For years, applicants hoping to land a gig at Art Basel have had to apply with three photographs of themselves: a full-body shot, a passport photo, and a candid snapshot that expressed their “personality.”
Zurich artist Ursina Roesch, head of the feminist Swiss art association Femme Artist Table (FATart), recently criticized the fair’s long-running practice—prompting it to eliminate the requirement from the application process for future workers.
It is unclear what purpose a full-body photograph could serve for hiring managers, but the practice does suggest that applicants’ physical appearances were being taken into account in the hiring practice. Many applicants are for the temporary gig are art history students.
“Candidates for the temporary positions at our show are selected purely based on their skillset and ability to do the task,” a fair spokesperson told Artnet News in an email. “However, the application process for certain positions included a section to submit a full-body photo, which was put in place many years ago based on typical industry practices of the time and has not been reviewed in a number of years. Art Basel confirmed this option will no longer be part of the application process going forward.”
But the fact that the fair had still been asking job hunters for the photo was a red flag for Roesch, who spoke with the Swiss newspaper about the years of sexual harassment she had experienced in the European art world, including propositioning and inappropriate touching such as kissing and groping.
“If Art Basel would be open, or brave enough to give people a job based on their skills—as they claim only these count, and not their looks—why do they need photos at all?” Roesch asked Artnet News in an email. “It is lack of awareness of discrimination issues, sexism, racism, etc. and where these take their course… this must be stopped early. Nipped in the bud.”
“Art Basel does not tolerate any form of harassment at its shows,” the fair’s spokesperson said.
Notably absent from this year’s fair, on view through June 18, is Berlin’s König Gallery, which participated in the last three editions. Last November, owner Johann König was accused of abusive behavior and sexual harassment by at least 10 women, sparking a legal dispute between the dealer and the German paper that first published the allegations.