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Organised in partnership with acclaimed museum director Jochen Volz — Pinacoteca de São Paulo, Brazil — the 2019 Verbier Art Summit took place on 1–2 February 2019 in Verbier, Switzerland around the theme: WE ARE MANY. ART, THE POLITICAL AND MULTIPLE TRUTHS.


In times of increasing uncertainty, we are in need of a deeper understanding of the multiplicity of narratives around us. Art has the potential to give voice to forgotten and silenced narratives, but also to envision entirely new possibilities. By bringing together artists, museum directors, activists and academics, the Verbier Art Summit engaged the art world in critical reflection on their social and political responsibilities. Together, we explored the political power of art.


The 2019 Summit speakers included artists Tania Bruguera, Latifa Echakhch, Grada Kilomba, Ernesto Neto and Rirkrit Tiravanija; art educator Naine Terena; curator Gabi Ngcobo; philosopher Federico Campagna; Tate director Maria Balshaw; Professor of Neurophysiology Wolf Singer; and Professor of Sociology Boaventura de Sousa Santos.

The Verbier Art Summit brought these thought leaders to Verbier for two days of inspiring art talks. In addition, the Summit programme included cultural events throughout Verbier, organised in collaboration with cultural partners, international organisations, and academic institutions. In order to generate new initiatives and collaborations, the 2019 Summit speakers also took part in a programme of debate and dialogue alongside invited art world stakeholders, all Members of our international platform for discourse. Finally, to expand the conversation into a global dialogue, the 2019 speakers will contribute to the Verbier Art Summit publication, which will be launched in June 2019.    


Museum director Jochen Volz of Pincoteca de São Paulo, Brazil, has invited speakers to contribute to the 2019 Summit programme based on their critical thinking and close connection with the theme. Installation and performance artist Tania Bruguera (CU) is renowned for her international work that blends art and activism, striving for freedom and democracy across borders. Gabi Ngcobo (ZA) is an educator and curator who explores the different ways to revisit history and how historical narratives have been constructed by those in a privileged position of power. The artistic work of Latifa Echakhch (CH) oscillates between poetry and politics, confronting cultural stereotypes by inviting the viewer to reflect on contradictions present in society.


Naine Terena (BR) presented a uniquely interdisciplinary approach to the 2019 theme as an artist, activist and researcher whose work centers around society, art and indigenous rights. Envisioning his work as a relational practice, Rirkrit Tiravanija (TH) breaks traditional boundaries of art by creating opportunities for human interaction and community exchange.


Artist Ernesto Neto (BR) creates immersive sculptures encompassing symbiotic oppositions, most recently GaiaMotherTree in the Zurich main train station organised by the Beyeler Foundation. The artistic and written work of Grada Kilomba (PT) addresses memory, trauma, race, gender, and the decolonisation of knowledge and narrative. Complementing Grada’s questioning of dominant narratives is Boaventura de Sousa Santos (PT), Professor at the School of Economics at the University of Coimbra contributed with his expertise on issues of law and globalization, legal pluralism, multiculturalism, and human rights. Using a highly personal interdisciplinary method of research, the philosopher Federico Campagna (IT) discussed the relationship between theory and practice of cultural production. His Summit talk explored a number of strategies of disentanglement from the present impasse of our cultural and political imagination.


Professor Dr. Wolf Singer (DE) is a leading neurophysiologist interested in a naturalistic explanation for consciousness that accounts for material as well as immaterial experiences. Maria Balshaw (UK) has pursued a progressive vision throughout her career and became the director of Tate in 2017. Exploring the role of the museum in engaging art as a political tool, Maria’s perspective and experience contributed uniquely to a reflective, innovative 2019 Summit.


In addition to the talks programme, the Verbier Art Summit collaborated with cultural partners, international organisations and academic institutions to present a cultural programme throughout Verbier. In light of the 2019 political theme, the Summit partnered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), working to protect and assist refugees everywhere. UNHCR presented their Lifetime Honorary Goodwill Ambassador, the acclaimed opera and jazz singer Barbara Hendricks, who explained how art initiatives are transforming the lives of refugees.


The 2019 Summit also featured the EPFL+ECAL Lab, that fosters innovation by collaborating between Swiss Universities and international institutes. The Lab is working on an immersive environment of information, to generate a deeper understanding of information and its sources. In addition, the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève presented a film screening created specifically for the 2018 Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement. Finally, free guided tours were offered by the Verbier 3-D Foundation in their Sculpture Park in the snow, including an experimental sculptural demonstration (test run) of AERO CAB, the latest work by Verbier 3-D’s current artist in residency James Capper.



Jochen Volz

Jochen Volz is the General Director of the Pinacoteca de São Paulo. In 2017, he was the curator of the Brazilian Pavilion for the 53rd Biennale di Venezia. He was the curator of the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo in 2016. He served as Head of Programmes at the Serpentine Galleries in London (2012-2015); Artistic Director at Instituto Inhotim (2005-2012); and curator at Portikus in Frankfurt (2001-2004). Jochen was co-curator of the international exhibition of the 53rd Bienal de Veneza (2009) and the 1st Aichi Triennial in Nagoya (2010) and guest curator of the 27th Bienal de São Paulo (2006), besides having contributed to other exhibitions throughout the world. He holds a masters in art history, communication and pedagogy by the Humboldt University in Berlin (1998). He Lives in São Paulo.

