The second edition of the Verbier Art Summit took place January 18-20. Founded by Anneliek Sijbrandij, the three-day platform for dialogue and innovation in the fields of art, culture, economy, and environment was curated by Daniel Birnbaum. The theme this year was, “More than real. Art in the digital age.” Among the 2018 speakers were Ed Atkins, Olafur Eliasson, Karen Archey, Anicka Yi, Susanne Pfeffer, Mihcelle Kuo, Dado Valentic, Paul Verschure, and more.
Verbier is known one of the toughest ski resorts, but it’s also a place for art and music lovers alike. Whitewall spoke with Sijbrandij about this year’s summit.
WHITEWALL: From where does your passion for contemporary art come?
ANNELIEK SIJBRANDIJ: Art has been my passion for a long time, but I properly fell in love with art when I lived in London and saw Olafur Eliasson’s “The Weather Project” at Tate Modern in 2003. In this installation, representations of the sun and sky dominated the Turbine Hall and a fine mist permeated the space. All visitors paused, and took time to engage with this artwork, relaxing, lying down, rolling around, and playing with their children. It was the first time I experienced an installation that had such a direct impact on society, which substantially increased my interest in art.
WW: Are you a collector yourself? If so, what is your favorite art movement?
AS: Through my work on the Verbier Art Summit I’m surrounded by beautiful art very often, and end up buying the occasional piece, but my favorite works are definitely in museums. The art movement that appeals to me most is impressionism, and I loved visiting the exhibition “Splendeurs et Misères” in 2015 at Musée d’Orsay in Paris, which so accurately reflected the life of “les filles in Paris” between 1860 and 1914. But I very much like contemporary art too, it’s always interesting to experience a Tino Sehgal work, which makes you think about your own life, or walk around a beautiful sculpture garden and be inspired by what art and nature can bring you.
WW: If you were a work of art, what would ou be?
AS: I could be a Jeppe Hein mirror with the text “Are you really here?” hoping to inspire people to stop and think about what they are doing with their lives.
WW: How did you come up with the idea of creating the Verbier Art Summit?
AS: After my studies of Modern & Contemporary Art and art world practice in 2012, we moved to Verbier and I met lots of international art collectors who had a (secondary) residence there. The idea of organizing an art gathering started to take form, and we looked closely at the successful Verbier Festival, an important classical music festival that takes place for 2 weeks every summer in Verbier. The intimacy of the Verbier chalet-style village combined with it’s bohemian residents creates a special atmosphere that we wanted to bring to the art world as well. Our Summit participants (both the speakers and our members) tend to meet at busy art fairs or museum openings in big cities (London, NY, Hong Kong, etc.), and to meet in Verbier and really have time to reflect brings a whole different dynamic to the scene. I’m personally only interested in the cultural value of art, and find it very refreshing to have the Summit take place in a non-transactional, inspirational setting. The Summit is a non-profit organization that is completely focused on bringing change and innovation to the art world by connecting influential thinkers, and the generous chalet hosts (our founding members) made Verbier the perfect place to do so!
WW: How do you decide on a theme each year?
AS: The theme and invited speakers are selected by an annually rotating international museum director. In 2017 this was Beatrix Ruf of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and in 2018 we worked with Daniel Birnbaum of Moderna Museet Stockholm. The fact that we partner with a new influential museum director every year, ensures that the Summit addresses urgent issues that reflect our times and that it remains a refreshing, independent initiative.
WW: What are your thoughts after the second edition?
AS: We were extremely pleased with our 2018 speakers, who brought many new insights and perspectives to the Summit, ranging from artists engaging with new digital and emergent technologies such as virtual reality, to a research professor discussing our lives as “human machines.” Douglas Coupland explained how, around one and a half generations from now, the post-millennial generation will no longer have a connection to the real world. And Olafur Eliasson believes that Virtual Reality is “bringing a substantial revolution” and is more skeptical, however, about who takes responsibility for the medium, which is still largely unregulated. “I have less confidence in the public sector regulating it,” he said. “People trust the cultural sector more than they trust politicians, if you look at the EU it is falling apart. Culture is currently the most stable and trustworthy sector of society.” He concluded the second Verbier Art Summit day by challenging the attendees of the Summit to consider how they might not only apply and extend, but disseminate what has taken place in Verbier. And this kind of impact is exactly what we would like to achieve with the Verbier Art Summit, we’d like change and innovation to take place in the art world. We connect high level art world stakeholders to innovative thinkers in an inspiring, non-transactional setting, where there is time to stop and reflect, and have deep conversations. At the same time, we open up the art world to a wider audience, by giving free access to the talks in Verbier and by streaming them live on YouTube. The discourse started in Verbier can then further disseminate globally through our annual publication.