The LISTE Interviews: Eva Presenhuber

One in a series of interviews with LISTE alumni, reflecting on their first experience at the fair – in partnership with E. Gutzwiller & Cie, Banquiers

Ugo Rondinone's solo presentation at LISTE, 1996. © the artist. Courtesy Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich & New York

LISTE first opened its doors in 1996 and since then has developed into a key art fair for new galleries. E.Gutzwiller & Cie, Banquiers has been a supporter from the beginning, and has been the main partner since 1997. The private bank, located in Basel, was founded in 1886 by Carl Gutzwiller and is still owned and managed by the Gutzwiller family and their partners. Ahead of this year’s fair ArtReview has asked four LISTE alumni to reflect on their first LISTE. Eva Presenhuber, who established Galerie Eva Presenhuber in Zürich in 2003 and New York in 2017, representing artists including Angela Bulloch, Liam Gillick, Ugo Rondinone and Eva Rothschild, was on the founding committee of LISTE.

LISTE was founded in 1996. How did you become involved in the fair?

In October 1989 I was appointed director of a space called Galerie Walcheturm in Zürich. This was a beautiful space but it had no gallery programme at that point. This was ideal for me as I wanted to build a great one from scratch. By 1996 I had been able to create a roster of artists with Peter Fischli/David Weiss, Ugo Rondinone, Urs Fischer, Karen Kilimnik, Sue Williams, Franz West, Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Gerwald Rockenschaub, Angela Bulloch, Douglas Gordon, Maria Eichhorn, Candida Höfer and Hugo Markl.

I tried many times to get a booth at Art Basel and I succeeded twice but I was kicked out again and that really frustrated me. At that time, Art Basel did not yet have a format like Statements, its special programme for young galleries.

As I was not the only one of my generation having problems getting included in Art Basel, I took all my guts together and started to work on the idea of a parallel young art fair. I convinced my colleague Peter Kilchmann to be part of the plan and we founded LISTE. I asked Peter Bläuer, a friend and curator based in Basel, if he could find a venue and he found the Warteck building. That was the starting point for us to create a board and to invite our colleagues. It was really amazing, the first edition features, if you look back now, a who’s who of the best art galleries of the period. As a result, Art Basel created a new format, named Statements in 1997 and all of the galleries who took part at the first Liste were accepted at Art Basel in the following years.

What can smaller art fairs offer artists and younger galleries that the larger fairs cannot?

Smaller fairs, often more affordable, can help a gallery build a collector base and gain visibility for younger galleries. In the case of LISTE, it is more than that however, in that the fair offers the chance to compete with colleagues of the same generation.

Are art fairs as important now as they were when you first did LISTE?

LISTE is still as important now as it was in the beginning: it’s strength lies in its very strict selection process, which allows only the strongest-minded young dealers to be part of it.