Meet the Innovators: Caroline Baumhauer

March 11, 2024

The Artist Liaison and Curator at von Bartha, Basel, has co-curated "New Ideas for Other Times", together with Owner Stefan von Bartha.

Featuring works by over 30 artists who have pushed boundaries in the 20th and 21st centuries - including Olaf Breuning, Sarah Oppenheimer, SUPERFLEX, and more - New Ideas for Other Times is open until 18 May at von Bartha, Basel. We sat down with Caroline to explore her career and learn what is next for the gallery.

Tell us about your background in the art world?

I studied in Paris, and although I was spoilt for choice when it came to galleries and museums, it was the enthusiasm and passion of my art history teacher that gave these forming years true meaning and depth. I remember sitting in that classroom, looking out onto a beautiful street in the 7th arrondissement, and thinking, ”This is it, this is what makes me happy.” After several internships in museums, I realized I was more drawn to the fast pace of the gallery environment. Almost 15 years ago I came to Switzerland and I’m grateful every day for this incredibly inspiring cultural landscape.

You must have met many art collectors in your time. What trends are you noticing about how collectors interact with artists and artworks today?

Collectors are well informed, prepared and always have the necessary information at their fingertips. With increased transparency in the industry, the conversations tend to be more focused. Personally, my husband and I started collecting a couple of years ago, and if possible, we always like to meet the artists in person and have studio visits to really understand their practice. It intensifies the relationship, or in some cases, it can change the way you see their work…

How can the art world place artists more at the centre of the ecosystem?

I’m not convinced that any particular party should be at the centre of the ecosystem. An ecosystem thrives when the individual parts are in symbiosis. As an artist liaison, I take great responsibility for ensuring the artist's needs are a priority. But we cannot underestimate the importance of the galleries, the artist-run-spaces, the critics, the institutions – without these, there would be no platform for the artists to show their work. An art world chicken or egg question, in a way!

Do you believe that technology can play a large part in facilitating that shift?

I believe that technology is facilitating transparency and exchange. With platforms such as Artnet, Artsy or Docent, one has instantaneous access to background information on both artists and galleries. Initial searches can inspire to discover new exhibitions, artists or works. Technology is allowing the art world to become more inclusive. Social media has also been a great and accessible source of information for me, also impacting the way you first approach an artist.

What do you feel are some of the benefits of Arcual’s technology?

Finally, there is a platform that is extending this transparency to the artists. In the past, it was often the case that artists did not know for what price their work was sold or to whom. Now it is all stored on the blockchain. Artists can see who bought the work, for how much and whether they will sell it again. Also, that they now get a share of the sales price on the secondary market is very fair in my eyes.

What is your favourite museum around the world to explore?

I have two – The Louisiana outside of Copenhagen – the setting by the sea is just incredible. I love strolling through the galleries, going outside to the park, and breathing in the salty air. The other museum is Fondation Beyeler – again it’s the architecture and the glistening water surface when looking out. Strangely enough, these are also the two locations of von Bartha – but that’s not why I picked them! It just says a lot about these two cities.

Are there any artists you are particularly admiring the work of, currently?

For our upcoming group show, I reached out to Anita Muçolli as her work really intrigued me. I’m excited that we will show some of her works in the exhibition as I believe this is an artist to follow. On the other hand, I just attended a talk with Daniela Ortiz, which inspired me greatly. And finally, as collectors, my husband and I are big fans of Claudia Wieser. It’s exciting to see how her practice is evolving.

von Bartha has championed uncharted paths and experimentation since its inception; what does New Ideas for Other Times add to the narrative?

The gallery has never shied away from showing unknown artists or art movements. So, in that way, von Bartha has always nourished the development of new ideas for other times. Von Bartha’s close ties to artists, but also bright minds such as Carl Laszlo, meant that there was always an environment for nourishing forward thinking.

The exhibition features works by artists including Ricardo Alcaide, Olaf Breuning, Athene Galiciadis, Francisco Sierra, Terry Haggerty, Mike Meiré and Superflex, and more. Are there any works or artists you are particularly excited to bring to public view?

I’m particularly excited to have a work by Nam June Paik in the exhibition, as he was such a pioneer. I also really look forward to the works by Joachim Bandau, who was sometimes criticized for his work in the seventies but remained confident in his creative process. To me the works look like they were made recently, they are so current, so on point – in Bandau’s case, really new ideas for other times!

What’s next for von Bartha?

We are in a constant flow of creating and exploring new grounds for our artists, our clients, and our public. Recently, we have also started to focus on the inward journey, on what defines us as a team, what holds us together, and what gives us the strength to stay on the ball long term. As a team, we are therefore talking more about ethics, future collaboration, sustainability and, ultimately, what keeps us curious. We want to continue this dialogue and give it the space it deserves in these challenging times.

Pictured: Caroline Baumhauer, Artist Liaison at von Bartha and Co-Curator of the exhibition New Ideas for Other Times, open March 8 - May 18 at von Bartha, Basel. Image © studiosoussol.

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