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Helvetia Art Prize winner Kaspar Ludwig shows uncomfortable art at LISTE

Young Ticino-based artist Kaspar Ludwig is showing a work at the LISTE Art Fair Basel inspired by the memory of an experience at last year's fair. He never would have imagined then that he would have the opportunity to present his own art at this major art event.

7 June 2019, Text: Margrith Mermet, Video: ARTTV

Kaspar Ludwig is a graduate of the Master’s in Fine Arts at Basel College of Art and Design. Born in Nuremberg in 1989 to a family of artists, as a youngster he moved to Ticino, where his parents worked at a theatre. The props, costumes and stage sets fascinated him more than what happened on stage: «I had the greatest playground in the world, with endless opportunities, where my imagination had free rein.» He discovered that objects can be used to tell stories. «My art has always been about storytelling. My objects represent something and tell a story. I like things that are a bit displaced, that aren't in their normal, real context.»

Art as an outlet

Kaspar Ludwig liked drawing and modelled with clay. His parents recognized his manual dexterity early on and sent him on a sculpting course run by a friend. After completing his compulsory education in Ticino, he attended art school in Varese. One of his teachers introduced him to stone carving: «I was so taken by this craft that, every Saturday morning, I went early to his studio to work with stones.» The teenager even forewent Friday nights out with friends so that he could be up early. The teacher became an important mentor for Kaspar Ludwig in his artistic development, and is a good friend to this day.

Playing to strengths

After high school, Kaspar Ludwig moved to Tuscany. Fascinated by the Carrara quarries and the laborious process of extracting marble, he decided to do an apprenticeship as a stonemason. «I wanted to learn the craft from scratch. Today, it gives me a sense of security in my artistic work.» Later, he attended an art academy and worked at a business which created works from marble for artists and designers, where he learned a lot for his future life as an artist: «I saw how they set about a commission and brought it to fruition. That was very important to me in forming a realistic impression of life as an artist.»

Shifted meaning

Through his art, Kaspar Ludwig tries to alter the viewer’s perspective. He works with everyday objects familiar to everyone. «I change them, shift their meaning and influence how they are perceived.» This triggers an awakening in the viewer. At the LISTE Art Fair Basel, one of his exhibits is a marble bench which calls to mind a garden bench at a Tuscan villa. On first sight, the bench looks like an inviting place to rest. Only on the second look do you realize that the seat is skewed. The artist has stripped the bench of its normal, expected comfort, as if a mistake was made in its production. The idea for the bench came from his own experience of a visit to last year's LISTE. Attending with an Italian friend, he experienced a brief moment of claustrophobia at the fair, because they couldn’t see any art, just people, and couldn't find anywhere to sit down and gather their thoughts. «To be here today, showing this bench together with other works, is just amazing», says Kaspar Ludwig. «Winning the Helvetia Art Prize is a huge opportunity for me to develop further in the art world. I’m thrilled.»

Helvetia Art Prize

For 15 years, the Helvetia Art Prize has been an important part of international insurance group Helvetia's commitment to art. The sponsorship prize is awarded each year to an up-and-coming talent. The prize money of CHF 15,000 helps artists establish their careers. As part of the prize, the winner shows work at the LISTE – Art Fair Basel, where young artists can present their creations to a wide audience. Helvetia, which also insures art, has one of the most important collections of contemporary Swiss art, stretching back 75 years. The collection focuses on paintings, drawings and photography.

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