artgenève’s Director says “In terms of quantity and quality we are very happy”

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When the international community thinks of Geneva, they think of foreign diplomacy, international organisations, chocolate and cheese, even skiing, despite the lack of ski slopes in the lakeside city.

Something rarely thought of but deserving of their absolute attention is the diverse and constantly growing art scene. For many years ArtBasel remained the sole major art fair in Switzerland. Many collectors and gallerists thought that this was enough, forgetting that any main meal must have a truly tempting appetizer, thus was born artgenève, the majorette of art fairs. Major due to its selection of quality galleries, institutions and private collectors and ette due to its petite size. With 70 galleries and 30 spaces, artgenève welcomes art lovers to a unique fair that exhibits art from the region as well as the world.

We share a few moments with the exhibition’s director, Thomas Hug, who says what to expect for the upcoming 2016 edition taking place from the 28 to 31 of January.


You have managed the show since 2011, each year the show has gained more recognition. How do you think the show has evolved since then?

I started with  artgenève in 2012 and I was employed by Palexpo in 2011. When we began we only had a few months to prepare the first edition, and at that time all the serious galleries from the region were not convinced of the necessity to have an art fair in Suisse Romande. So we started very small and slow. Year after year we have had a strong development as our concept and strategy is not to develop too big but have quality. In the future we want to maintain this small format: 70 galleries and something like 30 spaces. So, in terms of quantity and quality we are very happy.


What can we expect to be different in 2016?

Each year there are new galleries that come and some galleries that leave. What is interesting is that the galleries sell quite well so we receive a lot of applications for spaces. Sometimes it happens that galleries that participated are no longer allowed show because we continuously receive more applications and always more recognised applications. But I always fight to keep the people who have been involved in the project, but it’s not always easy.

This year we have three new galleries from Austria. We also have the very first gallery originating from New York, as well as galleries from Korea specialised in art craft.

There are two singularities for artgenève: the size in comparison to ArtBasel, Frieze, Fiac, etc. we keep it small but with the same level of quality. The second is the strong invited program we have, for 70 galleries we have 30 invited spaces which are foundations, museums, private collections of spaces and of course there are new ones. For example this year we have a program with the Kunsthalle  Museum in Zürich, and we will welcome the Musée Rodin from Paris, and for the first time we also have institutions from Lausanne coming like the Musée de Beaux Arts. As well as important institutions from this area like the Mamco and the Centre d’Art Contemporain.


You studied musicology and trained as a pianist, can we expect your music background to transpire during artgenève?

(Laughs) Apart from myself we have a section which we started to years ago, called artgenève musique and that takes place at the Villa Sarasin, a house that is a two minute walk from Palexpo. Following the official opening at night there will be a party with music performances by John Armleder, Christian Marclay, Johnathan Monk and other ones, as well as myself on the piano.

We started 2012 so 2016 is our fourth birthday and that celebration will take place at the Babyboa Club in Geneva where I will come  play with my band that’s based in Berlin.


So we found a video from Hug’s band La Stampa, and it’s pop exellence, remnant of late 90s brit-pop with a futuristic electro twist. Watch below. 

In an interview you expressed how you enjoy travelling between three of Europe’s most visited cities: London, Paris and berlin. How would you describe the art scene in each of those cities with only three words?

Berlin the king place for the artists, London for the market and galleries and Paris for the institutions.


And Geneva?

Wow, Geneva is a mix of everything, it is obvious that Switzerland has interesting and important artists, also coming from the squat tradition. Concerning the institutions we have a new museum now, of course we do not have the institutions like in the other cities we spoke about but perhaps we can develop it. Who knows that was the case in Basel for example.


How has the art scene of the region evolved in the past five years?

I think before we started artgenève from Geneva to up the mountains in  Gstaad, the Geneva lake area was full of very interesting collectors that are quite discreet; this is not as open and visible like in Swiss German Switzerland. Now they are even more involved than before because they can find artwork in Geneva without having to travel as much to London, Paris and etc.


For more on artgenève 2016 and the full list of exhibitors click here.