Thomas Hug, founder and director of:
The third edition of the Sculpture Garden Biennale will take place from 10 June to 30 September 2022 at the Parc des Eaux-Vives, the Parc La Grange and on the Quai Gustave-Ador. We met its director, Thomas Hug, who talked to us about backstage at the Biennale, discussed the art market and gave us his point of view on the rise of NFTs.
Initiated by artgenève and organised in collaboration with MAMCO and the City of Geneva, the next edition of the Geneva Biennale Sculpture Garden opens in a few days. What does this third edition look like?
Thomas Hug With this third edition, I think it is fair to say that we are continuing to develop the Biennale into a more international event in terms of its programming. Calling on the expertise of Devrim Bayar, curator at WIELS Brussels, was part of this strategy. And the breadth of artistic sectors covered is expanding. In addition to sculpture, there will also be a programme of video installations This all contributes to creating a more global contemporary art biennale in Geneva.
We think of the Venice Biennale, the New York Biennale and even the Berlin Biennale. What is special about the Geneva Biennale?
TH It is hard to compare. Each edition of a biennale across the world is distinctive in its own way and there isn’t necessarily have a fixed line of travel over the long term. The range of artists we have brought in seems to me to be particularly appealing: we’re introducing lots of young creators to the general public as well as a large number works with a high level of conceptualisation. Whatever the case, Sculpture Garden seems to be a rather unique event in Switzerland, thanks in particular to the splendid city-centre parks where it takes place: a rare gem of a summer setting.
The exhibition’s design was entrusted to Devrim Bayar, who has brought together 26 works, more than half of which were created especially for the event. What will happen to these works after the exhibition?
TH There will be different outcomes for the works at the end of the exhibition. They may be returned to the artist or the gallery that represents the artist, and the more ephemeral among them may be destroyed. But the more constructive approach that we have put in place since 2020 is to permanently display them in public spaces in Geneva’s municipalities. In this way, over time, the canton of Geneva will be enriched by a vast park of public art of international calibre.
At the beginning of the century, three unmissable events – Venice, Paris and São Paulo had art lovers travelling around the world at a gentle pace. Today, there are countless art biennales around the world. How do you maintain your bearings at this infernal pace?
TH It is certainly sometimes difficult to keep up with all that is on offer internationally, especially in this post-Covid period, when each biennale wants to make its mark, but we must not forget that the public interested in art has also grown enormously in number and diversity over the decades. This large offering allows art lovers to attend events, each of which has its own identity and uniqueness.
Transactions over the past year have reached $2.7 billion, proving once again that the global art business has not been affected by the crisis! What makes today’s art market so different and so attractive?
TH It seems to me that the sector of contemporary art has a higher value than the luxury goods sector, insofar as the objects created are generally unique. Moreover, art often paves the way for progress in other fields, such as design and science. This dual interest in real and attractive values seems to me to be the key to its success.
The arrival of NFTs will certainly rock the boat in the (physical) art market. Some see it as an opportunity and others are wary of it. For you, are NFTs pure speculation or a real revolution?
TH For me, NFTs are an absolutely thrilling development and an enriching addition for stakeholders in the art market as well as a way of reaching a different audience. But I don’t think that the upheaval they cause will have any greater impact than street art did and the effect it had on democratising art in our milieu some years ago.
Geneva Biennale: Sculpture Garden 2022 – from 10.06 to 30.09 2022 – More info
Genève+41 22 300 43 00
Vaud – Gland+41 22 364 20 70
Vaud – Lausanne+41 21 312 11 45
Zurich/Basel+41 43 534 31 28