21.7.2020   |  Art And About Africa

An interview with Pauline Guex | Switzerland

E-meet Pauline Guex: auction specialist, independent art historian and curator of Photo Basel 2020 special exhibition Vintage Cabinet “Crossing” and “Beyond the cosmos” together with Audrey Hoareau.
Originally from Lausanne, Switzerland Pauline Guex lived in various places between Switzerland, Cape Town and London to then settle in Geneva, Switzerland where she currently lives.
Sure about her passion for art from an early age, she studied History of Art and started her career in the auction sector and as curator assistant during her studies. As soon as she finished her first Master in Visual communication and Iconic research in 2013, she started working full time at Piguet auction house in Geneva.
Lately, she has been dividing her time working as an auction specialist, independent art historian and curator.

AAAA: In your second master you specialized in Contemporary Art from Africa at SOAS (School of Oriental and African studies). How did you decide to deepen your knowledge about art from the African Continent?
Pauline: I made this choice for various reasons: during my studies in Switzerland, we mostly spoke of European and American art. It was thus extremely important for me to open my perspectives and address contemporary art from a wider angle. I was convinced that to participate in the creation of an art world that offers equal opportunity and representation for all, it is crucial to enlarge one’s view, create new connections and be enriched by a multiplicity of dialogues. Additionally, my stay in South Africa as I was 18 has been a life-changing experience, which has connected me to this part of the world. Doing my second master in Contemporary African art was not only a question of study, but the opportunity to learn from, and open new spaces of exchange. During the year at SOAS (School of Oriental and African studies), I have learnt immensely and I am surely still at the very beginning of the journey .. !

AAAA: Is Contemporary Art from Africa constantly present in your curatorial practice?
Pauline: My independent activity is always related to contemporary art, and as often as possible to contemporary African art. I have recently written an article on the contemporary Moroccan art scene for the catalogue of the exhibition La Vague Blanche/The White Wave curated by Mohamed Thara. The exhibition will open in Casablanca in September! I am also regularly working with a collector that supports and collects works by artists from Africa. In addition, I also have been collaborating with IAF Basel which is an interdisciplinary festival for contemporary art dedicated to the African continent and its diaspora.

AAAA: You recently curated two special exhibitions at Photo Basel 2020. Tell us about your experience curating an Art Fair’ virtual edition.
Pauline: Because of the covid19, we were forced to change our plans and we decided to organize a virtual edition of Photo Basel. This was a fully new experience and it was extremely enriching! Although a virtual edition does not replace a physical fair, we had more than 20’000 visitors on our platform. In these difficult times, this edition of a new kind allowed us to keep the dialogue with galleries, artists, collectors and photography aficionados. It has been really rich in terms of visibility and content. The exhibitions were set up and the works hung on the walls virtually, which was an experimental and interesting trial. What impressed me a lot during this fair is that despite the virtuality and the remoteness of all parties and participants, this edition acted as a connecting point, it created proximity of another sort and brought to most precious discussions, notably with the exhibited artists. In that context, I had the chance to record conversations through skype with some artists from the African continent: Mauro Pinto and Filipe Branquinho from Mozambique and Teddy Mitchener in Kenya.

AAAA: What are your ART-plans for the next future?
Pauline: The nearest projects I am working on are the redaction of a series of texts for a private collection that will be shown in late summer, and with Photo Basel, we are planning our Photo Basel / Berlin edition which will take place from 10-13th September at the amazing location of Tempelhof Airport, following the invitation of POSITIONS Berlin.

Last but not least a question that we care about, born from the project Art: An Essential Need started as a fundraising project during Covid-19.
In your opinion is Art an essential need? If yes, why?
Pauline: Without any doubt, Art is an essential need! In all its forms and expressions. As a space for reflection, symbolization, mobilization and innovation, the work of art gives us new ways to communicate, feel and understand. Art acts as mediator and connector between us and the world, between bodies, ideas and environments. It permits us to explore, make visible and develop new perspectives. Art is essential because it is a tool for critical thinking and an agent for change. It resonates with our trajectories, creates new experiences, and transforms us.


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