’s important that there is engagement in emerging contemporary art that brings people to Basel from across the world.”

Small towers of yellow rings cast yellow shadows in a large white room
‘SUNS’ (2019) by Zuza Golińska at Piktogram © Courtesy the artist/Piktogram

When Liste returns next week (June 13-19), it will be reflecting our times both in its format and its content. Since joining as its director in 2018, after running her own gallery, Kamm has steered the fair firmly towards the digital sphere. She says the pandemic sped up this shift, but as online is the primary language of the younger generation, it “totally makes sense” for Liste to develop digital platforms to present art. In fact, the online edition (June 13-26) runs for longer than the in-person fair.

Liste’s hybrid model includes Liste Showtime Online and Liste Expedition Online, launched in 2020 and 2021 respectively in reaction to the challenges of the pandemic. Liste Showtime acts as both a digital edition and online catalogue of the fair, while Liste Expedition is a publicly accessible research forum with a growing index of artists. “It’s really important for us to have a chance to present the fair to people who aren’t able to come to Basel,” Kamm says.

The drive towards digital has also encouraged a new generation of collectors to dip a toe into the world of in-person fairs, Kamm says. “This younger group of collectors are feeling more confident to attend physical fairs because they have had the chance to experience art on their screens.”

Painting of a naked person lying on a surgical table with doctors and nurses standing around looking sad
Works by Ukrainian artists Kateryna Lisovenko . . .

Painting of a man overshadowed by a tree
 . . . and Lucy Ivanova are being show by Kyiv gallery The Naked Room © Courtesy the artist/The Naked Room (2)

This year, the physical fair welcomes 82 galleries from 37 countries, 20 of which are participating for the first time from cities including Beijing (CLC Gallery Venture), Toronto (Franz Kaka), Algiers (Rhizome) and Kyiv (The Naked Room; Voloshyn Gallery).

Liste has taken a supportive stance towards the Ukrainian art world. Those Kyiv galleries’ debut participation is one form, along with commissioning a film programme in collaboration with Kyiv’s PinkchukArtCentre, which will be shown in the piazza. Other galleries are showing solidarity by incorporating art from Ukrainian artists into their presentations. Bucharest gallery Sandwich is adding Natasha Shulte, whose work explores tensions between state and individual control, while Georgian gallery LC Queisser will feature the work of the collective Understructures, who have created a book of stories about Ukrainian people.

A woman in a suit walks across grey carpet towards a tall blue lamp sculpture
Liste moved locations last year from a brewery to the Messe Basel

In the work the galleries are bringing, Kamm detects contemporary themes. Many of the pieces are more “self-oriented . . . There’s a kind of fragility that’s expressed in half-real, half-fictional worlds”. That’s evident, for example, in the exploration of oppression against female and gender-fluid bodies presented in a satin and steel installation by Poland’s Zuza Golińska (Piktogram gallery) and in a stop-motion animation video tracing the family history of Taiwan’s Zhan Xu Zhang (Project Fulfill Art Space). These and the 109 other artists were selected by a committee of art-world professionals who identify themes and trends from the work they receive via applications and research. Another trend is the embrace of digital technology to explore ideas of social and political change — media installations and video presentations will be in abundance, says Kamm.

Tastes are continually changing, especially in the contemporary art scene, so how does Kamm ensure people are willing to take such risks? She relies on their curiosity: “Emerging art brings a new perspective on the world and many collectors and curators are excited about that.”

A vaguely ghostly sculpture made from a metal stand
‘Inner Axis Mundi 1.0 – Your Personal Sonic Shaman’ (2022) by Wang Xin . . . 

A cross between a knight’s suit of armour and a plague doctor
. . . who is showing at CLC Gallery Venture from Beijing, a newcomer to Liste  © Courtesy the artist/CLC Gallery Venture (2)

As of last year, Liste is located in the Messe Basel, next to Art Basel. Visitors will find it more spacious than editions pre-2021, when it was sited in a former brewery. Those narrow corridors and small rooms were deemed unsafe for hosting a fair during the pandemic, so Liste moved to a fair hall, which means that the fair benefits from a larger space to allow more galleries and will also receive footfall from Art Basel. Intact will be “Liste’s identity as a place of community”, says Kamm.

The community vibe is one of the ways Kamm thinks Liste stands apart from other art fairs in Basel. A place for meeting, making connections and friends is vital in helping further the careers of the next generation of gallerists — “You can see a lot of the major galleries started with us” — and artists. The works on show, Kamm says, demonstrate “the way international contemporary art is developing and in which direction”. Its aim, as its director makes clear, is to pave the way for the art of the future.

June 13-19,

Three more fairs not to miss during Art Basel

Design Miami/ Basel

A low set of wooden shelves with colour blocks on each level
Tunisie bookcase (1952) by Charlotte Perriand © Courtesy Marc Domage/Jousse Entreprise

In its 16th edition, Design Miami/ Basel returns to the Messeplatz, taking as its curatorial theme “The Golden Age”, representing hope and adaptability following the turbulent years of the pandemic. The fair’s curatorial director, Maria Cristina Didero, aims to invoke a “dreamland” where we live in harmony and prosperity, with one eye on history, the other on the future, expressed through international design and objects.

Among the furniture, lighting and objets d’art on view will be pioneering works from masters such as Ponti, Le Corbusier and Perriand. “Quietly embedded in our collective imagination, these items are visual, physical records of our evolving existence,” says Didero. Embracing a hybrid approach since 2021, works from the fair will be available to view and buy online in real time, while virtual collectors can take part in tours and talks from the comfort of their homes.

June 13-19,

Volta Basel

Oil painting of a Venetial canal seen through pink arches
‘Italian Summer’ (2021) by Ben Arpea © Courtesy of the artist and Artdib gallery

Volta Basel acts as a bridge between the heavyweight Art Basel and the younger Liste fair and it returns to Elys, Elsässerstrasse 215a, for its 17th edition with an eclectic presentation of works, from NFTs to sculpture and textile art. Sixty-seven young and middle-market international galleries will exhibit this year.

What began as a place for dealers and friends to meet in 2005, Volta is now a key player in the Basel art scene for connecting engaged collectors with emerging artists and works. This year, the fair presents its first “cultural spotlight”, a collaboration with Jeddah’s Athr Foundation, as a way of offering an international platform to 12 emerging artists based in Saudi Arabia. The exhibition centres around the notion of intangible truths manifested through various media and objects.

June 13-19,

Photo Basel

Black and white photo of a young woman laughing as she falls out of her top
‘Der 18. Geburtstag, Basel’ (1983) by Hugo Jeaggi

For photography fans: Photo Basel, Switzerland’s only art fair dedicated to photography, hosts its seventh edition at the Volkshaus Basel. The compact fair packs in an impressive selection of works, exhibiting photographs by 130 artists. The fair’s 40 galleries span 18 nations and this year a special exhibition will pay homage to the late Anita Neugebauer, whose pioneering gallery championed fine art photography.

The fair will reprise its focus on photography-based art from the African continent and diaspora, including portraits by the Sudanese artist Atong Atem and works by Ghanaian Melanie Issaka, whose self-portraits explore black women’s bodies in art history through cyanotypes. A section on the concrete photography movement celebrates the photographic process and its components, from lighting to camera, spotlighting the work of the Swiss artists Patrick Fuchs and Roger Humbert, among others.

June 14-19,


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