Giovanni Carmine on Basel: not just a visitor but a commuter who leaves his mark

by Mara Sartore
May 30, 2022
Mara Sartore
Giovanni Carmine

He has been the director of the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen since 2007, where he has curated shows by David Lamelas, Ryan Gander, Mariana Castillo Deball, Hassan Khan, Petrit Halilaj, Sylvia Sleigh, Dani Gal, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Jill Magid, Andrea Büttner or the group exhibition «The Darknet», to name but a few. In 2011 he was artistic coordinator of ILLUMInations, the 54th edition of the Biennale di Venezia and co-editor of the catalogue and in 2013 he curated the Swiss Pavillion at the same biennial. He has contributed to various magazines (Kunst-Bulletin, Frieze, Art-Review, Parkett), published in catalogues and edited several publications including PSYOP Post 9/11 Leaflets and CEAU (both with Christoph Büchel). He was President of the Swiss Federal Art Commission (2017—2019) and is member of the board of the Istituto Svizzero in Rome. He is curator of Art Basel Unlimited and currently lives and works between Zurich and St.Gallen.

I work really closely with the artists and I try to sustain them in pushing their practice further and in new directions. I think the programming at the Kunst Halle is very heterogenous and surprising, with an acute awareness for topics which are relevant to today’s society. We have great freedom in St. Gallen and we try to take this for granted. Working for Unlimited is obviously very different but also enriching and challenging. So I experience Basel not as a visitor, but as a commuter, trying to give something back to the city.

Art Basel Unlimited

The mixture of elements is in my opinion the key element for the success story ‘Basel as an art capital”: a great institutional network, an innovative art school, both with the public and private funded institutions. I think we don’t have enough space here to name all the great people that make the scene in Basel so exciting and lively.

Basel has many great off-spaces so I choose the ones that have wonderful Italian names, since they are doing a great job: Palazzina, Giulietta and Amore. If you want to know what is going on in the Swiss art scene, then the Swiss Art Awards are not to be missed. And since you are there, come one floor down to visit Unlimited. This year, we are very close neighbours.!

In general, there is almost too much to choose from!

Gilles Jacot, Stop series (1-5/5), 2021.Wood frame, paper, glass, pencil, paint, badges, 50 x 35 x 3cm. Schulterklopfer Einheit / backslapper unit, 2022.Wire coat hangers, 100 x 40 x 20cm. Photos: Guadalupe Ruiz, Marc Asekhame and Gilles Jacot

I enjoy the diversity on offer and the easy and inclusive atmosphere of Klara, which is comfortably very close to the fair. You can find me late night sitting somewhere close to the river Rhine, with some old and new friends, drinking beers bought somewhere on the streets and exchanging interesting thoughts and advice about what to see and do in Basel.

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