Photo by Christina Rufatto | Pinacoteca de São Paulo

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Dr. Maria Balshaw CBE

Maria Balshaw is the Director of Tate, a role she has held since June 2017. She has overall responsibility for Tate’s strategic direction and day to day operations. As Director, Maria is also the Accounting Officer appointed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Previously, as Director of the Whitworth, University of Manchester and Manchester City Galleries, Maria was responsible for the artistic and strategic vision for each gallery. As Director of Culture for Manchester City Council from 2013-2017, Maria played a leading role in establishing the city as a major cultural centre. Maria is a Board Member of The Clore Leadership Programme and Manchester International Festival, and was a Board Member of Arts Council England until March 2018. Maria was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the arts in June 2015.

Photo by Hugo Glendinning (2017)


Tania Bruguera

Tania Bruguera is a Cuban installation and performance artist, renowned for her international work that blends art and activism, striving for freedom and democracy across borders. After an artistic exploration of the potentiality of the body as a medium to question and attack the dominant structures of power, Tania started to concentrate on the creation of artistic happenings in which the public and its behaviour become active centres. Blending art and activism, Tania invented an innovative artistic method which aims to unveil the mechanism of power and address the question of repression, censorship and inequality. Tania has been the protagonist of various exhibitions in international museums as the Tate Modern, London, the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, and Hayward Gallery, London.

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Federico Campagna

Federico Campagna is a philosopher and writer. His latest books are Technic and Magic: The Reconstruction of Reality (Bloomsbury, 2018), and The Last Night (Zero Books, 2013). He is the editor of Franco Berardi’s philosophical anthology, Quarant’anni Contro il Lavoro (Derive Approdi, 2017). He has presented his work in institutions including the 57th Venice Biennale, Venice; Documenta 13, Kassel; the Serpentine Gallery, London; Winzavod Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow and MACBA, Barcelona. Federico received his PhD from the School of Communication at the Royal College of Art, London.

Portrait Latifa Echakhch - - Annik-Wette

Latifa Echakhch

Born 1974 in El Khnansa, Morocco, Latifa Echakhch came to France at the age of 3 but has lived for most of her life in Switzerland. Hers is a multi-referential and multidirectional work, just like her personal background, her travels and her eclectic centres of interest. Latifa tends to produce installation pieces that are in direct connection with the space in which they are presented, thereby blending personal, multicultural, historical and sociological references. Winner of the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2013 and the Zurich Art Prize in 2015, Latifa is a graduate of the École nationale supérieure d’arts de Cergy-Pontoise and the École nationale des beaux-arts de Lyon. Her work has been presented at the 15th Istanbul Biennial (2017), Power Plant Gallery, Toronto (2017), Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich (2016), Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz (2015), Swiss Institute, New York (2015), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2014 – 2015), Palazzo Grassi, Venise (2014), Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon (2013) and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2013).

Photo by Annik Wetter

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Barbara Hendricks

Swedish / Swiss citizen Barbara Hendricks was born in Stephens, Arkansas and studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York with Jennie Tourel, after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Chemistry at the age of 20 from the University of Nebraska. In 1974 she made her operatic and recital debuts and since that moment, Barbara’s career and artistry has never ceased to grow; she has become one of the world’s most loved and admired musicians. Barbara has sold more than 14 million records and recorded nearly 100 albums for Sony, Decca, DG and EMI / Warner. In 2006, she launched her own record label, Arte Verum, for which she is now recording exclusively. She has worked to promote and defend Human Rights and in 2007 after 20 years of untiring service to the cause of refugees as a UNHCR ambassador they appointed her their only Honorary Ambassador for Life. In 1998 she founded the Barbara Hendricks Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation coordinating her work for refugees and Human Rights Defenders.


Grada Kilomba

Grada Kilomba is an interdisciplinary artist and writer born in Lisbon and living in Berlin. Her work draws on memory, trauma, race, gender, and the decolonisation of knowledge: ‘who can speak?’ ‘what can we speak about?’ and ‘what happens when we speak?’ are three constant questions in Grada’s body of work. She is best known for her subversive writing and her unconventional use of artistic practices, in which she gives body, voice and image to her own text, using a variety of formats such as staged reading, performance, installation, sound and video Installation - having storytelling as the central element. Her work has been presented at: 10. Berlin Biennale; Documenta 14; 32. Bienal de São Paulo; The Power Plant, Toronto; MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Lisbon; Pinacoteca de São Paulo, among others. She is the author of Plantation Memories (2008) a compilation of episodes of everyday racism written in the form of short psychoanalytical stories.

