New perspectives on art in Basel – Basel Tourismus

Art lovers around the world cheered last summer when two stolen works of art were found in a dry riverbed outside Athens. The reason: The paintings, which were stolen from the National Gallery of Athens in 2012, come from two of the most important artists of the 20th century: Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian.


Courtyard with the Big Spider (1959) by Alexander Calder, Kunstmuseum Basel © 2022 Calder Foundation, New York / Pro Litteris, Zurich
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Image: juliansalinas.ch

Two exhibitions in Basel this summer are dedicated to the great masters and explore which people or things have shaped their work. The Fondation Beyeler is dedicated to Mondrian’s early works and his artistic evolution from landscape painting to cubism to abstraction, while the Kunstmuseum Basel examines the influence of the old master El Greco on all of Picasso’s artistic phases. Starting this fall, the Tinguely Museum will tackle an uncomfortable topic that affects us all: “Waste Territories” reinterprets the junk art of the 1960s and questions today’s artistic approach to littering on our planet.

Left: Pablo Picasso, Mme Canals (Benedetta Bianco), 1905, Picasso Museum, Barcelona © Succession Picasso, 2022 ProLitteris, Zurich Right: Alonso Sánchez Coello, attributed to, Lady in a Fur Wrap, c.  1577-79, Glasgow Life (Glasgow Museums) on behalf of Glasgow City Council, Stirling Maxwell Collection


Left: Pablo Picasso, Mme Canals (Benedetta Bianco), 1905, Picasso Museum, Barcelona © Succession Picasso, 2022 ProLitteris, Zurich Right: Alonso Sánchez Coello, attributed to, Lady in a Fur Wrap, c. 1577-79, Glasgow Life (Glasgow Museums) on behalf of Glasgow City Council, Stirling Maxwell Collection
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Image: left: Picasso succession, 2022 ProLitteris, Zurich | Right: Glasgow Life (Glasgow Museums)

Picasso in dialogue with El Greco

From 11 June to 25 September the Kunstmuseum Basel presents the special exhibition “Picasso – El Greco”. The legendary house, which houses the oldest public art collection in the world, is the only museum in the world to feature 30 combinations, each of which brings together at least one work by Picasso (1881-1973) and one by El Greco ( 1541-1614). They impressively demonstrate how intensely Picasso’s work was influenced by the works of El Greco. The juxtaposition of the works reveals one of the most fascinating dialogues in the history of art. The exhibition is curated by Picasso expert Carmen Giménez, who has worked extensively at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Due to the fragility of many loans, the show will only be screened in the Rhine metropolis. After all, Picasso had a special relationship with Basel: he often visited his family and delighted his stays at the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois, which towers over the banks of the river with a splendid view of the Rhine promenade and the old town. The affection was mutual: in a referendum in 1967, the Basel citizens voted in favor of a state loan for the purchase of two Picasso paintings, which a local collector had to sell for lack of money. Deeply impressed, Picasso donated four other works by him to the city.

The Fondation Beyeler designed by Renzo Piano


The Fondation Beyeler designed by Renzo Piano
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Image: Mark Niedermann

Mondrian’s artistic development

Piet Mondrian celebrates his 150th birthday this year. The Fondation Beyeler takes the opportunity to honor the work of the Dutch painter from 5 June to 9 October with the solo exhibition “Mondrian Evolution”. After all, Mondrian (1872–1944) is considered one of the most important artists of the avant-garde movement and has shaped non-representative painting like no other. His works trace the development of painting from figuration to abstraction. In its collection, the Fondation Beyeler mainly possesses images of Mondrian’s later creative phase. However, the next exhibition will focus on works that examine Mondrian’s artistic development up to the 1920s and the stylistic development of his latest work. Recurring motifs of Dutch landscape painting are dealt with in individual chapters that illustrate the different levels of abstraction. Mondrian’s elixirs of life – art and nature – find their museum counterpart in the Fondation Beyeler, which combines the experience of art and nature like almost no other institution. Praised as one of the most beautiful museums in the world, the building, designed by the famous architect Renzo Piano, is immersed in a park adorned with centuries-old trees and ponds of water lilies.

Piet Mondrian, Avond (evening): The red tree, 1908-1910, oil on canvas, 70 x 99 cm, Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Netherlands


Piet Mondrian, Avond (evening): The red tree, 1908-1910, oil on canvas, 70 x 99 cm, Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Netherlands
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Image: 2022 Mondrian / Holtzman Trust, Photo: Kunstmuseum Den Haag

The picturesque city is already an Eldorado for art and design enthusiasts: Basel offers a unique wealth of world-class museums in a concentrated area that is unrivaled in Switzerland. Here in the border triangle between Switzerland, Germany and France, even the most famous architects in the world have immortalized themselves with their projects. On the Novartis campus alone are buildings of twelve Pritzker Prize winners.

The Rhine flows right in front of the Tinguely Museum.


The Rhine flows right in front of the Tinguely Museum.
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Image: Basel Tourismus / Julian Meyer

Tinguely Museum with Jean Tinguely's swimming water sculpture in Solitude Park


Tinguely Museum with Jean Tinguely’s swimming water sculpture in Solitude Park
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Picture: 2022 Tinguely Museum Basel / Photo: Stefan Schmidlin

Hira Nabi, All That Perishes at the Edge of Land, 2019 (film still);  Single channel, digital video


Hira Nabi, All That Perishes at the Edge of Land, 2019 (film still); Single channel, digital video
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Image: courtesy Hira Nabi

Art in the context of consumption

From September the Tinguely Museum will focus on a completely different topic. In view of the planetary crisis, planet littering – along with climate change and species extinction – has once again moved to the center of artistic practices. The collective exhibition Waste territories in the Tinguely Museum he dwells on these positions of contemporary art and asks himself in which areas the comparison with the rest is manifested today, to give at the same time a new look at the art of the second half of the twentieth century. Already in the 60s the artists of the New realism and the junk art (among them Jean Tinguely) reflected the fundamental social and economic change from scarcity to consumerism and the associated waste society in their practice through the use of waste and scraps as the material of their artwork. While mountains of waste overflowing with landfills and carelessly disposed of in nature were visible everywhere in the 1960s, today they are essentially invisible in the western parts of the globalized world.

Today, contemporary discourses and aesthetic practices question the hidden and repressed ecological, geological and global conditions of our consumption. The exploitation structures of the Western world are mercilessly exposed. The term waste doesn’t boil down to waste in soil, air or water: the show also addresses the socio-economic consequences of our data waste. An exhibition that will shake you and make you think.

The Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois is one of the oldest city hotels in Europe.


The Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois is one of the oldest city hotels in Europe.
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Image: Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois Basel

Spend the night like Picasso and Chagall

Pablo Picasso was not the only artist to stay at the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois. Marc Chagall has already been a guest at the impressive five-star hotel on the Rhine. Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle felt so comfortable at Les Trois Rois that they kept coming back for decades. But these were by no means all famous guests in the history of the traditional hotel: in 1797 Napoleon Bonaparte made a brief visit to the hotel for a state dinner. One hundred years later, Theodor Herzl laid the foundations for the state of Israel here. Les Trois Rois, among other things one of the oldest city hotels in Europe, housed all that was of rank and reputation. Those who book the Art and Culture Package today will enjoy pure luxury here and receive free admission to the Kunstmuseum Basel, the Fondation Beyeler and the BaselCard. The free guest card entitles you to free use of public transport and a 50% discount on admission to many museums in Basel, as well as on tickets to the Basel Zoo and the Theater Basel box office.

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