LISTE was founded in 1996 as a new, self-confident generation of gallerists came of age at the end of the 1980s, gallerists who had little chance of securing a space at the world’s most important art fair, Art Basel. The first LISTE, dedicated exclusively to this new generation, presented thirty-six galleries from twelve countries and as a result of its success has continued growing ever since to include seventy-eight galleries today. Peter Bläuer, the Director of LISTE, took some time out of his busy schedule preparing the fair to answer ArtSlant’s questions.
Olga Stefan: LISTE has been around since 1996 and is considered one of the most important fairs in the world. Please tell us how and why it was started, by whom, and how it developed over time.
Peter Bläuer: LISTE - The Young Art Fair in Basel is proud to look back on nineteen years of great success. What began in 1996 on the initiative of young exhibitors (Eva Presenhuber and Peter Kilchmann among others) has developed into one of the world's most important fairs for new galleries and emerging art. David Zwirner from New York, Massimo de Carlo of Milan, Maureen Paley of London, neugerriemschneider of Berlin, Emi Fontana of Milan, and Andréhn Chiptjenko of Stockholm belong to those pioneer galleries who were there at the beginning—all of whom can be counted among the most well-established in the art market today.
OS: As so many fairs start and then fold, to what do you attribute LISTE's longevity?
PB: With its excellent reputation for young exhibitors and, the most important, emerging artists, the discoverer fair LISTE has secured a permanent place not only in Basel’s art scene but also internationally. LISTE is one of the few ancillary fairs that is, with respect to quality and content, so strong that it could easily function as a major fair in its own right.
OS: How are gallery selections made? As we all know, it's not only a question of the quality of the programme, there are also other considerations involved. Can you walk us through the selection process a bit?
PB: LISTE’s success is due mainly to its clear and rigorous fair concept and the strong effort the fair invests in presenting artists who are not represented at Art Basel. There is a committee (consisting of curators) that carefully selects the applications from each gallery (from over 350 applicants!). As opposed to other fairs, the selection committee looks closely at the program of the gallery (for the first year applicants), which should include young generation [artists], collaboration with other galleries or institutions, activities, artists working with different medias and so on. Also important for the committee is the gallery’s consistent relationship with the artists (helping to build up solid careers). That means the proposal is secondary (but still important). Also different from other fairs is that the selected galleries/exhibitors can return several times: the aim is to build up a strong presence and visibility for the gallery.
In order to provide visitors with new artistic positions, the selection committee places great emphasis on presentations of two to three artists per gallery. The selection of a high number of solo presentations also supports the pursuit of this goal.
OS: How is LISTE different from other fairs focusing on young galleries and artists?
PB: Thanks to our main sponsor, Bank E. Gutzwiller & Cie Basel, we are able to keep our prices low. We keep the booth price for new exhibitors as low as possible. Each successive year of participation is accompanied by a price increase.
Both the jury and the fair’s management attach great importance to the gallery’s selection of artists and the concept of the presentation for the fair. LISTE involves primarily young, often not well-known artists who are being introduced to a large expert public in Basel.
OS: What is the budget of LISTE and does income from application fees cover those costs? Or are there additional income streams that need to be generated to make ends meet?
PB: Booth costs and our generous sponsor Gutzwiller support the fair.
OS: Why do you think that the art world is so focused on the young? How do you view this preoccupation with "the young"?
PB: Isn’t it all about “young”? See all the plastic surgery and treatments. It is not only in the art world, it seems to be a social phenomenon. Everyone wants to stay young and fresh.
Also in the art world people love to discover, to be the first to buy from an almost unknown artist for a low price—hoping one day the price will be double or more.
OS: Can you offer some highlights from this year's programme? What do you look forward to the most for the 19th edition?
PB: We are excited about having sixteen new galleries at LISTE this year, among them five galleries from Latin America (80M2 Livia Benavides (Lima), document-art (Buenos Aires), Instituto de Vision (Bogotá), Jaqueline Martins (São Paolo) and Proyectos Ultravioleta (Guatemala City)! Four galleries are from the US: Freedman Fitzpatrick (Los Angeles), Essex Street (New York), Real Fine Arts (Brooklyn) and 47 Canal (New York), four galleries from Berlin (Lars Friedrich, Dan Gunn, Sandy Brown and Mathew), one from Cape Town (Blank Projects), one from Geneva (Truth and Consequences) and one new gallery from Poland (Dawid Radziszewski). These young upcoming galleries will definitely be one of our highlights this year!
Anne Imhof, Aqua Leo, 1st of at least two, slide show, dimensions variable, 2013; Courtesy of the artist
Please also note the ambitious performance project, curated again this year by Fabian Schoeneich, assistant curator at Kunsthalle Basel. One highlight will be the performance of Anne Imhof taking up the history of performance in the domain of art as well as music and choreography. Anne Imhof examines traditional images, structures, and processes and develops new tactics that contribute to an expanded conception of performance. For her contribution to the Performance Project, she is developing a new performance piece that is based on interaction and improvisation and combines up to eight protagonists. Adapting choir elements, text fragments, and voice the artists is interested in the layering and repetition of such diverse components.
(Image on top: LISTE 18; © Photography: Daniel Spehr)