Basel

A Playground for the Art Elite

As the throngs of art lovers soon disembark on the city of Basel, we look at what else the city has to offer in some of its many museums, galleries and off-spaces.

Made up of 236 collections in 39 countries, the third edition of the BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors features a number of short texts that take a closer look into the vast world of collecting with updated texts from London, Paris and Beijing and new texts from Venice, Miami and Brussels.

Basel's flagship is Art Basel, undisputedly the most important art fair in the world, held each year in mid-June. The elite of international collectors meet at Art Basel 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 sensational—and, not least, most expensive—contemporary works for sale today. Given this spectacle, visitors are apt to overlook the city’s expansive range of top-class art institutions: The Kunstmuseum, for example, together with its branch for contemporary art, the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, holds collections ranging from Lucas Cranach the Elder to Wolfgang Tillmans. Kunsthalle Basel, which specializes in young avant-garde positions, attracts visitors with its dependably fascinating program. New to the scene as of 2014 is the Haus für elektronische Künste (HEK), a center of excellence for "all art forms that express themselves through new technologies and media, and reflect upon them." Likewise forging new paths is the neighboring Schaulager, a hybrid combination of museum, art depot, and research facility, located in a polygonal building designed by the Basel architect super-duo Herzog & de Meuron, where art stars like Matthew Barney or Paul Chan are fêted with monographic exhibitions.

In the Basel suburb of Riehen, the Fondation Beyeler scores big not only with its Renzo Piano architecture, which is perfectly suited to the surrounding landscape, but also with exhibitions of classical modernism, postwar art, and established contemporaries like Jenny Holzer and Jeff Koons. Interesting exhibitions of international and Swiss contemporary artists can also be found in the gallery Stampa. The Kunsthaus Baselland, in Muttenz, renowned for its discourse-friendly program, and the Vitra Design Museum, in Weil am Rhein, which resides in a deconstructivist building built by Frank O. Gehry, are additional worthwhile destinations outside the city.


The journalist couple Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas have been writing freelance art journalism and art criticism since 1997 for a variety of national and international art magazines and newspapers.

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