The Future of Art Fairs

Xenia Vytuleva, Senior Researcher at the ETH, Zurich, talks with art critic Irina Vernichenko about Art Geneve and other art institutions.

Xenia Vytuleva:
Art Geneve, Art Basel Miami, Art Basel Hong Kong are based on event energy. Museums used to be solid institutions, eternal institutions, right now there is a tendency that even museums would become part of “big events” programs, otherwise they will die.

Irina: You worked in a Center of the History of Knowledge that studies the links between philosophy, political philosophy and the theory of architecture. Does art communicate knowledge through invisible terrain?

Xenia:  Art is a synthetic kind of knowledge where intuitions and emotions merge together with data. Art is certainly about research, and data, and knowledge production. Contemporary artists tend to be researchers.

Irina: “Art as a synthetic kind of knowledge that combines intuition, data, research”. Has it always been like that? In the PAD (Pavilion of Art and Design) section of Art Geneve we will see primitive art and classical art and we will compare it with modern art. Do you think that when we talk about this synthetic knowledge we talk about modern and contemporary art?

Xenia:  First, I think that the major difficulty there is the logic of market, the economy that rules, as Art Geneve is an art fair with an exchange of values. However, to my knowledge, there is not a single art fair today that does not include discourses, discourses of professionals about the future of the art world.  Discourses are the exchange of ideas, a knowledge exchange, and it is also an academic activity. It is also a forum, where we craft the future, and we can read it as a symptom, that there is a stream and will and fashion and trend to craft the territory, the zones for the future of institutions, to use the capacities of Art Geneve and build something new. We can’t imagine art fairs without talks.

Irina: And without interviews, such as the one we are now in the middle of…

Xenia: Yes, journalism starts to be a very active part of this discourse, it has always been, but today I am arguing that its role has been accelerated because of the accelerating role of media. Journalists, specialized journalism, is a particular spice of the discourse, that has an ability to plug this specialized discourse into the larger cultural context.

Irina: Do you mean that criticism is the same spice as collectors at the fair?
Xenia: What I see is this new coexistence of professions on the territory of art fair and that the art fair starts to embrace other professions.  If we compare museums and art fairs, they are plugged into very different timelines. Museums are a stable state-funded institution, while an art fair is an entrepreneurship, it might seem that they are different, and they used to be different. Today, the art market is absolutely impossible without being in dialogue with the large institutions and vice versa.  The museums are much more open to the collectors and to art dealers, and one of the examples is the Gurlitt exhibition (see Gurlitt article) and the ambiguous role of Gurlitt as a collector, art buyer, and museum employee.  Today, professional figures communicate the knowledge of art and knowledge of collecting, as well as the knowledge of the value of art, and this starts to play an enormous role, equal to academics.

Irina: We talk about knowledge, business science also discusses knowledge: the knowledge economy, knowledge based decision-making processes, etc. How can we look through this lenses at Art Geneve? What do we look at? What questions are there to ask?

Xenia: I recommend to visit the art fair, the opening of the art fair, it is not only about socializing but it is also about feeling the energy, feeling the trend.  Going to the opening is essential to understanding the backbone of the art fair with biological senses, and professional intuition. Senses start to be activated. I am not an art collector myself but I tend go to the fairs in order to sense the future.

Irina: So what do you sense? Is the future style a trend towards minimalism or is it again double-coding postmodernism?

Xenia: Well, I think that the market factor plays a huge role, and that the Asian market has tremendously affected Europe and the American Coasts, East and West Coast. I would say that that massive amount of professional information from Asia is definitely one of the trends. Art Basel Hong Kong is in the avant-garde line not only of sales, but also of discussions, of discourses.  Another trend that I witnessed recently is the reactivation of optical illusionism. We can see that tendency from the latest Art Basel, when the largest, most renowned galleries gave the green light for optical art and optical illusionism experiments and we witnessed more or less the same trend at the Venice Biennale.


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