Exclusively dedicated to promoting young galleries, this year LISTE is celebrating its twentieth anniversary. Director Peter Bläuer talks with Flash Art about the history and the future of this successful fair.
You founded Liste in 1996 to give younger artists and galleries an opportunity to show their work in Basel. Do you remember the beginning?
Eva Presenhuber and Peter Kilchmann contacted me in the summer of 1995. The motivation for LISTE’s founding twenty years ago arose because at the beginning of the 1990s a new, self-confident generation of gallerists and artists was coming of age, a generation that had little chance of securing a space at the established fairs. Many of those galleries also found themselves blocked from exhibiting internationally by the high costs of the fairs. Back then, I was a freelance curator and knew what kind of enormous potential for excitement the new galleries and young artists represented — and so we founded LISTE. Thirty-six galleries from twelve countries were shown at the first LISTE in 1996. Among those galleries were neugerriemschneider and Eigen + Art, Berlin; Maureen Paley and Stephen Friedman, London; Massimo De Carlo, Milan; Air de Paris, Paris; David Zwirner, New York; and Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, to name a few.
Have you changed the concept since then?
There have been small changes, adjustments and additions. But basically, for twenty years we’ve been focusing on presenting our visitors with the most interesting new galleries from the world over, galleries that have the courage to take on young, unknown artists. We offer them the opportunity to take part in LISTE several times and show the development of their artists and, of course, also introduce new artists at the same time. That is how we developed into the most important discoverer fair for museum people and collectors. It’s fair to say that almost every gallery that has been established since 1995 and that now belongs to the “top ten” of the gallery world got its art fair start at LISTE.
Since 2003, the Performance Project has been an integral part of the fair. Eva Birkenstock is the new curator of this section. What do you expect from her?
In 2003, at a time when performance was not yet fashionable, we started the Performance Project in order to provide a platform for a medium that has long had a hard time in the market. Eva has been deeply involved in the performance scene over the last few years, among other things, as a recipient of the MINI/Goethe-Institut Curatorial Residency Prize, 2014, in New York. Through her program you will discover works by, among others, Melanie Bonajo, Joseph Marzolla, Trajal Harrell and Eglė Budvytytė. And several of the galleries will also be showing performances.
How has the relationship between Art | Basel and LISTE changed over time?
Our relationship with Art | Basel has been very relaxed and cooperative, starting with the second LISTE. We are good friends and consult with each other. The really great thing about the art fair week in Basel is that we complement each other.
What are some of the most significant moments in the organization’s history?
It has been wonderful to have a partner in the private bank E. Gutzwiller & Cie, Basel, which has provided us very generous financial support. Keep in mind that this partnership began in LISTE’s second year. I remember neugerriemschneider’s presentation in 1996, with portraits by Elisabeth Peyton; in 1998, there was a giant installation by Jonathan Meese with Contemporary Fine Art, Berlin; in 1999, Jim Lambie’s flooring project (which I saw years later at MoMA) with Modern Institute, Glasgow; in 2003, Banks Violette’s solo presentation with Team Gallery, New York; in 2007, the enchanting solo presentation by Nina Carnell at Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin; in 2008, Haris Epaminonda with Rodeo, Istanbul; in 2008 Oscar Tuazon’s room-sized sculpture with Standard, Oslo; in 2009, the solo show by Elad Lassry, with photos and an excellent film at David Kordansky, Los Angeles. All of those artists were scarcely known back then. There have also been outstanding performances, for example, by Reto Pulfer, Akio Suzuki and Juliette Blightman. And the presentations by our special guests as well as the awarding of the National Swiss Art Prize, which started in 2004. And also the fund-raising campaign of 2006 to finance our tent annex by Zurich architects Unden. In that campaign, so many collectors, gallerists and benefactors provided very generous donations to us!
What’s in LISTE’s future? Is there interest in expanding the fair in a new city, outside of Switzerland?
We’ve already been thinking about whether it makes sense to set up a LISTE in another city. We don’t have any concrete plans at this point in time — but sometimes, things just move really fast.