Eliška Konečná, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Polansky Gallery.

Liste Art Fair 2024: 6 Galleries on Our Radar.

Every year, Basel’s Liste Art Fair (10 – 23 June) showcases cutting-edge contemporary art. This year, 91 galleries from 35 countries presented over 100 artists. Liste Art Fair plays a key role in positioning emerging artists on the global art scene, presenting their visions, new aesthetics and values. 

I talked to 6 gallery owners in their booths. They shared with me the concept of their stands, their process of selecting artists for their stands, and their visitor’s reception. 

At Temnikova Gallery, Tallinn-based artists Edith Karlson and Flo Kasearu explored social and existential issues. Polansky Gallery featured Eliška Konečná’s work on body-environment disconnection. Gladys Kalichini’s installation at Rele Gallery focused on Zambia’s colonial history. Sophie Tappeiner Gallery presented Irina Lotarevich’s brass sculptures exploring metaphorical forms. Read the article to find out what else, the other art galleries present at Liste Art Fair.

Liste Art Fair continues to celebrate diverse, dynamic contemporary art, connecting cultures and disciplines.

Body, Trauma, Home

These are some of the topics that the presentees have reflected upon. Thus, for example, Tallinn-based artists Edith Karlson and Flo Kasearu, whose works are shown at the booth of Temnikova Gallery, explore these topics. Both of them are portraying social and existential issues in their art.

The centrepiece of the presentation is Karlson’s sculptural chandelier titled Doomsday. This artwork delves into the trauma of motherhood, the imprint it leaves on the mother’s body. 

Kaserau’s pieces invite the audience to ponder over such notions as house, family, and home. One of the exhibits is a miniature soap replica of the artist’s 113-year-old family house. The artist is drawing attention to anxieties, worries, and fears associated with home. 

Human Body

The human body is also an object of study for Eliška Konečná, the Czech artist, whose work can be seen at the stall of the Polansky gallery. Even her early works already focused on sensual lines and soft surfaces, drawing curves of human bodies into textile bas-reliefs with skin-like textures. Her garden series presented at the fair seems to be an allusion to the Garden of Eden. 

The disconnection between human bodies and their environment has been a repetitive motif in the artist’s works, as if the characters couldn’t respond to their primary needs without endangering or neglecting their surroundings. So, the whole installation, that also includes a sculpture, seems to be an endless loop where all the pain is self-inflicted and it is impossible to break out of trauma.

“This year, we received extensive feedback—mostly positive, but also intriguing comments and observations — and we’re genuinely appreciative,” said Filip Polansky, the owner and director of the gallery. 

Eliška Konečná, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Polansky Gallery.
Eliška Konečná, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Polansky Gallery.

“Interestingly, the audience doesn’t always distinguish between art originating from Central or East Europe and elsewhere unless it bears local folklore attributes. At Polansky Gallery, we’ve been systematically promoting Czech art on the international stage for twelve years. Eliška Konečná, our latest addition to the roster of represented artists, presents her solo project at Liste—the first art fair where we showcase her work. Her art has significant potential to resonate with a broader international audience, and we’re committed to creating opportunities to fulfil this potential,” Polansky added.

One more artist whose works touch upon the body issues is Irina Lotarevich, presented by Vienna-based Sophie Tappeiner gallery. Lotarevich used the table’s dot matrix grid to create a prototype of a welded brass rectangle and developed the forms from there, allowing the structures to grow, iterate, and guide the artist in their making.

 The resulting shapes echo her 2023 exhibition ‘Modular Woman,’ for which the artist built sculptures via the repetition of a standardised container form. For Lotarevich, the shape of the box or cell is rich with metaphorical potential: it could refer to housing units, institutions, rigid structures, archives, vessels, standardised measurements, or body parts. 

As metaphorical bodies, the sculptures here are subjected to various forces: rotation, compression, and stuffing.

Eliška Konečná, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Polansky Gallery.
Eliška Konečná, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Polansky Gallery.
Eliška Konečná, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Polansky Gallery.
Eliška Konečná, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Polansky Gallery.

