«The young generation always has its finger on the pulse: they don’t just try to grasp the present, they create it». Joanna Kamm, Director at Liste Art Fair Basel
Founded in 1996 from an idea by Eva Presenhuber and Peter Kilchmann, Liste Art Fair is a well-known event in the Basel calendar. And it’s part of the art scene of the city, as with its 40 museums and many Arte-related fairs and events, Basel owes its reputation as Switzerland’s cultural capital.
The event filled a gap in the market. Being an international platform for a younger generation of gallerists from all over the world. They are representatives of the latest developments and trends in contemporary art. «Liste Art Fair Basel is synonymous with experiencing international artistic waves. It focus not only on the present but also on new aesthetics, media, and values.» Being a reference point for gallerists, since 1996 Liste developed a community that put gallerists, critics, artists, and visitors. In touch ranging from a high-caliber professional audience to anyone interested in art.
Liste Art fair Basel, liste showtime online and liste expedition online
The community has always been a focus at Liste. But even more in the past two years during the pandemic. When organizing events in person has been challenging – if not impossible due to the social distancing. This is why Liste consists as of 2022 of three formats, Liste Art Fair Basel, Liste Showtime Online, and Liste Expedition Online.
While the original format was launched back in the Nineties, the Showtime and the Expedition were launched in 2021 to overcome restrictions and social distancing during the lockdowns. «When we realized in 2020 that it might be possible that we would not be able to do a physical fair,» explains Joanna Kamm, Director at Liste Art Fair Basel.
«We developed a digital platform, called Liste Showtime, which works as an online viewing room, with a special focus on introducing artists». Liste Showtime Online allows, in fact, the fair to improve its international network. It enables collectors, curators, and art lovers to gain an overview of new voices in contemporary art. Without requiring a physical presence.
“Rewriting our imaginations”: a poster project
«Moreover, we also started a project called “Rewriting our Imaginations”» continues Kamm. For this project, every artist – selected among the different galleries that participated in the project – designed a poster. The subject was a time when life as we knew has been disrupted. And what had previously existed only in imaginations became a reality. «”Rewriting Our Imaginations” showed what new imaginations. New futures might look like when what was previously fictional is transformed into something real». The project was also about exploring new modes of production, presentation, and distribution. In a world where physical presence was not an option anymore: the works were then showcased on Liste Showtime in the online shop and could be purchased as PDFs or print. Additionally, “Rewriting Our Imaginations” works as a virtual/moving exhibition, as the PDFs can be sent digitally and produced on-site as posters.
When it comes to finding new formats, Liste so far has held physical and digital editions. «in 2021, we invited 14 young curators and writers to try to define current contemporary art. These ideas then became filters, which could be used to guide through the digital fair by highlighting certain topics. We also developed Liste Expedition, a digital research forum that is non-commercial and publicly funded. It was launched in December 2021 presenting the world’s newest positions in contemporary art. It includes as well an artist index and curated programs and is available to everyone year-round» Kamm explains.
«These digital projects are complementary and supportive but cannot replace the physical fair. Which has been held last year: the high number of applications from all over the world this year, strong signs are sent out by both visitors and exhibitors that everyone is longing for a physical Liste».
Sculpture plaza – where social exchange occurs
To reinforce the concept of community, Liste also features the Sculpture Plaza. A public square where to find a bar, a magazine stand, and an area for a video project. «The public square is a social place, and Liste had several terraces, bars, restaurants and spaces in the Werkraum Warteck pp, the original location. A lot of social exchange occurs there; it is the core place for networking. It has always been a part of Liste and we are trying to translate this into a hall with the Piazza».
Talking about the video, the original idea for the project was to present video works by artists from the galleries. With Martha Kirszenbaum, as curator of the project. However, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. «We decided to change the project: we are now planning a video project curated by Martha in cooperation with young Ukrainian curators. Which will show film works by Ukrainian artists and give a platform to both the Ukrainian artists and the Ukrainian curators».
Werkraum warteck pp as the historical site
Back to the location, even if due to the pandemic, in 2021, the fair has not taken place in its historical site. But in a hall of the Messe Basel fairgrounds. Liste’s history cannot be told without Werkraum Warteck pp – where “pp” means “permanently provisional”, synonymous with change and development. The former Warteck brewery, transformed into Werkraum Warteck pp in the Nineties, gathers many cultural projects and businesses. From 1996 through 2019, the tenants of Warteck vacated their spaces for the week of the fair. Leaving them to the galleries and Liste Art Fair Basel. This innovation and growth mindset is part of this building, part of Liste, making it the ideal venue for the fair.
Discover new voices in contemporary art
When asked about the selection criteria to attend Liste as a gallerist, Kamm explains. «Our international committee, consisting of curators, gallerists, and artists. Selects the galleries under the premise of promoting younger artists and players. The committee members have the expertise and reflect the global and diverse contemporary art world. It guarantees that galleries beyond the established art centers also have a significant presence at the fair. Ultimately, the quality of the art and the gallery program is always decisive».
Liste opens the door to the international art world for young artists and young gallerists. Collectors, curators, and art lovers from all over the world go to Liste to discover new voices in contemporary art. This means that, with an appearance on Liste, they can become internationally visible, which is significant: «Liste makes them visible on an international level. An appearance on Liste can be the first step to making things in motion, get exhibitions, and so on».
The 2022 edition
About the fil rouge and expectations for 2022. Kamm explains that in such an uncertain socio-political scenario, art can promote diversity and culture. And it is an opportunity to share new approaches and ways of thinking – encouraging visitors to develop and express new perspectives themselves. «The young generation always has its finger on the pulse. They don’t just try to grasp the present, they create it», through art, of course.
Among the young creatives, some special guests are part of the fair; this allows Liste to set «thematic focuses», such as with HEK or the video project on Ukrainian art. «This allows us, as a fair, to draw attention to certain developments and themes of contemporary importance.» But apart from this, the Special Guest program is kept to a minimum, not to draw attention away from new artistic trends. «We have 60 solo presentations this year. The galleries themselves want to give a deeper insight into their artists’ work and promote it».
For the 2022 edition, the galleries that present the voices in contemporary art participating in Liste Art Fair Basel are 82. From 37 countries in Hall 1.1 at Messe Basel from 13 – 19 June, with works by over 100 artists and 60 solo and 22 group presentations.
Liste Art Fair Basel
Since 1996 Liste Art Fair Basel is the international fair for new discoveries in contemporary art.
A younger generation of galleries exhibits artists who are outstanding representatives of the latest developments and trends in contemporary art.
For all visitors Liste is synonymous with experiencing international artistic positions. That are not only focused on the present but are also creating it – with new aesthetics, media and values.