Artgèneve Returns After Director’s Inglorious Exit | News

Source Credit:  Content and images from Ocula Magazine.  Read the original article - https://ocula.com/magazine/art-news/artgeneve-returns-after-directors-inglorious-exit/

Charlotte Diwan took charge of the fair when Thomas Hug departed last summer. He is accused of stealing over $1 million from the event’s organisers.

Artgèneve Returns After Director’s Inglorious Exit

Joana Vasconcelos, Valkyrie Mumbet (2020). Exhibition view: artgèneve, Geneva (24–28 January 2024). Courtesy artgèneve. Photo: Julien Gremaud.

Just a week before artgèneve opened at the Palexpo convention centre on 24 January, news broke the news that former director Thomas Hug had not simply vacated the role last summer. He was fired, and has since been charged with stealing CHF $1 million (U.S. $1.15 million) from fair organisers Fondation Pour Les Arts Visuels.

Hug allegedly used shell companies to acquire artworks, which he kept in his own home.

‘When I discovered the extent of the embezzlement, I couldn’t believe it,’ Claude Memberz, the foundation’s chair, told Swiss newspaper Le Temps. ‘I have always had excellent relations with him, it was I who hired him in 2011 to launch artgenève. He had my full confidence. Today, I am disappointed, hurt to see that he lied to us, betrayed us, cheated us.’

Hug’s lawyer told another Swiss newspaper, Le Courrier, that Hug, ‘managed things in his own way, partly, it’s true, outside the framework set by his employer and he apologised for it. However, Palexpo and the Visual Arts Foundation did not suffer any financial damage and my client was not enriched.’

‘His methods were certainly unconventional, but I believe he meant well,’ a source who works for the fair confided to Ocula over dinner.

Exhibition view: artgèneve, Geneva (24–28 January 2024).

Exhibition view: artgèneve, Geneva (24–28 January 2024). Courtesy artgèneve. Photo: Julien Gremaud.

Colleagues described Hug as someone who cared about his work, having grown artgèneve from a small art salon to an international brand with partner and co-director Laura Meillet.

Artgèneve’s new director, Charlotte Diwan, said the accusations came as a surprise to her. She said some galleries had questions about Hug’s departure, and around 10 fewer took part this year. Most fairgoers were oblivious to the scandal, in part because coverage of the accusations was limited to French-language Swiss newspapers at the time.

Hug maintains his innocence, and has quickly moved on to launch Gstaad Art in the Swiss resort town of the same name. The fair will open on 16 February with just 20 galleries, including White Cube, Air de Paris, and Kurimanzutto.

This focus on quality over quantity mirrors the strategy that helped establish artgenève as a winter complement to Art Basel, leveraging sponsors from Switzerland’s robust banking and luxury sectors, and wealthy collectors from the region to keep its programme small and exclusive.

Diwan said she’d hoped to retain the Swiss art fair’s distinguishing features—its intimate format, institutional connections, and close ties with collectors from the region—but at this year’s fair there were signs she planned to expand the event.

Oli Epp, Ninth Life (2022). Exhibition view: artgèneve, Geneva (24–28 January 2024).

Oli Epp, Ninth Life (2022). Exhibition view: artgèneve, Geneva (24–28 January 2024). Courtesy artgèneve. Photo: Julien Gremaud.

Among new initiatives this year was a curated section dedicated to large-scale installations, introduced as a ‘funfair’, a more limited version of Art Basel’s Unlimited sector. The five installations (compared to Unlimited’s 70) included a monumental spider looming from the ceiling by Joana Vasconcelos (Valkyrie Mumbet, 2020), pictured top, and Oli Epp’s huge slide, shaped like a stylised cat dropping its chest to stretch its back (Ninth Life, 2022).

Additional changes are to be expected in future editions, said Diwan, who previously worked as artgenève’s head of communications.

‘We now have 70% foreign galleries, which is a lot for an art fair,’ Diwan said. ‘It’s a great asset for us that diversifies our offering in a great way.’

‘We have all the elements to build something very international,’ she added. ‘I want to continue in that direction.’ —[O]

Source Credit:  Content and images from Ocula Magazine.  Read the original article - https://ocula.com/magazine/art-news/artgeneve-returns-after-directors-inglorious-exit/