Basel’s Liste Art Fair Has Canceled Its 2020 Edition This Fall as the Health Situation Worsens in Switzerland

It remains unclear whether participating dealers will see refunds on their booth fees.

LISTE in Basel. Courtesy LISTE – Art Fair Basel. Photographer: Daniel Spehr.
LISTE in Basel. Courtesy LISTE – Art Fair Basel. Photographer: Daniel Spehr.

The Liste art fair in Basel has reversed its decision to proceed this September on its own, without Basel, which canceled its flagship fair earlier this year. As the European health situation shows further signs of worsening, Liste, a fair for emerging art, has canceled its upcoming edition, which was set to take place in just over a month, from September 17 to 20.

“The situation on the continent has worsened in recent weeks to an extent that makes it impossible for us to hold the fair with a clear conscience,” director Joanna Kamm and the Liste team said in a statement. Switzerland has seen a rise in cases of COVID-19, in its most populous city of Geneva, in particular. “We, our galleries, and our partners have become increasingly concerned about everyone’s health and safety, and the increased travel restrictions for high-risk countries are affecting more and more European countries,” the fair adds.

After moving its fair from June to September to run alongside a now-canceled Art Basel, Liste had found an interim location that was smaller and more open concept than the old warehouse where it usually takes place. In July, the fair announced that, despite the cancelation of Art Basel the month before, it would forge ahead with a smaller crop of mostly European dealers. In an earlier report, Kamm told Artnet News that strict safety protocols would be in place, including mask-wearing and uni-directional visitor flow. The fair was cautiously optimistic that things would move ahead.

At the time, the lockdown in Europe was in a relative bright spot with waning infection rates and summer travel resuming. Some 35 galleries, down from 77 the previous year, agreed to attend. Most of that cohort were planning to be there in person and were banking on, at the very least, Swiss collectors showing up. Other dealers who were based too far to make it, but who were still hoping to participate were being hosted by local venues in a sort of gallery-sharing model.

In light of its altered form, booth prices were substantially lowered, which Kamm previously told Artnet News was done in order to support the galleries this year in particular (the fair itself was looking at making no money due to the slashed fees, she said). But there was a catch to those who risked signing up. If the health situation took a shift, depending on how close it was to the opening of the fair, dealers might not see a full refund on their booth prices.

“In this exceptional year, we agreed with them that we only charge the extra costs necessary to host the event itself, rather than the entire costs that have already been incurred by us this year,” says Kamm. “In return, we have agreed with the galleries that in case the fair must be cancelled, each gallery is paying a pro rata amount equivalent to the expenses incurred so far since the end of June.” The fair is still determining the calculation of money spent over the last six weeks, but she adds that since booth construction had not yet started the costs would “be within reasonable limits.”

Liste thanked the dealers and artists who opted to take “the risk of planning a fair in the time of COVID-19 with unparalleled levels of courage and enthusiasm.”

Their new digital platform, Liste Showtime, which was set to launch alongside the pared-down version of the Basel fair, will include 72 galleries, each presenting one artist from their program. Showtime will have a VIP preview set to take place from September 11 to 13. The fair is also planning a poster sale with its participating galleries, to take place around the same time.


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