It was 1995 when Peter Bläuer, at the time a Basel-based freelance curator, was approached by the Zurich-based gallerists Eva Presenhuber and Peter Kilchman about the potential of launching a new art fair in Basel for a new, younger generation of gallerists and artists. A year later, in 1996, LISTE Art Fair was born, with a focus on introducing young galleries with primarily emerging, as yet little known artists. The first edition was a roaring success, bringing together 36 galleries from 12 countries including the likes of neugerriemschneider and Neu, Maureen Paley, Stephen Friedman, Massimo de Carlo, Air de Paris, David Zwirner, Andrehn Schiptjenk, and Evan Presenhuber, to name a few. Since it was launched in 1996, LISTE has since become one of the most important fairs for a new and middle generation of galleries and their mainly young artists.
Now, 22 years since its inception, each year LISTE now shows approximately 80 of the most promising, international galleries from more than 30 countries around the world, with around 10-15 being introduced for the first time. Testament to its success is the fact that there is scarcely a gallery established after 1996 and numbering among the world’s most important whose path has not included an appearance at LISTE. It’s no secret that LISTE’s co-founder, its director since the fair’s inception in 1996, and its current director and owner, Peter Bläuer, would like to retire from day-to-day operations and pass the direction of the fair on to a new generation. But before he does, BLOUIN ARTINFO got in touch with Bläuer and asked him for his top tips on the best places to eat, stay, visit, and see in his home city of Basel.
What are your recommendations for must-visit places in Basel and why?
First and foremost, all of the important museums. Then I would recommend a tour through the old city where you can see churches in architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Baroque to Neoclassical. Then the Basel Münster (Minster) with its Romanesque Galluspforte (St. Gallen portal) from around 1185 A.D. But contemporary architecture in Basel is also noteworthy. We have buildings by Herzog & de Meuron, Richard Meier, etc. Novartis, the pharmaceutical company, built its campus in 2001 with buildings by internationally renowned architects, Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Tadeo Ando, David Chipperfield, and many more. The campus, however, can only be visited on Saturdays by appointment. You can find information about all of Basel´s sights on the Basel Tourism website. www.basel.com
What restaurants, bars, and cafes would you recommend in Basel and why?
My personal favorites are: Krafft am Rhein, Rhyschnänzli (Rhyschaenzli), Kunsthalle, the Brauerei, and Volkshaus. Good cuisine made with fresh ingredients. There are also the historical and beautiful former guild houses: Safran, Schlüssel, Mägd. Very typically Swiss. A lovely historical coffee house is Schiesser am Marktplatz (on the market square). And then there are bars like Cargo Bar, Grenzwert, zum Kuss, Consum.
Where would you go and what would you do if you had a free morning or afternoon in Basel?
Basel is located on the border to Germany and France. We residents of Basel like to go by bike, car or bus to the neighboring regions of Elsass or Baden. Beautiful landscapes and homey country restaurants. Or you can drive (30 minutes) to the Elsass and visit the Romanesque abbey church in Ottmarsheim, built in 1049. Or I recommend spending an afternoon taking a cruise on the Rhine from Basel to Rheinfelden, during which you will travel through two locks and beautiful countryside on your way to the charming former Habsburg city of Rheinfelden.
Where would you head to in Basel for the best shopping and what would you buy?
In Basel, you´ll see the international chains that you find just about anywhere. I recommend stores and labels from Basel. There are designers like Claudia Güdel (Schnabelgasse 4) or Tanja Klein (Schneidergasse 24). You´ll also find nice little shops on St. Johannes-Vorstadt, in Klybeck and on Feldbergstrasse.
Where would you recommend people stay (hotels etc.) when they visit Basel?
A lovely new designer hotel is Nomad. Hotel Teufelhof in the old city, where each room was designed and furnished by an artist. Or Hotel Krafft, which has a great view of the Rhine. Or if you want sleep in a “cell”, you can stay at Hotel Au Violon, formerly a prison, located in a magical point in the old city. There is a youth hostel in the old city located behind the Museum for Contemporary Art, housed in a historical industrial structure that was renovated with great care. There are also single and double rooms there.
What are the best places to see and buy art in Basel?
Kunstmuseum (according to the New York Times one of the five most important museums worldwide) Fondation Beyeler. The very important Kunsthalle, Tinguely Museum, etc. Then the galleries: Nicolas Krupp and Freymondt-Gut, both of which began at LISTE and are now at Art Basel. The youngest gallery is Weiss/Falk, which will be exhibiting at Art Basel for the first time. There are galleries like Linder, von Bartha, Balzer, Stampa – just to name a few. All of them can be found at: www.baselgalerien.ch. But keep in mind that there are also a lot of interesting off-spaces in Basel: www.offoff.ch
What are the best places to see live entertainment – music, theatre, etc. in Basel and why?
The small city of Basel, with its 190,000 residents, is a cultural center that can compete internationally. Theater Basel is considered to be very important in theater and drama. You can see terrific plays right now: e.g., Chekhov´s Three Sisters, Schiller´s Wilhelm Tell. Two very contemporary productions. Our opera is also widely respected and engages in significant experimentation. If you are a jazz fan, I can recommend the Bird´s Eye. Gare du Nord offers a broad spectrum of music ranging from contemporary chamber music to electronic to experimental jazz. At 6:15 every Friday evening, there is a short (30 minutes) organ concert in the Gothic church Leonhardskirche.
What are some of Basel’s best secret places that everyone should discover?
Well, I´m not going to reveal them … since they would then no longer be a secret! Nevertheless: In the middle of the city near Petersplatz, you can relax in a small part of the botanical gardens, a real oasis. The large botanical gardens are a bit outside of town but are still magical. A restaurant tip: Rostiger Anker, located off the beaten path between ships and cranes in the Rhine harbor. Basel has excellent public transportation that can also take you across the border and into the countryside. Buy a day ticket and travel around. You can get out wherever you get the feeling: I like it here; there´s something to see here.
What projects are you currently working on/involved in?
My main work is LISTE. In June, the fair will be taking place for the 22nd time. I am now 65 and one of my projects is … to quit … and pass LISTE on to a new generation. That is one of my current projects – finding a form in order that our not-for-profit-oriented LISTE remains a promotion and discoverer fair.