Liste art fair emerged 21 years ago as a counter-initiative to the powerful and established Art Basel fair –born in 1970, now a European epicentre for galleries to gather and gain exposure to a concentrated group of avid collectors. Liste’s clear purpose is, in contrast, of offering a platform to mid-sized young galleries in the Swiss city, in order to give them visibility. It serves as an alternative collaborative model showing 79 young galleries from 34 countries between June 13 and 18, where sales are as important as mutual support and coexistence.
Hot dogs and cocktails can be purchased at the tiny entrance yard of the Warteck Brewery and from there the first booths emerge, the labyrinthine architecture accessed through a hallway on the left. The red brick building was redirected by architecture studio Diener & Diener in 1992 to 1996 and seasoned with an additional zig-zag-like metallic stair, linking the four levels. It feels like a school or a civic centre, the toilet tiles being tagged with a giant graffiti statement announcing: “Berlin calling!”, among other tags, synthesising the general vibe of the whole event.
Instead of the usual individual booth distribution, the galleries coexist in small groups, sharing each of the spaces. There some bars and restaurants between them at intervals, part of the building and a print workshop for children’s books, showing some classics on the top of a few archaic manual print machines: Ratz Fatz Zauber Was – Fairs and Fairy Tales is a project by Luca Beeler, Cedric Eisenring, and Carmen Toble presented by Kunsthalle Zurich.
My instinct tells me to go up first, from there down in order to get a feel for the scale of the event. The interminable stairs end at a tiny bar leading to a balcony, from which you can see a massive Liste flag and some participants and visitors hanging out in a relaxed fashion at other areas of the building. From there, going down, Yuji Agematsu’s mini collections of detritus —including human hair —contained in plastic cigarette packaging are displayed on thin wooden shelves at Real Fine Arts’ booth. Alex Vivian’s Unique ‘Entry Level Sculptures’ made out of food packaging, toy fur and dirt, stand proud on customised plinths at Sandy Brown’s along with a filthy bed sheet, acrylic paint emulating some newspaper headlines through scribbles. Daiga Grantina’s vibrant and delicate scultpures —plastic cast, fabric, string, rubber and silicone —stay quiet at Mathew’s corner.
Following the irregular structure of the building, on the first floor there’s a series of old-school mailbox spam pinned on cork boards, advertising restaurants, meditation classes and other therapies by Fiona Connor traversing some of Hopkinson Mossman’s walls. Mikael Brkic’s ‘The Forecast’ from his scrapbook data is captured with marker on a set of small scale columns investigating meaning, information and other communications at Oslo-based gallery VI, VII.
On the second floor, Jill Mulleady’s oil painting ‘Pussy Magic’ (2015) depicts a sweet surreal hybrid character at Gaudel de Stampa’s hidden corner. Among other paintings, Stuart Middleton’s colourful and naïve portraits of pigeons, dogs and moral degradation fill the narrow entrance to Carlos/Ishikawa’s shared booth with Tallinn gallery Temikova & Kasela and Berlin-based Silberkuppe.
Back on the ground floor, Marcelle Alix’s booth seems like it’s floating, elevated from the other spaces by a platform, a glass ship, which becomes a symbolic Mediterranean landscape inspired by early 20th century writer and ‘visionaire’ Guillaume Apollinaire’s ‘If I died over there’ dedicated to his lover Lou. In the vessel, fragmented legs, hands and other things, by Ernesto Sartori and Charlotte Moth look for an invisible and yet unknown pathway.
Hyper-texturized paintings such as ‘Brittle Land’ by Alexandra Navratil, made with polyester, aluminium, silver nitrate and lacquer instead of pigments, hangs on Berlin gallery Gunn’s wall. Elsewhere, Florian & Michael Quistrebert’s blobs out of modelling canvas paste, car paint and laser pigments are presented by Paris’ Crevecoeur. Several times I get lost and find myself somewhere I’d been earlier. It’s confusing yet exciting, this feeling of controlled chaos also reflected in Catherine Biocca’s striking scratched work ‘100 better ways to die’. Her angry gestures figuratively depict a smiley sitting man on sleek aluminium panel at Dutch gallery Hoffland, expressing violence as a form of entertainment.
Hybrid beings and crafty mediums are to be seen at the space shared by Debora Schamoni and Arcadia Missa. A silent conversation goes on between Jesse Darling’s sculptures made out of fire rated expanding foam, wooden rectangular board and metallic legs, Phoebe Collings-James black-and-white watercolours hinting at ghostly faces, ropes and animal shapes, and KAYA’s hanging sculptural collection of colourful images and plastic gestures. A humorous grotesque, nude, real-size body of a woman by Liz Craft is semi-hidden in Truth and Consequences’ cellar-booth near the entrance. The sculpture is surrounded by other ceramic pieces, such as sensual anatomical fragments and comic bubbles.
Purely pleasant and immersive meta-representation in the form of an electric blue installation navigated by horizontal and vertical drawings strikes at Limoncello by Cornelia Baltes, questioning the relevance of the image. The artist’s minimal yet powerful gestures in pastel colours contrast with the dystopian semi-alien landscapes created by entities, such the giant heads and camels by artist Jean Marie Appriou at Jan Kaps, Nicolas Ceccaldi’s dolls heads and feathers on peaceful landscape photographs at House of Gaga, or the conjoined hentai characters by Andrea Crespo at Kraupa Tuskany-Zeidler.
As part of Liste’s off-site performance programme, the multi-user, multi-platform project Agatha Valkyrie Ice —by Dorotha Gaweda and Egle Kulbokaite —is activated at Solitude Park under the title ‘perma permadeath 2016’. Performer Lukas van der Gracht returns to a primal state dressed in Elena Jazukevičiūtė’s beige rags and interacting with the surrounding trees, stones and plants, inspired by the sound of Brooklyn Bridge.
At the Warteck Brewery vibes are familiar and far away from the inaccessible and slightly uncomfortable solemnity of mother fair Art Basel. For the good and for the bad, the milieu stays relaxed and fun, while the dominant praise for the margins is sold for what it’s worth.**