Liste, the satellite fair that had its VIP opening this morning in Basel, Switzerland, calls itself “The Young Art Fair in Basel,” and it goes to great pains to legitimize this claim. For instance, not only do baby-faced dealers populate most corners of the quirky former schoolhouse near the Rhine, but the bylaws impose harsh financial penalties on any outfit trying to show somebody who happens to have a few years on them: any gallery that wants to include work by an artist over 40 has to pay CHF 16,000 (roughly $16,700) for its booth—double the price of a booth with 20- and 30-somethings.
Ageism? Well, maybe, but it’s also a way to forcibly stay hip, even as the fair itself exits its teenage years—this year marks its 21st edition. (Its founding dealers, including Eva Presenhuber and David Zwirner, have long since moved on to the decidedly less indie pastures of Art Basel, which opens tomorrow here in Basel on the Messeplatz.)
Perhaps due to a fear of high booth fees, this year’s edition of Liste indeed retained its youthful spirit, spurred on by the constant reminders of the kinderhof who were once educated here. The Geneva-based gallery Truth & Consequences once again took over a strange basement near the entrance accessible only via a rickety spiral staircase that certainly cannot fit more than one person at a time.
“This is an… interesting exercise,” said Simon de Pury, who nearly fell off when he got squeezed next to a reporter coming down the stairs. Eventually he made it down, accompanied by his wife, Michaela, to see Liz Craft’s painted iron nude portrait, Me Princess (2008–13), which was on sale for $4,500.
Anke Weyer, the German artist who is part of the group show “Make Painting Great Again” currently on view at Canada in New York, had a series of color-splashed works at the booth of Brussels’s Office Baroque, while directly across, at New York’s David Lewis Gallery, were some Dawn Kasper sculptures—drum-kit hi-hats outfitted with bells that periodically clanged over the standard whisperings of collectors.
But the fair’s main selling point is that its star artists are often very young, with work at price points much lower than what you will find on the Messeplatz Tuesday morning. (Though many of the same collectors typically go to both—in addition to the cliques of German and Swiss bigwigs who stalked the small child-size hallways, American collector Beth Rudin DeWoody was walking around, looking to buy). Darja Bajagić, who is in her mid-20s, had work at the booth for London gallery Carlos / Ishikawa, including a striking work entitled I’m Just Glad Satan Loves Me (2016), which declares as such on the canvas.
“She genuinely makes me feel a little uncomfortable,” gallery owner Vanessa Carlos said to a potential collector—though it might not have mattered at that point, as the work was on reserve, for $14,500.
Elsewhere, Sebastian Black (late 20s) had a solo booth at Clearing (of Bushwick and Brussels), Tobias Kaspar (early 30) had a canvas of woven reflective fabric that’s perfect for flash-on Instagrams at Berlin’s Silberkuppe, and Alex Rathbone (late 20s) had a solo booth at the London gallery the Sunday Painter. Nathan Zeidman, who was born in the 1990s, carpeted the High Art booth (a Paris outfit) with paintings that touched upon tarot cards. The paintings were priced as high as €9,000 (about $10,200), and they were almost all sold out an hour into the VIP opening, a gallery representative said.
Also born in the 1990s is an artist who goes by Stella, the recipient of the 2016 Helvetia Art Prize, earning her inclusion in the fair. Her booth is called “No Money No Original” and features a bunch of woven faux-Chanel purses, videos of the artist holding the faux-Chanel bags, and intricately made lamps. The commentary on art and commerce is certainly well-mined territory, but Stella upped the ante by selling the wares herself, sitting at the booth in a jumpsuit.
“It’s really selling a lot,” she said, smiling. “It’s really like a shop—I didn’t want it to look like a gallery.”