Interview with Lorenzo Rudolf

Today, we are interviewing Lorenzo Rudolf. Lorenzo Rudolf is a Swiss art impresario, curator, art fair organiser, advisor and key note speaker.

Lorenzo is known for revolutionizing the art fair business and is the reason why Art Basel is the world event of the international art market that it is today.

He transformed the art fair from a passive neutral sales platform to an active independent player by applying new strategies and concepts, such as, with a rigorous admissions selection, the consistent development of the brand Art Basel as top quality label of the art market worldwide, the involvement of the art collector and (potential) wealthy art buyer as key clients and, as a consequence, the creation of a comprehensive VIP program, including its own global database, and the transformation of the art fair into a social event, the promotion of new young art and galleries with new areas such as Art Statements and, with Art Unlimited, the positioning of Art Basel as a museum art event; and being the force behind the creation and launch of Art Basel Miami Beach, he made the Swiss art fair the first real global player in the international art market.

In 2007, he created and launched ShContemporary in Shanghai, the first internationally competitive contemporary top art fair in Asia, which was an important bridge between the Chinese/Asian and the Western art world. And with the creation of Art Stage Singapore and Art Stage Jakarta, 2011/2016, he put South East Asia prominently on the world art map and opened the door to the global art world and art market for its art scenes.

He also used to run the Frankfurt Book Fair, at that time the probably biggest and most influential cultural fair, and was an advisor to Arte Fiera Bologna and Art Paris; additionally he has created and led countless projects in Europe, Asia and the US. Lorenzo Rudolf lives in Lugano, Switzerland, where also his “agency for visionary thinking, strategic planning, innovative acting” (www.peak-lorenzorudolf.com) is based.

Question: What is your definition of Art?

Lorenzo: Art is not a thing, art is an attitude, it is the constant and consequent search for freedom, for every form of freedom. Art goes where it would otherwise be difficult to test the limits; it creates free space and takes the liberty of pushing and even crossing the limits to find out what might be possible. Therefore every (great) work of art is always also an act of liberation … also for its viewer.

Question: What sparkled your passion for Art?

Lorenzo: Apart from my boundless admiration for creativity, it is probably this unbridled urge for absolute freedom. Artists are free spirits. They think and realize themselves beyond beliefs and dogmas, bring a breath of fresh air into the musty and intrusive thought patterns of the mainstream and prevent stagnation. A preconceived mind is never a free mind. As Nietzsche’s Zarathustra so truly said: “Better a fool on his own than a wise man after someone else’s good intentions!”

Question: What is the worst advice you see or hear given in the art industry?

Lorenzo: The art industry has undergone fundamental changes in the last 25 years. A previously relatively small and manageable market of highly educated art connoisseurs, mostly “old money”, has developed into a real industry with countless new, rich buyers, mostly “new money”, without specific knowledge, but with the desire to be an active part of this new, exciting lifestyle. And with this a new professional group has emerged, which does not require any special training or even certification, all that is needed is a business card with a rather sophisticated design: a whole armada of so-called art consultants, often unfortunately with only minimally greater knowledge than that of the new and nouveau riche buyers, try to convince them of their indispensability. The one-eyed lead the blind! My advice: Trust your own senses and your own judgement … and proven experts.

Question: What was the most memorable gift you’ve received?

Lorenzo: Clearly my unique wife in every respect!

Question: If you could have a video of any one event in your life, what event would you chose?

Lorenzo: You can certainly imagine that in thirty years in the top international art market and the associated global art scene I have experienced many unique as well as many incredible, in short, many unforgettable things. Every single one of these experiences would have been worth a video, and practically every one of these videos would have been a hit. I have also been and still am asked again and again to publish my many extraordinary experiences and adventures as a book. But why should I record everything? Share it with the general public? As long as my memory disk in my brain is still working perfectly, it is enough for me to remember everything personally, without blood and the way I experienced it. And if my memory should not function any more, a video won’t help me either. Apart from that, sometimes it is better, and not only for me, that there is not enough evidence for every experience …

Question: What question would you most like to know the answer to?

Lorenzo: Curiosity is certainly one of the great driving forces of humanity. Therefore I try to keep my childlike curiosity at all times. But you don’t always have to have an answer for everything, you don’t have to and can’t know everything. It doesn’t hurt to realize that our ability to know is limited. Otherwise I agree with the French philosopher RenĂ© Descartes: Cogito ergo sum / I think, therefore I am. By the way, it is often more important to ask the right questions than to search for answers …

Question: What’s the strongest memory you have from your childhood?

Lorenzo: I have been lucky and I am also very grateful for the opportunity to experience a carefree childhood with countless beautiful and strong memories. With my friends I could romp wildly and freely and discover the world, also in the open nature. My grandfather, who was crazy about soccer, took me to the big games in Milan when I was just a little boy, and I still have a passion for this sport today. My intellectual and cultural parents not only shaped me spiritually, but also opened my eyes, ears and heart early on to books, theater, concerts and museums. And I had the good fortune to grow up in Berne at a time when the city was setting new standards in art worldwide with its Kunsthalle and its then young director Harald Szeemann. As if it had been yesterday, I remember how instead of the Kunsthalle there was suddenly a gigantic “package”, the first building worldwide to be wrapped by Christo. Art broke its traditional boundaries and I experienced it first hand … even though I only understood its full meaning a few years later.

Question: What is your motto for life?

Lorenzo: I cannot express it better than Mark Twain did: In 20 years you will regret the things you didn’t do more than your actions. So, cast off the lines, leave the safe haven, catch the wind in your sails; explore, dream, discover.

In 20 years you will regret the things you didn’t do more than your action.

-Mark Twain