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Jean-Claude Freymond-Guth. Photo: Linda Yablonsky.

Basel’s Freymond-Guth Gallery Closes

Freymond-Guth Gallery, founded by Jean-Claude Freymond-Guth in Zürich in 2008, has announced that it is closing, according to an e-mail the founder sent to his mailing list today. The gallery, which recently relocated to a new space in Basel, worked with emerging artists such as Hannah Weinberger, midcareer artists including Virginia Overton and Billy Sullivan, and historical figures such as sculptor Heidi Bucher and painter Sylvia Sleigh. In a letter accompanying the announcement, the gallerist speaks bluntly to the trials and challenges of running a gallery in the contemporary art economy. His letter can be read in full below.

I’ve been advised to write a more neutral letter. But I find myself in the position, maybe as always before, not to be able to speak of something so dear to me in a more neutral way. Not at this point. Now that the gallery is closing the day after tomorrow.

I cannot remain objective in my choice of words, just as I could not be objective in my choices of which art to show and under which circumstances. Maybe my choices weren’t always right. Possibly they were seduced by idealistic vision rather than commercial reality too often.

But those choices came from an urgency that initially sparked me to open Freymond-Guth Fine Arts, and that nourished every chapter of it so far. It is an urgency that is based on the belief in the value of sensation and reflection, a belief in creation and contextualization, a belief in collaboration and community.

Today, I dare to say I even believe in failure. As only by allowing failure to be part of a process, we allow experiment and from that true invention of thought,
emotion or reality.

Maybe, quite possibly, I paid my attention more towards process, rather than results. But if the provisional results of this process today might seem as failure to some who depend on its success, I do hope they are also reminded of our achievements in the past.

Much has been said about how the art world has changed in the last years. I will not repeat it here. The consequences for art in an increasingly polarizing society ultimately built on power, finance and exclusion are clear. What I would like to address though nevertheless is a sentiment closest described as alienation. Alienation in all relationships between all participants. Alienation in a climate where space and time for reflection, discussion and personal identification with form and content of contemporary art have become incompatible with the ever growing demand in constant, global participation, production and competition.

As described before, my motivation all throughout has been quite the contrary. The decision to end this chapter of Freymond-Guth Fine Arts thus is obviously a result of this conflict- on personal, conceptual and financial levels. It is however probably the hardest decision I have made as an adult.

I fear the loss of friendship, community and recognition. I fear the results of the breakdown of a business, and the monetary loss my decision today causes some of my dearest collaborators. I fear the void that will replace the structure I have built with every element of my life in the last 10 years or more. When people asked me in the past years how I was, I used to joke: “Never been this old, fat and broke before!” Well, it’s quite true now.

And yet, my anxiety is comforted by my trust in the importance of what we have created in these past years, independently from momentary results or even my direct involvement. Despite the existential tremor those close to it and myself are experiencing now. I trust that every moment of Freymond-Guth Fine Arts is valuable soil for further inspiration, reflection and collaboration- and also very much the creation of values.

Today, I feel we need to urgently address questions to ourselves and our environments:
What are the circumstances and ideals we—artists, gallerists, collectors, curators and writers—want to work in today?

What are our reciprocal responsibilities and options?

And more specifically: Why are we all supporting a system built in an entirely different market that today works only for a tiny amount of artists and galleries and for the rest is based on self-exploitation or privilege?

If we consider ourselves to be part of a free world and art being one of its great achievements, how can we accept structures that are so contrary to the idea of freedom on a most personal level?

What is the difference between creation and entertainment?

And for whom in a game where power and participation are spread so unevenly?

Though much has been said about the conflicts of a contemporary art world, little have there been proposals of alternative models for galleries to support artists in every stage of their career. I trust this current state of crisis and confusion bares an immense potential for invention. My personal decisions are certainly made around that. In that sense Freymond-Guth Fine Arts will continue its mission long after the current form.

Old ideas, new roads.

But, despite all beautiful words, I would like to express my deepest regrets for any losses my decisions have caused, also financial ones. I hope that both the values in the past and the potential for the future we have created together will produce relief, if I cannot personally do so at this point.

Ultimately, what I would like to share most of all is my gratitude to those people near and far I have been privileged to share a part of their life with. I want to thank you for your trust, support and inspiration in the creation of what I see as fundamental aspects and values of our society that are unquestionably needed for a more differentiated experience of it.

Thank you.

Jean-Claude

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