Trade fair organizer Hug: “People are hungry to buy art again”

WORLD: Ten years of Artgeneve. How is the fair there?

Thomas Hug: We have tried to improve the quality of each edition. The quality of an art fair is measured by what the galleries have to offer, the program of the institutional partners and the audience that we can reach with it. And this mix has gotten better every year.

WORLD: What specifically raised the level of your trade fair?

Hug: We received more inquiries from good galleries and were therefore able to raise the level when selecting the participants. Thaddaeus Ropac from Salzburg and Chantal Crousel from Paris will be there for the first time. I also see an improvement in the institutions. For example the Center Pompidou: Two years ago they presented a video to us that was very interesting and good. But now they’re showing a real exhibition at Artgenève, which would also do well in an art gallery.

WORLD: What’s new on the Artgeneve?

Hug: There are three new platforms, the first opens to sound art. This is also a personal weakness of mine. On the second platform we show photography. Twelve commercial galleries are participating in the curated exhibition, as well as the Geneva Fondation Bodmer. And the third platform is dedicated to sculptures and readymades. Galleries that don’t have a normal booth and that we’ve never worked with can participate there. At the start, David Zwirner from New York and Daniel Buchholz from Cologne will take part.

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WORLD: In the years leading up to the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about the regional art fairs having to hold their own against the big events. The Artgenève is a typical regional fair. What is your recipe for success?

Hug: It was very important to us from the start to find out what regional actually means. And we quickly realized that we needed direct contact with art dealers and gallery owners from Switzerland and neighboring France. We have also made sure that the trade fair is not too big. Between eighty and a maximum of one hundred galleries, that’s a size that works. Nevertheless, we wanted major international galleries to participate. It’s a matter of balance, not competition.

WORLD: The Swiss exhibition company MCH Group has recently interpreted the competition in a very combative manner: it is ousting the FIAC from the Grand Palais. In autumn there will probably be a variant of Art Basel in Paris. How do you feel about this?

Hug: I can’t tell if there was a fight. But professionally I think the development is good. It shows how committed Switzerland is to the art trade and that it has the organizational ability to push this commitment outside of Switzerland as well.

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WORLD: Do you not see any danger for Artgenève and other regional fairs in this concentration of power at Art Basel?

Hug: That’s not a problem for us, Artgenève has long since found its place parallel to Art Basel. This is peaceful coexistence.

WORLD: Artgenève was canceled in January 2021 due to Corona, and the trade fair had to be postponed to March at short notice. How problematic is this appointment carousel?

Hug: People are hungry to see and buy art again. You can feel that. So we are glad that the fair can take place next week. But our preferred date is the end of January.

WORLD: The sister fair Artmonte-carlo, which you founded a few years ago in Monaco, has been permanently postponed to July. Why?

Hug: In Monaco you need galleries that have a certain power and customers on the Côte d’Azur. It’s a bit harder for younger galleries to do well there. The new date of Artmonte-carlo in July forces us to be a bit smaller, but the environment is much better. The institutions and art foundations in the region show their major exhibitions, there are many festivals and customers are in their homes in the south of France in the summer anyway. We would like to develop further in Monaco as a small fair, with well-established galleries that stand for high quality. But we are also working on a project in Nice that will not be commercial, but rather we want to offer the region another cultural perspective.

WORLD: Isn’t art in Monaco degraded to a luxury product among many others?

Hug: Monte-Carlo was an important location for the art market in its history, that has been lost a bit. But I think Monaco is back on track now. In July 2021, galleries like Gagosian and Johann König did pop-ups there, the auction house Artcurial put on a large exhibition of sculptures, and Christie’s and Sotheby’s have been there for a long time. Sure, you can call that luxury-oriented, but our trade fair in particular brought quality with it. Most importantly, Monaco is once again attracting a younger audience.

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WORLD: All art dealers, all auction houses are looking for a new audience, want to tap into the younger generation of collectors. What do you recommend to young prospective buyers who are coming to Artgenève for the first time? And most importantly, how much money do they need to bring with them?

Hug: Let’s say at least 5000 francs. Of course you can get editions for less money, but for a one-off it starts at around 4000 francs at Artgenève. And in the range up to 20,000 francs you can really find a lot at our fair.

WORLD: Where for example?

Hug: The galleries Ermes-Ermes from Rome, Ciaccia Levi from Paris and Gregor Staiger from Zurich are on the new photography platform. You will definitely find something in the four-digit range. Crevecoeur is a very interesting young art gallery from Paris that has a regular stand at the fair. And the big galleries not only bring works that cost 100,000 francs and more. Tim van Laere from Antwerp is very established, but always shows young artists. And if you are interested in painting, you have to go to Sébastien Bertrand. Especially in America, the Geneva gallery owner keeps discovering new young positions that are also affordable for young collectors.

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