Ernesto Neto Photo Credit Camilla Coutin

Ernesto Neto

Since the mid-1990's, Ernesto Neto has produced an influential body of work that explores constructions of social space and the natural world by inviting physical interaction and sensory experience. Born in Rio de Janeiro, the artist continues to live and work in Brazil. He studied at the city’s Escola de artes visuais do Parque Lage in 1994 and in 1997, and also attended the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art from 1994 to 1996. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and biennials, such as a large scale installation that was on view at the Zurich train station, commissioned by the Beyeler Foundation (2018), the 14th Biennale de Lyon, curated by Emma Lavigne (2017), Manifesta 7 (2015), along with 2017 group shows at Guggenheim Bilbao, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Centre Pompidou-Metz, and a permanent installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.



Photo by Camilla Coutinho

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Gabi Ngcobo

Gabi Ngcobo is an artist, curator and educator living in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since the early 2000's Gabi has been engaged in collaborative artistic, curatorial, and educational projects in South Africa and on an international scope. She curated the 10th Berlin Biennale titled We don’t need another hero and was one of the co-curators of the 32nd Sao Paulo Bienal (2016). She is a founding member of the Johannesburg based collaborative platforms NGO – Nothing Gets Organised and Center for Historical Reenactments (CHR, 2010–14). NGO focusses on processes of self-organisation that take place outside of predetermined structures, definitions, contexts, or forms. CHR responded to the demands of the moment through an exploration of how historical legacies impact and resonate within contemporary art.

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Professor Wolf Singer

Prof. Dr. h.c. mult. Wolf Singer studied Medicine in Munich and Paris, obtained his MD from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, and his PhD from the Technical University in Munich. He is Director em. at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Founding Director of the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) and of the Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Neuroscience (ESI) and Director of the Ernst Strüngmann Forum. His research is focused on the neuronal substrate of higher cognitive functions, and especially on the question how the distributed sub-processes in the brain are coordinated and bound together in order to give rise to coherent perception and action. These studies are performed with electrophysiological techniques in behaviorally trained monkeys and with non-invasive imaging methods in human subjects.


Professor Boaventura de Sousa Santos

Boaventura de Sousa Santos is Professor of Sociology, University of Coimbra (Portugal), and Distinguished Legal Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned an LL.M and J.S.D. from Yale University and holds the Degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, by McGill University. He is director of the Center for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra and has written and published widely on the issues of globalization, sociology of law and the state, epistemology, social movements and the World Social Forum. He has been awarded several prizes, such as the Science and Technology Prize of Mexico, 2010, and the Kalven Jr. Prize of the Law and Society Association, 2011. His project ALICE: Leading Europe to a New Way of Sharing the World Experiences was funded by an Advanced Grant of the European Research Council, and was carried out from July 2011 until 2016. Boaventura’s most recent books in English include: Epistemologies of the South: Justice against Epistemicide (2014), If God Were a Human Rights Activist (2015), Decolonising the University: The Challenge of Deep Cognitive Justice (2017) and The End of the Cognitive Empire: The Coming of Age of Epistemologies of the South (2018).

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Naine Terena

Naine Terena belongs to the Terena indigenous people of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. She has a doctorate (PhD) in education, a Master’s degree in Art and a degree in Social Communication. Naine received a Postdoctoral fellowship in education (July 2015) at Lêtece-UFMT and currently lectures at the Catholic University of Mato Grosso in the areas of Social Communication and Indigenous Education. She is a Cultural/Artist Producer at Oráculo Comunicação on education and culture, where she develops research projects, workshops and activities related to education, culture and militancy.

Rirkrit Portrait_Photo Credit Anette Aur

Rirkrit Tiravanija

Born in Buenos Aires and raised in Thailand, Ethiopia and Canada, Rirkrit Tiravanija is a contemporary artist who blurs the boundaries between art and life, going beyond performance to create socially-engaged artistic happening which actively engage the public to become the main actor of the artwork. He has been the protagonist of many exhibitions in major contemporary art world museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Reiña Sofia of Madrid, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Rirkrit is on the faculty of the School of the Arts at Columbia University, and is a founding member/curator of Utopia Station, a collective project of artists, art historians and curators. Rirkrit is also President of an educational-ecological project known as The Land Foundation, located in Chiang Mai, where he maintains his primary residence and studio. Rirkrit has been recognised numerous awards and grants like the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize from the Guggenheim Museum (2004).



Photo by Anette Aurell

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Gonzalo Vargas Llosa

Mr Gonzalo Vargas Llosa is UNHCR’s Regional Representative for EU Affairs (based in Brussels). He took up his post after being UNHCR’s Representative to the UK (since October 2014).  He arrived in London after four years as the Refugee Agency’s Representative in the Dominican Republic. Prior to this he served as a senior policy adviser in the UNHCR Liaison Office in New York from 2006 -2010, and he was the Representative to Panama 2003-2005. During his career he has also been on emergency missions to Pakistan, Darfur, Sudan and Libya.  His first UNHCR position during the Yugoslav Succession Wars, from 1994 – 1996 was as an Executive Assistant to the UNHCR Special Envoy, based in Zagreb, Croatia. Prior to joining UNHCR, he worked for UNOCHA from 1991 – 1994. Born in Peru, he studied Spanish and English Literature at University College London and speaks Spanish, English and French.

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