The regional fair always receives unfair derision when compared with the Basels, Miamis, and Friezes on the art world’s dance card. While the 10th edition of artgenève did have its share of minor works by modern masters and more than a little of the literally, but not figuratively, reflective, this specific fair and week always manages to feel special due to its heavy emphasis on the institutional and nonprofit, the experimental and the curated. When a break from the fair proper was needed, the city’s museums each had major and interesting exhibitions, from the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire’s incredible genre spanning, nonhierarchical collection rehang curated by Jean-Hubert Martin, to mind-blowing revelations on the oeuvres of Verena Loewensberg and Marion Baruch at the MAMCO. Exhibitions might spill back into the fair, as was the case with the booth of the Centre d’Art Contemporain which featured two sculptures by Ser Serpas, a temporary continuation of their exhibition “The Puppet Show,” curated by Geneva’s “it boy” Mohamed Almusibli. Alvin Tran’s exhibition of paintings, hovering casually between the digital and handcrafted, at Cherish, the offspace Almusibli also co-runs in a rundown mansion, was its own busy scene all week; as was an exhibition inspired by David Reed that Paolo Baggi curated in a slummy hotel room.
There’s always discovery and rediscovery in the curated institutional booths that line the outside circle of the fair. The Lou Cantor collective’s amethyst-embedded aluminum panels sitting within a silver walled installation at Sgomento Zurigo, and Kai Althoff’s installation/sculpture at the Ringier Collection, spoke to both sides of that dynamic. Provence, the trans-European lifestyle brand, had a decadent display sometimes manned by a shirtless salesman with a perfect hairy chest. Included on view were the equally sexy appropriative photo works of Samuel Haitz, neo-conceptual-impressionism by Gritli Faulhaber, and Provence founder Tobias Kaspar’s online shopping as paintings (more of which could be more spaciously viewed over at Galerie Peter Kilchmann’s booth). “Readymade,” a special installation curated by Jelena Kristic and Balthazar Lovay, deserves to be expanded into an actual museum exhibition. Looking at a century of works related to the titular issue, all came from a range of galleries who were not exhibiting in the fair otherwise (Buchholz, Gisela Capitain, Nagel Draxler…). Installed within a dense forest on walls and floor, each work was historically important or daring and always interacting with its conceptual neighbors.
As this was still a fair, the commercial hovered in the background, quality access and shipping costs lubed along by the promise of sales. Giant red-brown reliefs, the excised bark of a redwood tree, Redwood (2010), by Lutz Bacher, and a large grouping of Martin Kippenberger sculptural editions were highlights among many. Two of the works, a sculpture of a Viagra-desiring nail, the dunkinesque (2021), by Matthew Langan-Peck, and Heimo Zobernig’s tarred and feathered pedestal, Untitled (HZ1987-014) (1987), popped over to the previously empty booth of the MAMCO during the week. Now in its fifth iteration, that project, “In Course of Acquisition,” actively displays works the museum purchases for its permanent collection around the fair, an empty booth filling up with the public trust throughout the week. Also joining in that transparency of collecting this year were works by the Guerilla Girls, Walter Robinson, Irma Blank, and Nicole Gravier. In that way the entire fair circus turns towards the communal, coming to feel like an active neighborhood of art-minded workers, thinkers, sellers, and viewers. A regional fair like artgenève might not have the star-studded Kanye listening sessions of its bigger brothers, but what this one actually manages to do is bring actual art and ideas into one’s liveable backyard.