A Playground for the Art Elite
Basel’s flagship event is Art Basel, undisputedly the most important art fair in the world. Held each year in mid-June, the elite of international collectors meet here or at one of the half-dozen side fairs taking place simultaneously. Approximately 300 participating galleries at the main fair offer the most exquisite, most sought-after contemporary artworks of the twentieth and twenty-first century. Given this spectacle, visitors are apt to overlook the city’s expansive range of top-notch art institutions: Kunstmuseum Basel, with its collection ranging from Lucas Cranach the Elder to Wolfgang Tillmans, has, since 2016, a new building for temporary exhibitions, designed by Basel architects Christ & Gantenbein and financed primarily by private capital. Specializing in young avant-garde positions, Kunsthalle Basel attracts visitors with its consistently fascinating program. Opened in 2014, the Haus für elektronische Künste (HEK) has become an important institution focused on the links between art, technology, and the influences of digitization on our lives. Also forging new paths is the neighboring Schaulager, a hybrid combination of museum, art depot, and research facility, located in a polygonal-shaped building by the Basel architect super-duo Herzog & de Meuron, where art stars like Bruce Nauman or Francis Alÿs are fêted with monographic exhibitions. Just outside the Basel city gates in Riehen, the Fondation Beyeler scores big not only with its Renzo Piano museum building, which fits perfectly into the surrounding landscape, but also with exhibitions of classical modernism, postwar art, and established contemporaries like Marlene Dumas, Georg Baselitz, or Gerhard Richter. Interesting exhibitions of international and Swiss contemporary artists can also be found at Stampa gallery. The Kunsthaus Baselland, in Muttenz, renowned for its discourse-friendly program, and the Vitra Design Museum, in Weil am Rhein, housed in a deconstructivist Frank O. Gehry building, are additional worthwhile destinations outside the city.