Zambia’s Colonial and Postcolonial Histories

Going deeper into the topic, the multi-sensory installation by a Zambian artist Gladys Kalichini, “.. ubu bukata bupela ubumi”, that can be translated as “…that bread gives life”, serves as a melancholic meditation on Zambia’s colonial and postcolonial histories, addressing themes such as trauma and death. Notions of erasure, memory, and representations and visibilities of women in colonial resistance histories are the main topics of her work. The artist’s multi-layered installations draw largely from research material and archival photographs of women in independence struggles. Kalichini’s work challenges dominant and nationalist narratives that have historically erased women’s contributions to history and political change.

Rele gallery, which presents Kalichini’s work, is one of the few participants who chose to showcase artworks by African artists. 

“Rele is committed to nurturing artists and cultural practitioners from across the African continent, the extended Global South, diasporic communities, and beyond,” Rele’s gallery manager Laura Green.

“Gladys Kalichini’s work for Liste Art Fair has invoked feelings of calm, tranquillity, and reflection. One visitor commented that they experienced goosebumps, and another commented they had a feeling of deja-vu,” said Green.

‘Rele was the first African gallery to open in LA and, as such, can be defined as radical in its innovation. Rele’s newest location in London delivers debut UK exhibitions for artists expanding their geographical reach,” she added.

Gladys Kalichini, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Liste Art Basel Fair, Rele Gallery.
Gladys Kalichini, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Liste Art Basel Fair, Rele Gallery.
Gladys Kalichini, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Liste Art Basel Fair, Rele Gallery.
Gladys Kalichini, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Liste Art Basel Fair, Rele Gallery.

Digital Mythology/Abstract Reality

“We had an amazing start at Liste with a huge amount of institutional and commercial interest towards Keresztesi’s work.” – says Peter Bencze from Longtermhandstand gallery, located in Budapest, – “His exhibition-like presentation generated a great success from the first moment of the fair. Also we are happy to see that our booth became one the most visited selfie-spot at Liste”.

When describing Botond Keresztesi‘s works, Bencze uses the words “totem,” “visual code,” and “primordial.” He also proudly mentions that ‘an important museum curator’ compared the artist’s pieces with iconography. The series of Keresztesi’s paintings even relate to a biblical notion—Jacob’s ladder.

“There are six evenly spaced rungs on the ladder, labelled in ascending order: sensus (sense), imaginatio (imagination), ratio (reason), intellectus (understanding), intelligentia (intelligence) and verbum (the word). The natural affordance of any ladder, of course, is that it can be equally well descended as climbed, permitting communication between the primordial claims of the unformed natural conditions at the base and the precision of ‘the word’ at the top,” explained Bencze.

Botond Keresztesi, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Longtermhandstand Gallery.
Botond Keresztesi, Liste Art Fair Basel 2024, Longtermhandstand Gallery.

But the first exhibit that catches the eye of a visitor is the installation called Tannhauser Gate. Bencze happily said that this title comes from the movie Blade Runner.

“Roy Batty replicant-robot says in the end: ‘I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.’ “. 

The mythical motifs are also used by the artist duo Øleg&Kaśka, whose pieces are shown at the booth of the Suprainfinit – Romanian gallery. Based in Warsaw, the duo creates multilayered installations, working with different mediums such as painting, sculpture, video or fragrance to create immersive environments in which the audience may dwell and reflect. ‍

Grounded in speculative strategies by highlighting connections between pasts and presents, myth and reality, queerness and alchemy, Øleg&Kaska’s works always surprise through their fresh and archaic visual language. 

One of their works, “The Nursing Dragoness”, depicts the duality of Sol and Luna, referring to the alchemical concept of unity and the possibilities of achieving it, says Suprainfinit. In alchemy, death was not a symbol of eternal disappearance, but rather a step to achieve that absolute philosophical stone. The process often involved fire as a form of purification, whereas matter had to be burned down to create another element, similarly known as the food of life, says the description presented by the gallery.

As for the abstract side of things, an installation by Dorian Sari “I Exaggerated Because I Wanted to be Understood”, invites the audience to immerse into the nuanced experience.  According to the information provided by the Turkish gallery Öktem Aykut, which presents Sari’s work, each box is a metaphorical seed. This dynamic structure unfurls like a jack-in-the-box and the deliberate choice of wood as the medium adds an organic warmth to the installation.

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