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Art Basel Parcours presents site-specific sculptures, interventions, and performances in public spaces, and this year, it’s taking place in Basel’s historic city center. To mark his first year as curator, Whitewaller spoke to Samuel Leuenberger about his past and present experiences in the art world, and what to expect at this year’s fair.
WHITEWALLER: As the third curator of Art Basel Parcours, this is your first year. What can we look forward to?
SAMUEL LEUENBERGER: It will be a very humane edition; the weight of the human body will be felt all around, both in terms of the works’ sculptural presence, as well as degree of audience interaction. It is a very exciting edition because so many social topics are being discussed. This year’s presentation will also be quite a bit more condensed—geographically speaking. In addition to the traditional Parcours Night this year, the sector is further enhanced by a new Bar program, through which I have asked different Basel-based project spaces to host their own parallel events. This developed naturally as a way to extend the arm to active organizations and communities across Basel.
WW: Are any of the artists making a more public work of art for the first time?
SL: All the featured artists have, in one form or another, shown work publicly before, however it is truly special for us to share a large installation by Jim Dine here, as it will be first time his work will be seen on this scale in Europe. Also of note—for his piece, Michael Dean has specifically created a series of glyphs that will be set loose upon the town, experienced only through chance encounters out on the street.
WW: Last year, you served as an Associate Curator for the “14 Rooms” exhibition at Art Basel. What about that experience made you want to work on a larger scale?
SL: “14 Rooms” was an amazingly beneficial experience; its unique setting and context led viewers to re-evaluate the manner in which they encounter live works. Parcours is more about your own experience, your own body, and how we relate to art in the public realm. This is something we experience on a more or less subconscious level every day when we are out and about in town. Since the paradigms of viewing art change drastically outside the gallery context, we are confronted with something that appears freer from both side of the coin: the presentation and the reception of the work.
WW: You have had an extensive past in the art world, with involvement in art institutions, commercial galleries, and not-for-profit organizations like SALTS in Birsfelden, Switzerland that promotes emerging Swiss and international artists. What about your many diverse past experiences prepared you for this role?
SL: Every context has its own sensibilities. A gallerist wants to present the work one way, the museum curator has other motivations, and the artist is often stuck in the middle, defending his or her interests. Here, all the strings are coming together, since so many different parties are involved in making Parcours a success, including of course Art Basel, the galleries, the Basel-based partners, the institution, city officials, and the public.
WW: As a local to Basel, what art or art space is not-to-miss in town?
SL: In addition to much heralded, not-to-miss spots like Schaulager, Fondation Beyeler, and the new extension building of the Kunstmuseum, there are many off-the-beaten-track spaces and non-commercial spaces like Ausstellungsraum Klingental, Der Tank, deuxpiece, Kasko, or Schwarzwaldallee, and of course, SALTS, which will present three shows opening on Thursday, June 16. Last but not least, there are two new commercial galleries in Basel to check out: Weiss Falk and Jean Claude Freymond-Guth.