Liste, the Beloved Satellite Fair for Emerging Talent, Lobbied Art Basel to Set Up Shop Inside the Messeplatz. The Gambit Paid Off

Liste exhibitors were enjoying close proximity to Art Basel, even if overall attendance was down.

Signs outside Art Basel guide visitors to the Liste Art Fair, in a new space for its 25th edition. Photo: Eileen Kinsella.

Like so many other major art events planned for this year, trepidation about the prospects for Liste—the long-running, highly-regarded Basel satellite fair for emerging art—began creeping into organizational conversations a few months back.

By last October, the pandemic’s effect on 2021 planning was clear, Liste director Joanna Kamm recounted. “I called Marc Spiegler and asked if he would make an exception in these exceptional times and allow us to go in one of the [Art Basel] fair halls. He was immediately super-supportive,” she told Artnet News. “Here we are.”

Photo by Eileen Kinsella

Photo: Eileen Kinsella.

With the exception of 2020, when the fair was canceled, for the past 24 years, Liste was held in an old brewery building across five floors. Its niches and balconies that promoted a sense of community, notes Kamm, so even after getting the green light from Art Basel, there was still some heavy lifting to do to re-create that experience. The Belgian architecture firm OFFICE, run by Kersten Geers and David Van Severen, used a single floor of a Messeplatz building to create a skillfully rendered circular layout, with gallery booths on both the inner and outer rings and a separate platform for large-scale sculpture in the center.

The result is a seamless flow of international galleries showing great work by emerging artists, but in a cavernous space that allows for ample social distancing and, frankly, the freedom to enjoy.

So far, the attendance and response has been promising, with Liste opening on Monday, September 20, just in time to grab viewers in town for the Art Basel VIP opening on Tuesday (those same viewers were also getting a glimpse of the wildly popular Art Basel “Unlimited” section, which is now located in the hall directly adjacent).

“Monday was crazy, a lot of international people,” said Paul Makowsky of Shore gallery in Vienna. “Obviously not so many Americans, but there were some,“ which he deemed “surprising.” The gallery is presenting a solo booth of work by Julian-Jakob Kneer, which it had been planning for the previous edition of Liste before it was canceled. 

Installation view of Julian Jakob Kneer "Ever After" at Shore at Liste in Basel. Photo by Gina Folly. Image courtesy the artist and Shore (Vienna).

Installation view of Julian-Jakob Kneer’s “Ever After,” presented by Shore at Liste Basel. Photo: Gina Folly. Image courtesy the artist and Shore, Vienna.

Kneer’s work—which plays on themes of love, death, and narcissism, with subtly inscribed references to pop culture—was well received, Makowsky reported. Though none of the larger three pieces had sold, the presentation had already resulted in sales of smaller works by the artist back at the gallery in Vienna.

Installation view of Nils Alix-Tabeling at Piktogram gallery, Warsaw. Photo by Eileen Kinsella

Installation view of Nils Alix-Tabeling at the booth of Piktogram gallery, Warsaw. Photo: Eileen Kinsella.

Warsaw gallerist Michal Wolinski’s Piktogram booth was drawing serious buzz with a large installation by Polish artist Nils Alix-Tabeling, whose life-size chariot, commanded by commedia dell’arte-style characters and drawn by wild felines, comments on social justice and gay rights in Poland. Wolinski explained to Artnet News that a private collector had confirmed purchase of the work for about €50,000, but has agreed to wait and see if there is a (far less likely) affirmative decision by the Polish ministry of culture to acquire the work.

Mamali Shafahi, Shahrzad (2019) at Liste Art Fair in Basel, presented by Dastan's Basement (Tehran). Photo by Eileen Kinsella.

Mamali Shafahi, Shahrzad (2019), at Liste in Basel, presented by Dastan’s Basement, Tehran. Photo by Eileen Kinsella.

Another standout was a solo presentation of work by Mamali Shafahi at Dastan’s Basement, from Tehran. The tactile wall panels and freestanding sculptures covered in velvet represent the artist’s attempts to emulate his father’s drawings, which the latter embarked on late in life. Part of Shafahi’s interest was an attempt to demonstrate whether the artistic trait is genetic, passed down from one generation to another. “We have sold to a range of international collectors, as well as loyal clients of the artist and the gallery,” said a representative, Roshan Takallomi, at prices ranging from €3,250 to €9,500.

Finally, another highlight greeting visitors upon entry into the fair is a solo show by the 36-year-old Portuguese-American artist Gabriel Abrantes, courtesy of Lisbon gallery Francisco Fino. The works of Abrantes—who has already achieved numerous accolades in the film industry, including premieres in Cannes, Locarno, and Venice—should appeal to fans of Ed Atkins with his sarcastic critiques: picture a film where a Romanesque statue and a ceramic elephant have a lover’s quarrel in a hotel room. Here he showed them alongside paintings that combine art-historical references such as David Hockney with 3-D imagery and computer animation.

Installation view of Gabriel Abrantes at Francisco Fina Gallery at Liste Basel. Photo by Eileen Kinsella

Installation view of Gabriel Abrantes, presented by Galeria Francisco Fino at Liste Basel. Photo: Eileen Kinsella

“The artist is already very well known and has strong institutional support,” explained the gallery’s managing director, Joana Mayer. Presenting the film alongside painting is an effort to bridge the two mediums and demonstrate their cross-pollinations. She added that Abrantes’s “intention to bring the old and the new together, and of high culture with popular culture—we found that it fit well with Liste, being a fair dedicated to artists who are gaining momentum.”

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