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Interviewed by Maya Bamberger

“There is no magic”: An Interview with Art Dealer Eva Presenhuber

The Austrian-born art dealer Eva Presenhuber has been based in Zurich for over thirty years. Representing artists such as Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Ugo Rondinone, Douglas Gordon, Tschabalala Self and Shara Hughes, she is often listed among the most powerful figures in the art world.

In 1996, Presenhuber co-founded LISTE art fair alongside Peter Kilchmann and Peter Bläuer, as they felt the need for a younger fair in Basel. In 2003, after a few years of collaboration with Hauser & Wirth under the name Hauser & Wirth & Presenhuber, she founded Galerie Eva Presenhuber in Zurich.

While expanding in Zurich, and opening a venue in New York, Presenhuber has on many occasions expressed her commitment to the flourishing of the Swiss art field. On the occasion of opening the exhibitions of Shara Hughes, Joe Bradley and Ugo Rondinone for Zurich Art Weekend, I had the opportunity to interview Presenhuber about her background, the gallery program and about the city.

Maya Bamberger: This issue of OnCurating features a spectrum of voices from the local Zurich art scene. In an increasingly globalized art world, how would you describe the relationship between Galerie Eva Presenhuber and its hometown? How many Swiss-born artists does the gallery represent? Is being Swiss a relevant parameter? How has the gallery's role in the city developed over the last nineteen years?

Eva Presenhuber: We have a close relationship with Switzerland and its art institutions and work with four Swiss-born artists. The gallery is an international one; being Swiss-born is great but not the criteria for being in the program.

MB: How did your personal journey with art start? What is your background? What was your first position in the art world?

EP: I went to art school in Vienna and finished with the title Magister Artium. After art school, I had a few very talented artist friends, like Ugo Rondinone, who gave me the idea to open a gallery in Zurich and show them. This is how I became an art dealer. My first position was at Galerie Walcheturm.

MB: Speaking about the Art Basel selection criteria, you emphasized the importance of a gallery’s role in “building” artists. How would you characterize the “magic” of Galerie Eva Presenhuber in that respect throughout the different phases of an artist's career?

EP: There is no magic; an artist’s career is based on hard work and consistently good shows.

MB: How has the gallery exhibition program evolved over the years? Is there a common thread that unites the artists?

EP: I do not think there is a common thread. Choosing to work with an artist has to do with respect for the work. The works can be very different, but the quality is there.

MB: How have your interests as an art dealer evolved over the years as your gallery’s program grew into prominence? Which daily tasks are your favorites?

EP: Overseeing exhibitions and personally curating our art fair booths are some of my favorite tasks. Of course, being in close contact with my artists and supporting them in their global activities is paramount.

MB: If you could change one thing in the art world today, or specifically in the Zurich art scene, what would it be?

EP: It would be nice to see my colleagues and the curators of the institutions more.

MB: Could you name a few emerging artists from Zurich to keep a close eye on?

EP: Vittorio Brodmann, Sonia Kacem, Andriu Deplazes, and Timothée Calame.

Ugo Rondinone, orange yellow monk, 2020, Painted bronze. © Ugo Rondinone, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich / New York, Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zurich

Installation view, Shara Hughes: Day By Day By Day, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Rämistrasse, Zurich, 2020 © Shara Hughes, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich / New York, Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zurich

Maya Bamberger (b. 1991, Jerusalem), lives and works in Tel Aviv and Zurich. Bamberger is the curator of RawArt Gallery in Tel Aviv, a gallery representing young and emerging artists, both local from Israel and international. She is part of the multi-formatted project Choreographing the Public, focusing on the relationship between the artist, the artwork and the audience. She currently studies for a MAS in Curating at Zurich University of the Arts and holds a BA in History of Art and cognitive science at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She is interested in non verbal, non-rational, imaginary, and spontaneous ways of making art and exhibitions.

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