Putting concept above size
Unlimited has a reputation for scale. That’s not the point, says its curator
By Ben Luke. From Art Basel daily edition
Published online: 12 June 2013
In his second year in charge of Unlimited, Gianni Jetzer, the director of the Swiss Institute in New York, has overseen a big expansion: the section now features 79 works, more than ever before, and occupies more space in Hall 1, with Statements, the magazine section and the auditorium now accommodated in an extension designed by Herzog & de Meuron. Jetzer tells The Art Newspaper about the reasons for Unlimited’s expansion, the aims of the section and its balance of spectacle and absorbing content.
The Art Newspaper: How do you go about selecting the works for Unlimited?
Gianni Jetzer: Galleries that have already been accepted to the show can apply with a project to Unlimited. I also collect names and projects and create a wish list every year. Then I contact the galleries and ask them to apply. While I can make recommendations, the selection committee selects the works for each edition.
Can you decline works by major galleries, for instance?
It is all about artistic quality and about matching the parameters of Unlimited. So, yes, if a project is not outstanding, it will not get selected, no matter what.
Why has it grown bigger? Does that reflect shifts in art practice, such as an increase in large-scale sculptures or installation works?
No, I don’t think so. It is just an outstanding year. Next year might be smaller again. Many galleries have taken risks by producing artistic visions for Unlimited that are over the top. But size does not really matter. Martin Creed will send a runner through the fair. Günter Förg offers a gallery of paintings that is more like a journey into the infinity of space and time.
Do you attempt to balance the types of work shown?
Yes, the balance is an important point. I don’t want to have strong individual positions. Each of them is a star in the Unlimited firmament. It is an exhibition of eccentrics—each artist reinvents the world, and eventually makes us experience everyday life in a different, more appealing way.
Do you see creating a visual spectacle as part of Unlimited’s purpose?
Unlimited is spectacular, for sure. But that doesn’t mean that there is not an unlimited amount of content ready to be discovered and to be thought about.
Can creating an enjoyable spectacle be enough for a work of art?
Spectacle comes from the Latin specere, to look at, obviously an essential part of art. I see my role as a curator as a guarantor that the art in Unlimited is relevant for what contemporary art represents today. It is eventually an intertwined dialogue between generations and genders that produces knowledge in art. Art is still a miracle to me—there is no phone application or computer that can make art, there is also no art fair that can dictate what art should be. The process is discursive and polyphonic.
Do you come across works that are unnecessarily large?
That happens every now and then. But why do people think of Unlimited as a garden of XXL sculpture? Most works are smaller than you think, but big in impact. It is more about concept than size. Unlimited is not a measure, it aims to have no limits at all.
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