Reasons why Modern Art is ugly…

Iseult Laabote

An answer  for  creative and talented people…

I found this article last year and because  people ask me why is art so ugly I thought this article could give some answers to  art lovers, and younger colleagues.

March 15th 2007

Director Patrick Barrer.
The historical art fairs (in order of arrival on the market: Art Cologne, Art Basel, Fiac, Arco) which only aimed, originally, at “confronting all the merchants and publishers in a vast salon, with no other criterion of selection than possible financial gain” in order to allow amateurs “to define themselves personally by placing them in front of all manners of expression,” have progressively become museum-like fairs, their ambition to gather, in one space, the most influential sellers and buyers of the moment. From then on, they have constantly been at war in an attempt to dominate the international contemporary art market, which would not be what it is today without them. And this war has reached their younger rivals such as Frieze in London.

One may, logically, wonder about the relevance of such an economic struggle in art circles, and, above all, about the effect it has on the public and the artists themselves. Are these fairs, which cost a lot of money to exhibitors, condemned to reserve art, even in its most subversive version, to a nouveau riche clientele, thereby ignoring a whole movement—founded by 60s art which, in its turn, declared war on the bourgeois after Dada and Duchamp?

This strange paradox is not the only one in this market, and this is especially apparent when you compare it with its own history and with the history of 20th century art. Have we not just been told about a fair to be held in China, i.e. a fair in a country where freedom of expression does not exist (one only needs to remember the censorship of Google), but where there is, nevertheless, “a potential market of an incredible size” to quote the founder of that fair, the Genevan art merchant Pierre Huber, a former organiser of Art Basel. And it is true to say that, under this communist dictatorship, millionaires are growing like mushrooms. Will this be beneficial to art, and if so, to which art?

This market, dominated by people who became very wealthy recently, began to evolve in the 80s, before reaching its present level under the effects of a triumphant globalisation. It was this evolution which resulted, in 1992, in the creation of Europ’ART, the international art fair in Geneva.

Wanting to explore a wider clientele and other artistic fields, Europ’ART returned not only to the original concept of the art fair, as recalled above, but also, and above all, the fair developed this concept by reporting on a new art form—one that does not limit the path of artists and intermediaries to the worship of masterpieces and a cult to the star-system. Nor does it make one profession prevail against another.

Indeed, right from the start, we rejected the very idea of competition and gave preference to emulation, sharing and meetings. Additionally, the exhibitors’ price range rarely goes beyond 10,000 Swiss francs.
We thus “invented” a fair accesible to the public and to the artists, at a moment when individual artistic knowledge and skill was ripening. We gave life to a fair, which is, on a human scale, accessible to most (it is held next to, and at the same time as, the International Book and Press Fair), one that works according to its own rules and that is developed according to its own rhythm, in its own region. It is like a historical crossroads in Europe.

Europ’ART’s operating mode, therefore, quickly became different to that of other fairs since exhibitors were not necessarily art gallery owners. We also gave a welcome to groups of artists, museums, institutions, art publishers, associations and cultural magazines. This was done in order to group together the professions, artistic trends and personal paths that are expressed around us, in Geneva and elsewhere. In studios, galleries and on other cultural scenes, whether commercial or not, all this is done without neglecting the vocations in need of encouragement, the impulses of the audience or the talents to be revealed.

Since the first edition of Europ’ART, over 600,000 visitors have thus been able to discover some 4600 artists from different parts of the world. And, since 2003, almost 1500 works have been sold, all formats and techniques included. Besides, in 1997, Europ’ART created the Visual Arts Foundation with a view to encourage exchanges and projects between artists, intermediaries and all types of audiences. In fact, we will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this year (some 50 exhibitions have been organised under this impulse and 30 different countries were represented).

Europ’ART’s growth is now largely reported in Switzerland and abroad. Back in 2003, Wall Street Journal Europe remarked on Europ’ART’s singularity among those fairs which “are testing a new idea in selling art: approachability.”

The 16th edition of Europ’ART is a new example of this approachability and it happily confirms the excellent impressions gathered during our 15th anniversary.

Indeed, the audience will find a programme that reflects a wide spectrum of local and international artistic news, with many a novelty, even among the artistic crafts, on a successful expansion at Europ’ART since the Musée Ariana took art from its selection.

Apart from the exhibitions organised by art gallery owners, art publishers, associations and groups of artists (a good 20 countries will be represented), new intermediaries and institutional guests will be shedding some light upon a specific event related to their activities.

Such is the case with photography—brought to the fore this year—through the presence of the Musée de l’Elysée, set up in 1985 in Lausanne and the bookshop-cum-gallery, Focale, which has devoted itself to the promotion of conceptual photography since 1982, in Nyon.

The Musée des Boîtes à Musique et des Automates from Sainte-Croix is offering a guided visit through a selection of rare items from its collections. That will also be a great opportunity to discover the professions hidden behind such jewels.

After its display in Barcelona and Paris (Musée du Montparnasse), the retrospective on Morales, the painter, will be on offer in Geneva, under the impulse of art gallery owner Augusto de Marsanich (Marbella), a regular exhibitor at Europ’ART.

An exhibition by French and foreign artists, including the Swiss photographer Iseult Labote, has been organised by the French art critic, essayist and novelist Jean-Philippe Domecq, who initiated the debate on contemporary art in France during the last decade of the 20th century and whose preferences among emerging artists are still unknown to the majority of international art circles.

Meanwhile, Olivier Delhoume, a journalist but also a plastic artist, video-maker, photographer and writer in Switzerland, is showing several of his works related to Japan, a country which has been fascinating him since he visited the universal exhibition in Osaka in 1970.

The entire programme for the 16th edition is on-line on


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