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Liste- The Young Art Fair

BASEL, SWITZERLAND -- Art Basel is the largest art fair in the world.  Over the past two decades, satellite fairs featuring smaller galleries or niche markets like photography and design have sprung up around it.  One of the most popular (and hip) satellite fairs is Liste, which specializes in young artists (Photo 1).  I sat down with Jacqueline Uhlmann, Head of Administration and Communication for Liste to get the scoop.

Liste calls itself the young art fair.  How long have you been around?

Liste is sixteen this year, and we’ve been in the same location since we started.  At first we were much smaller, but we have continued to expand.  The first year, there were 36 galleries.  Now we are 64, which is more or less the limit.

How are you different than the main fair, Art Basel?

We have two strong criteria.  One is that all of the exhibiting artists must be under the age of 40.  That is really important.  By being the “young fair,” we mean that we only show younger generation artists.  We also don’t keep our galleries.  At Art Basel, galleries may exhibit at the fair indefinitely.  We have a policy of not more than three to five years exhibiting with us.  We are only a temporary station for the younger galleries and hope to be a step along the way towards their inclusion in Art Basel.

Liste must be quite competitive.

Liste is competitive, especially since we serve as a sort of entry point for the main fair.  We work closely with Art Basel and share our VIP lists.  All of the major collectors and curators from around the world come to our fair to discover new talent.  Liste is really a discovery fair.  We show new trends of the younger generation.

What are your criteria?  How do you discover the galleries and artists that exhibit with you?

We have a board of advisors from all over the world and ask for recommendations from their countries and local scenes.  We then have a committee meeting in January, which consists of only curators and no art dealers.  The curators go through all of the application forms and make the final selections (Photo 2). 

I notice that at the fair there are many countries represented.  How many are here?  Do you have new countries that are exhibiting for the first time?

We have galleries from 19 different countries.  It would be great to have more exhibitors from Asia and Latin America, but this will probably take time.  Latin America is a bit more focused in Miami over Basel.  We do have some galleries from other markets that are interested, but it is always a big step.  It is a big step for the galleries in terms of the cost, as Switzerland is quite expensive, but it is also a big step for the collectors to enter new areas of young unknown art.  We try to do whatever we can.  This year, we have new galleries from New Zealand, Poland, and Romania, and we are always trying to expand as much as possible.

What are the costs for galleries who enter the fair?

We try to keep the price low, and we have a sponsor that supports this effort. The first year, the basic price for exhibiting with Liste is 6,500 CHF, but this amount continues to rise.  We try to help galleries with the costs in whatever ways possible, such as finding affordable accommodation.  During the fair it can be very expensive to find a hotel, so we try to support them however we can. 

How have sales been this year?  Have you seen them pick up?  I know the last couple of years have been tough for the art market.

This year was amazing, super strong.  Some of our dealers sold out after the first hour.  It seems the Americans are back, along with a lot of Italian collectors.  Collectors and curators came back after opening night, as well, and our galleries were able to make many new contacts.  Some of them said it was the best year ever, also in terms of quality.