Next week we’re heading to Basel for the most renowned contemporary art fairs in Europe. But before we catch our flight we spoke with Joanna Kamm, the Director of LISTE art fair.
Dobromila Blaszczyk: Since 1996, LISTE has presented a younger generation of galleries and artists and given them an opportunity to network. Will you continue this idea after 23 years or you would like to improve it? As the new Director, what is your main goal?
Joanna Kamm: I will continue the central concern of LISTE – to enable a young generation of galleries to present their programmes to an international audience. At LISTE you can discover the latest developments and trends in contemporary art, which makes it such a special and unique event in the art market. If you visit LISTE, you are confronted with artists who not only describe the present, but also produce it – with new media, values and aesthetics.
The success of the last 23 years under the direction of Peter Bläuer proves the relevance of the LISTE. So for me as a new director it is not about turning something upside down, but about getting to know all the processes in the first year and then thinking about what adjustments might make sense. The most important thing for me is to use all the channels at my disposal to point out the social significance of young contemporary art. In our time, in which more and more emphasis is being placed on security, and populist, simplified classifications are gaining the upper hand, I see it as more important than ever to deal with emerging artists who make it possible for us to have new, perhaps also sometimes rather irritating, but expanded perspectives on our world, because they transcend the limits of our own perception. It is the young galleries who discover these artists with a great willingness to take risks and often without reinsurance, give them their first solo exhibition and present their works at fairs. This must be supported.
DB: What does the selection process look like? What are your criteria for choosing galleries and artists? What kind of galleries and artists do you look for?
JK: Our international committee, consisting of curators, gallerists and artists, selects the galleries under the premise of promoting young art. The committee members have the expertise for the different regions of the world and reflect the global art world, which guarantees that galleries beyond the established art centres also have a significant presence at the fair. Ultimately, the quality of the art and the gallery programme is always decisive.
DB: This year we will see many changes at the fair. Galleries that have been taking part for many years at LISTE have disappeared. But there will be many new galleries that are extremely interesting. In comparison with last year, how has this selection changed?
JK: It was a very natural process. Since its inception, one of LISTE’s main concerns has been to introduce between 10-25 new galleries each year. The number of new galleries this year is comparable to previous years; often there were around 18 new galleries, in 2004 even 24 and in 2006 the LISTE could present 25 galleries for the first time. This year 21 new galleries from 17 countries have been selected by our committee, some of them from countries not yet represented at LISTE, such as Dastan’s Basement from Tehran, LC Queisser from Tbilisi, ROH Projects from Jakarta or Sariev Contempory from Sofia. Galleries from countries such as the USA and Italy, which are located away from the major art metropolises such as Adams and Ollman in Portland, Good Weather in North Little Rock and Veda in Florence, are also at LISTE for the first time. And we have very young galleries, for whom LISTE is their first fair ever, like Sandwich from Bucharest and Sweetwater from Berlin. Lodos from Mexico City will participate for the first time in a fair outside their home country. For this gallery, we have received a new grant from a Swiss private foundation: starting this year, with its “Impact” programme, it will financially support every year for a period of three years a gallery like Lodos that presents its programme abroad for the first time at LISTE.
DB: What is the biggest change at LISTE?
JK: A new initiative at LISTE is the Joinery. It is a space on the ground floor, where galleries can show videos and performances at no extra cost that exceed the possibilities at the stand, and where a discourse on the latest developments in contemporary art takes place. For this year we have invited Spike Art Magazine, which as Spike Forum has organised a discussion forum on new artistic strategies in which artists such as Sandra Mujinga or Ed Fornieles, but also Elie Ayache, the CEO of a financial software company and or Kei Kreutler of Gnosis, a forecasting and information platform on the Ethereum Blockchain, participate. As a fair that shows the latest developments in contemporary art, it’s important that we offer a place where you can inform yourself and new developments are being explained.
To reinforce LISTE’s art-focused approach, we have developed a new concept for the placement of galleries, which includes adapting the exhibition architecture in 10 rooms. LISTE’s special location at Werkraum Warteck pp corresponds to the idea of discovery with the space’s five floors divided into a diverse array of rooms, branches and angles. To ensure both a smooth and impressive journey through the building, more than just spatial requirements and the sequence of galleries were considered. For the presentations in each room, the galleries were selected with the intention that their artworks will strengthen and complement each other, while the modified architecture will allow for concentrated interactions with the individual works of art.
DB: What are the most visible trends in the art market at the moment? What type of art is gaining popularity among collectors?
JK: I find the question the other way around more exciting; what are the young artists involved in and what confrontations can collectors look forward to? There is a striking number of artists who deal with identity and origin, using a wide variety of approaches and media. In the globalised world, gender, racism and migration have become very important themes. Artists such as Penny Goring (Arcadia Missa and Sandy Brown), Holly Hendry (Frutta), Nona Inescu (Sabot), Mahmoud Khaled (Gysum), Baseera Khan (Simone Subal), Cinga Samson (blank), Buhlebezwe Siwani (Madragoa) or Daniel Otero Torres (mor charpentier) examine the personal, social and political body. Artists such as Heji Shin (Galerie Bernhard), Lea Ceterea (Southard Reid), Kayode Oje (Sweetwater) or Maggie Lee (Édourard Montassut) address identity in relation to globalisation and new technologies. Remembering one’s own culture as well as showing processes of deconstruction and re-construction with one’s own narratives can be found with artists such as Mandy El-Sayegh (Instiuto de Visión), Radamé’s “Juni” Figueroa (Proyectos Ultravioleta), Dylan Mira (Paul Soto/Park View) or Aditya Novali (ROH Projects).
Digitisation and new technologies also play a role, of course, but mostly in terms of their influence on the topics listed above – or they are used as media without making them a topic themselves. It is also interesting to see that some galleries have applied the idea of community and collaborations, which are less about authorship than about joint and processual action, for example the young galleries Bonny Poon from Paris and Sandwich from Bucharest.
My dream is that collectors come to LISTE with a curiosity and forget all the established hypes and trends.
DB: Have you noticed any changes in how the galleries arrange their booths and think about the arrangement of space and presentation of works?
JK: We have a striking number of solo presentations; thirty-eight galleries have decided to give a deeper insight into a single practice by artists such as Julie Béna (Joseph Tang), Anca Benera & Arnold Estefan (Ivan), Hayden Dunham (Company), Patrick Goddard (Seventeen), Keto Logua (LC Queisser), João Loureiro (Galeria Sé), Isaac Lythgoe (Super Dakota), Regina de Miguel (Maisterravalbuena), Hana Miletić (LambdaLambdaLambda), Liv Schulman (Piedras), Yukihiro Taguchi (Mujin-To Production), Chen Xiaoyi (A Thousand Plateaus Art Space) or Trevor Yeung (Galerie Allen).
DB: As LISTE’s new director where do you see the fair in 10 years?
JK: The nice thing is that you can’t know what the future will be like. There is a lot of movement, galleries rent temporary spaces in other cities to show their program, more and more sponsored spaces are emerging that invite foreign galleries for an exhibition, there are initiatives like Condo. Nevertheless, art fairs are still the central meeting place for galleries, art professionals and art lovers.
Our task is to look closely at whether and how change is needed and to constantly question and adapt our fair concept accordingly. But just as we couldn’t imagine 10 years ago how important the smartphone could become, I can’t yet know what LISTE will look like in 10 years’ time. And that’s a good thing, otherwise I wouldn’t be flexible anymore.