Home Magazine MeetMe#6 | VOLTA Basel 2019

It has been fifteen years since VOLTA first opened its doors in Basel. While many things have changed in the meantime, the quality of this remarkable art fair hasn’t, and the trust between its carefully selected exhibitors and its faithful audience only grew stronger. This June, during the Art Basel Week, VOLTA will once again showcase some of the best contemporary artworks from both emerging and established galleries worldwide.

Don't miss our latest article Waiting for Art Basel 2019...

A total of 79 galleries from 25 countries will welcome the visitors in the Swiss city, many of which as a consistent part of VOLTA’s exhibitor list. Among them, there will also be 21 solo projects this year with solo or dual-artist projects, now something of a tradition at this Basel fair. The visitors will be welcomed inside the former COOP distribution center in Basel, as the town’s newest cultural hub. From the management of one of the most successful shows in the world they tell us that VOLTA Basel 2019 will be one to remember, and we have every reason to believe them!

Find more out about the latest contemporary art fairs together with their protagonist on the new magazine area MeetMe!

Revealing more about this year's VOLTA Basel is its longtime director, Amanda Coulson!


Inma Femenía, In Tension no.41, 2019. UV print on manipulated aluminium and natural rubber, 188 x 200 x 34 cm. Presented by The Flat – Massimo Carasi (Milan)


I MeetMee --> VOLTA Basel's Amanda Coulson

It’s been 15 years since VOLTA first opened its doors in Basel. What would you say was the biggest change/challenge since then for you, and for the fair?

That's a tough question because there have been many changes and challenges along the way. The biggest, though, was probably being purchased by Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. in 2008, as it took us from being an independent, family-run operation to being part of a much larger conglomerate, and it has been challenging to stay true to VOLTA’s ideal and vision while being part of a larger machine and keeping all sides happy. Then almost directly after that came the economic crash, which lost us sponsors, saddled us with a huge location in Basel that we could barely fill (the first iteration at Markthalle), while having just opened a second venue in New York. So that period was probably one of the most difficult, as we struggled to stay boutique and showcasing emerging artists while working in a period when the market was reverting to more safe and secure investments. The continued stress of a good, affordable venue is an ever-present challenge, and currently those tied to increased labour and material costs with the depleting resources of mid-level and smaller galleries is something of which we are all very aware.

How would you describe the VOLTA Basel exhibitors in 2019?

That’s always an interesting question because I think what we’ve always tried to do at VOLTA is be variable, even within a single fair. While you will find “pockets’ of a particular style of maturity level, I’ve always tried to select or place galleries in a way that they contrast or raise question, so you would never be able to say they are all one way or another (i.e. conceptual, figurative, painting, mature, young…). That has certainly lost us some galleries and even collectors who might want to know that everything is one genre or in one direction, but I find it more exciting to discover things and be challenged. As usual we have a really excellent mix of mid-career artists and galleries, who we feel need some more attention than they are getting in the traditional venues, and the really fresh faces. We’ve always made an effort to reach far geographically into Asia, and this year we have a excellent group of galleries from Finland, for example, all of whom we have worked with in the past. We tend not to follow trends (i.e. Africa is “hip” right now but we've been including positions from the continent and diaspora for years and years already, the Caribbean as well, so we won't have a focus in any one direction at this fair). There is always good and interesting selection of work being made all over the world in all kinds of cities—from Bogotá to Busan and everywhere in between—and we try to present that diversity as best we can.

How does the Basel Art Week impact the rest of Europe, and the world, in your opinion?

There is something about Basel Art Week—its mystique, its history, the level of its seriousness—that makes it an epicentre, absolutely. Probably now for Europe more than the world, only because there are so many Class A fairs and events now that everyone has seen a thinning of influence and the breaking off of different groups—whether those are artists, audiences, or galleries—into “silos,” which is a little sad. When the art world was smaller it was easier to mix and cross boundaries, in some ways. I am sure for collectors in Asia, the activity in Hong Kong is more pertinent than in Basel—but again—Basel will always be seen as champion’s league and therefore remain a barometer for how healthy the market is, certainly.


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