Home Magazine A conversation with Peter Bläuer, Co-founder and long-time director and now artistic director of Liste Basel Art Fair

We had the pleasure to interview Peter Bläuer, co-founder of Liste Basel, who this year has been the artistic director of the 2024 edition. Peter is very excited about this new edition with 23 new galleries exhibiting at the fair for the first time

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Peter Pläuer is the co-founder of Liste Basel and this year he has been the artistic director of the fair. We had the pleasure to interview him about his thoughts about this 2024 edition.

Kooness: Can you tell us about how Liste Basel was born and the story behind the fair?

Peter Bläuer: In 1995, there were many new, very interesting young galleries. Naturally, they wanted to be present at the most important art fair Art Basel. However, Art Basel was and remains primarily a fair for the large and established galleries that have already proven themselves in the art market. We initially approached Art Basel, but they declined to engage more with the younger generation of galleries. Subsequently, Eve Presenhuber contacted me – I was a curator at the time – and asked if I would be interested in founding a fair for a new generation of galleries in Basel. Recognizing the enormous potential of high-quality young galleries, we quickly assembled a jury. This included Tim Neuger from Neugerriemschneider in Berlin, Maureen Paley from London, Anne de Villpoix from Paris, Emi Fontana from Milan, Peter Kilchmann from Zurich, Eva Presenhuber from Zurich, and myself, Peter Bläuer from Basel. We invited other young colleagues to participate in our new art fair. In the first year, we showcased 36 galleries from 12 countries. The success was so great that we planned for the following year.

K: In which way do you think the fair has evolved in the last few years?

PB: The fair has become more professional. We have always kept track of the progress in the art market and, most importantly, focused on the quality of the fair. We all know that it's not the quantity that counts, but the quality. We don’t follow the trend of becoming bigger, crazier, or more unusual – we are not a “funfair” or a “circus”. Our focus is on quality, and that is enough work. Interestingly, this year, three-quarters of the galleries are showcasing a single artist. This means we have 75 small solo exhibitions. You won't find any “mixed shops”  – we aim to introduce individual new artists to the professional art world. Once again, Liste is one step ahead.

Liste Art Fair Basel 2024. Courtesy of Moritz Schermbach

K: What are the main characteristics that as a fair you look for in a participating Gallery?

PB: We aim to present the best new galleries (smile) – galleries that boldly engage with yet-unknown artists. We carefully observe to discover which new galleries are the most interesting around the globe. These galleries introduce young artists who represent our current era, addressing the questions of our time and developing new concepts, formulating new artistic languages. And history has shown that we have made excellent selections in the past. There are few top galleries today whose journey did not include Liste.

K: What are the main challenges you encounter while preparing for the fair?

PB: The art market has become a vast and intricate machinery. Rather than simplifying, it has grown more complex and complicated. Within this immense system, we are a “small cog”. This means we must keep striving, continually focusing on quality (once again… smile). We are a small team, yet we are enormously dedicated to organizing our fair every year.

Liste Art Fair Basel 2024. Courtesy of Moritz Schermbach

K: What is the main target public you hope to reach?

PB: We are an art fair tailored for a specialized audience. The general public does not typically attend Liste. Unfortunately, we can't generate significant revenue from ticket sales (smile). Moreover, the professionals have VIP access (smile). Our attendees have always been experts, curators, institutions, art collectors, and art lovers. I believe we can confidently say that for experts working with contemporary art, Liste is a must-attend event. It is also our responsibility to attract these individuals to Liste. This is the audience our galleries need to survive and thrive.

K: How do you think art fairs will evolve in the future?  

PB: I have no idea. Right now, everything has become very short-lived. We can no longer think in terms of a 10-year time horizon. Looking back at the past five years, no one could have predicted everything that happened. Just consider all the unimaginable events of the last five years. Art fairs have also had to respond to global incidents. Globalization is being questioned, and we, along with art fairs, are facing enormous ecological challenges. None of this will leave art fairs unscathed. However, it is also enormously exciting and challenging. I believe humans are complex beings with many weaknesses, but we possess a remarkable ability to adapt quickly. What I am quite certain of is that art fairs will continue to exist. People are social beings, and they don't want to live solely in a virtual space. They want to meet others, exchange ideas, and I still believe in the power of the original!

K: Are you happy about this 2024 edition? 

PB: I am very happy and satisfied with the jury's selections! We are showcasing many interesting galleries that I have never seen before. We are presenting 23 galleries for the first time, which is incredibly exciting! 

June 2024 / Peter Bläuer, Co-founder and long-time director and now artistic director ad interim for this year

Written by Kooness

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