Contemporary art is expressed in an Art Geneve setting

Posted Jan 25, 2023, 12:05 p.m

When it comes to the art trade, Geneva’s main asset is Gstaad. This ski resort, located 2 hours by car from the French-speaking capital of Switzerland, becomes, in winter, one of the bastions of commerce in modern and contemporary creations. Because as the saying goes “art follows money” and the pinnacle city has a reputation for hosting the highest level of personal wealth in Switzerland.

The multinational Gagosian Gallery now has just one office in Geneva compared to two in Gstaad. Rival Hauser & Wirth occupies a large chalet in Gstaad formerly owned by dandy millionaire and Brigitte Bardot’s husband, Gunther Sachs. Other galleries such as Cramer-Mitterrand have also moved from Geneva to ski resorts. Eventually, others simply closed, like the great French merchant Marc Blondeau. But once a year in Geneva it happens.

Over time, the Art Genève fair, with its deliberately modest size (90 attendees), has managed to attract wealthy amateurs from all over the region to Swiss and German-speaking Germany. The operation, which took place from January 26 to 29, 2023, presents a real profile. As its creator Thomas Hug explains: “Our goal is to represent the entire contemporary art ecosystem. We are even more than an exhibition, a kind of art forum. We have never received so many requests from galleries. »

The attendance of all non-trading guests – such as this year’s Frieder Burda collection from Baden Baden or the Dubuffet foundation from Paris – is financed by sponsors who show local solidarity, such as bank UBS or high-end watch manufacturer FPJourne.

For the rest, the eclectic offerings hold pleasant surprises. We were greeted at Art Genève by a brilliant sculpture by Jeff Koons, a planter in the shape of a giant bird, in iridescent polished metal (some sold for 6 million dollars in recent years) exhibited by multinational gallery Pace who has been reluctant to communicate current prices.

Marie Vassilieff doll

Paris dealer Le Minotaure, a specialist in pre-war art, presents a stunning array of small objects by the Russian artist who was a Cubist, Marie Vassilieff (1884-1955). She is the subject of an exhibition at the 2022 Venice Biennale. According to gallery owner Benoit Shapiro, Vassilieff’s demands have faltered since 2014 and the first Russian conflict in Donbass.

“It was very much supported by Russia’s request. We witnessed strong price adjustments of the order of 50% in certain cases.” At her stand, she presents some amazing fetish-like dolls, which are her specialty. This unique DIY object, from the 1930s and 1940s, like a character from his personal pantheon made of different materials, sells from 11,000 euros.

In general, regardless of the context, traders believe that their activity in 2022 will be satisfactory.

This is not the case for Paris gallery owner Laurent Godin who made the choice, a few years ago, to settle into a massive 1,000m2 warehouse, in the 13th arrondissement. According to him, “the current anxiety-inducing climate, the gallery’s hyperconcentration phenomenon and the drop in visitors, have caused a slowdown in its activities. At Art Genève, he produced a spectacular work produced in 1991 by one of the pillars of American conceptual art, Haim Steinbach (b. 1944).

He is known for his arrangement of objects with strong symbolism, often arranged on a shelf. In this case, for the work presented in Geneva, he exhibited in a monumental double-sided showcase, on one side, an old African shaman’s jacket and on the other, two sewing mannequins as seen on a tailor’s. A contrasting representation of the two cultures (250,000 euros for sale).

Eulalia Grau in the spirit of Pop

Geneva’s contemporary art museum, Mamco, which is also a guest at the exhibition, plans to exhibit other works by Haim Steinbach, which the institution recently acquired. Among Art Genève’s wonderful finds, we find on the Vallois de Paris stand, a work by the Spanish painter Eulalia Grau (b. 1946).

Before the end of Francoism, he produced screen printing, repainted photo montages, flawlessly in the spirit of Pop, including scenes of cars in landscapes. The open trunk of the vehicle reveals a face, possibly a child with its mouth open, or a woman (she’s leading the feminist fight) who appears to be crying loudly.

Eulalia Grau was part of a major exhibition held at the Tate modern in London in 2015 “The world goes Pop”. His painting from 1973 sells for 38,000 euros.

Media Alex Katz

He is also often classified in the Pop spirit: Alex Katz (b. 1927). The American painter, known for his flat portraits and landscapes that play with color, often stated that his only goal was to represent the moment. It is the subject of the most media-oriented exhibition currently in New York. It occupies the entire Guggenheim museum until 20 February.

On its stand, the Thaddaeus Ropac gallery displays one of its female portraits, profile view. The uniqueness of this composition is that most of the canvas is blank, occupied by a light green monochrome while a face appears right in the middle of the top corner, as if capturing a character in motion. The 2020 masterpiece retails for $700,000. According to Bénédicte Burrus of Ropac, prices for American painters have increased by 20 to 30% in the last five years.

Wrapped in a tree by Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Olivier Varenne of Geneva cuts his teeth as artistic director of a museum in Tasmania, Mona, the Museum of Old and New Art, a lavish institution showcasing Egyptian mummies and contemporary art. Perhaps because he is used to going against the grain, he also recently opened a gallery in Geneva. “Gallery is just part of my activity,” he explains. “Geneva continues to offer a favorable context. There is still a lot to do locally and the average salary is very high”.

At the exhibition he exhibited, among others, a series of works by Christo and Jeanne-Claude devoted to wrapped trees. The packer of the Arc de Triomphe (1935-2020) financed his extraordinary project by producing drawings and models that tell the story of his dream. Thus maintaining no less than 15 packaged tree projects for most ever created. At Art Genève, Christos sells from 120,000 euros.

Until January 29th.

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