It’s been 20 years since LISTE made its debut on the art scene as a fair for the fresh and new, and it seems nobody can imagine a time that it didn’t exist. Round signs adorned with the number ‘20’ proudly stand out on the streets of Basel, yet people can navigate their way around the fair simply by following the crowd. The Warteck building is full and noisy, the smell of sausages permeates the courtyard, business cards and art leaflets are displayed aside on a bench – everything is in order, as it always is. Is there any difference this year?
I pose this question to Michał Kaczyński of Raster Gallery. Before I had the chance to ask him what he thought, I was made to wait a few minutes because of the high demand in the works they were presenting. Among the featured artists were Aneta Grzeszykowska, Janek Simon, Przemek Matecki, and Michał Budny. Janek Simon’s works ‘Sculptures from the Museum of Man in Paris Made Based on Oskar Hansen‘s and Lech Kunka’s Drawings, Printed on a Homemade 3D Printer’ drew the attention of viewers as something outstanding – both literally and symbolically speaking; black and white small figures combined with African art forms using highly contemporary technique. It is is also difficult to overlook Grzeszykowska’s piece ‘Franciszka 2021’, a white felt figure with impressive web-like aureola, welcoming viewers sitting right next to the desk. There’s a short break between customers and I manage to get an answer to my question. The answer is no. Michał Kaczyński tells me that every year the viewers are often buyers, and the interest they express in Polish art remains constantly high.
Through the endlessly winding corridors and staircases I reach the Stereo Gallery booth, located in the basement of the building. I hear some strange murmuring and search for its source. I find Wojciech Bąkowski’s ‘Selfhating’ emitting from a strange speaker on a floor. It is a recording of an interview with the artist to which he added elements of mocking to his own words – a witty commentary on the artists’ selfishness. The gallery also presented works by Mateusz Sadowski and Piotr Łakomy. Zuzanna Hadrys, the owner, tells me she also noticed no difference from previous years. There are minor fluctuations of interest of course, for which I blame the weather (trying to dry my umbrella). However she feels that LISTE is a renowned brand with a commited audience and the steadiness of the fair is a sign of its maturity.
When I arrive at the last Polish participant at LISTE, Dawid Radziszewski Gallery, and once again pose the question of the anniversary edition, the owner replies, ‘What did the others say?’ Informed that they didn’t feel anything extraordinary, he told me: ‘In that case, I would say so too.’ He asserts that there’s no difference between Art Basel, the larger and more glamorous fair located at the Messeplatz, and LISTE – both are prestigious fairs and play in the same premiere league of art fairs. LISTE is more hip and unstructured, however if one were to place their booths into the Art Basel building, they would blend in seamlessly. It cannot be disputed – Dawid Radziszewski presents works by the renowned Tomasz Kowalski, who is also featured in the Carlier/Gebauer gallery booth at Art Basel. The second artist he presented at LISTE is Sebastian Buczek. It is clear that Radziszewski has attempted to illustrate an intellectual linkage between the works of the two artists. Buczek staged a performance on Thursday and Friday together with his famous doll ‘Jan’. Jan, along with a doll resembling Robert Smithson produced by Tomasz Kowalski, accompanied the gallery staff the whole time (and looked down on visitors just a little bit).
After a clear insight into what is the premiere league, I started to be curious about the ‘offbeat’ fairs in Basel. To be precise, there are six fairs which focus on visual art at this time in Basel: Art Basel, LISTE (the two obvious ones), Volta, Scope (the ‘offbeat’ ones), Photo Basel (dedicated to young photography only) and I never read (for art publications). My choice fell on Scope, located in the post-industrial district of Basel, right on the Rhine bank. The weather was fine, reggae music blasted out of speakers, and people laid back on EUR pallets drinking Yerba Mate. I entered the white tent full of good vibes and… received a shock. Everything that was ‘offbeat’ was left behind me. I walked rather swiftly along the corridors trying to hide my eyes from the animals gemmed with Svarovski crystals, video installations combining the Virgin Mary with a go-go dancer, a miniature of Michelangelo’s David after the fastfood diet, etc. It seemed to me that everything that is easy to comprehend and that is higly commercial was jammed into this tent. I went outside and drank the Yerba in order to calm down. I still believe that all those drinking the Yerba felt the same.
Having learned the distinction between the ‘offbeat’ and the ‘mainstream’ I started to think whether I noticed any difference at the anniversary edition of LISTE. On Saturday afternoon – the third day of the fair, having one day left to go – when I asked for the catalogue, the gentleman at the desk smiled and told me that they were all sold out. And that was the only difference I can think of. Fortunately the quality of art remains the same.
Written by Monika Kozub
Edited by Maggie Kuzan