The LISTE Interviews: Maureen Paley

In partnership with E. Gutzwiller & Cie, Banquiers

Maureen Paley, in the foreground, at LISTE in 1996, Courtesy LISTE

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. Maureen Paley, who founded her London gallery in 1984 and represents Wolfgang Tillmans, Gillian Wearing, Rebecca Warren, Michael Krebber, Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Oscar Tuazon, among others, was on the founding committee of LISTE.

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

In 1995 I was invited by the curator Peter Bläuer and Zürich gallerists Eva Presenhuber and Peter Kilchmann to be part of the original LISTE committee and went to Switzerland to plan the first fair with them. We toured the Warteck building in Basel and we discussed the ways in which LISTE would be different from the more established Art Basel, giving younger, lesser-known galleries a chance to present work in a new, unstructured setting. The first fair was very energising and seemed really 'alternative' in those days. There were fewer experimental fairs for less-established galleries to choose from back then. Things like the Unfair preceded LISTE, and the early experiments in New York at the Gramercy Park Hotel ran in parallel, but given Basel's reach and the collectors who gathered there for the main fair, LISTE was a breath of fresh air, creating a new fair context for art. LISTE from the onset did not set out to be a fair with a capital 'F' but was more like a 'self-publishing' book fair in feel and outlook. It enhanced rather than competed with other fair models. Indie yet focused.

What has been LISTE’s legacy for the gallery?

I always think that LISTE provides a great showcase and the perfect introduction to Basel. I still visit the fair every year and see the Warteck building as both welcoming and challenging at the same time. I like that my first fair in Basel was in this venue, and I keep connected because it is part of my 'indie' roots. Improvements have been made over time, but Peter Bläuer has stayed true to his original principles with a rich and varied history of those he first enabled in his programme. The website timeline makes for fascinating reading.

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

When they are good – like LISTE – they offer a sense of intimacy and a less corporate setting to explore art in. Younger galleries should not view LISTE as a stepping-stone, they must recognise it as a unique and special opportunity to present art in a remarkable (if edgy) setting. Focus and enjoy the experience. I never wanted to leave LISTE, its spirit is remarkable to this day.

Online exclusive, published on 17 May 2018