Places for Sculpture: Basel, Switzerland

Nasher Sculpture Center
May 10, 2016 6:35PM

Since 1970, the international art fair Art Basel has held a prominent place on the calendars of art lovers worldwide. This is due in part to what has become a world-renowned presentation of modern and contemporary art in all its varied forms—this year, 286 galleries will participate—but also to the variety of cultural riches available to those who journey to the city of Basel, propitiously located at a point of intersection between Switzerland, France, and Germany. This year in particular, Basel offers a wealth of pleasures for lovers of sculpture visiting the 47th edition of Art Basel.

Art Basel (June 16 – 19, 2016): In addition to the Galleries sector forming the bulk of the fair, visitors can take in a range of related special events and exhibitions, including Feature, with specially curated projects; Unlimited, for presentations that exceed the physical limitations of the usual art-fair stand; Statements, which presents solo projects by emerging artists; Edition, with a rich array of prints, multiples, and editioned works; Parcours, which engages viewers outside the fair with site-specific sculptures, interventions, and performances throughout Basel; a gathering of art magazines from around the world; and an ambitious program of films. Specific projects and participating artists will be announced after The Nasher magazine goes to press, but check for more details as the time of the fair draws closer.

Kunstmuseum Basel, Sculpture on the Move 1946-2016, on view through September 18. Installation view (left to right):  Joseph Beuys, Schneefall, 1965, Emanuel Hoffmann-Stiftung, Depositum in der Öffentlichen Kunstsammlung Basel 1970; Richard Long, Stone Line, 1977, Emanuel Hoffmann-Stiftung, Depositum in der Öffentlichen Kunstsammlung Basel 1977; and Mario Merz, Acqua scivola (Igloo di vetro), Collezione Merz, Turin. Photo: Gina Folly.

Kunstmuseum Basel: After being closed for renovations to its main site and construction of a new building across the street, the Kunstmuseum reopens with a special focus on sculpture. Sculpture on the Move (April 19 – September 18, 2016), the inaugural exhibition in the new building (designed by Christ & Gantenbein architects), presents the dynamic evolution of sculpture over the past century, with an emphasis on the medium since World War II, especially three primary trends:  the incorporation of objects and materials from everyday life; the blurring of spatial and conceptual boundaries between sculpture and other forms of art; and a renewed focus on traditions of figuration. Drawing on powerful works from their own collection, supplemented by important international loans, the exhibition ranges from Alberto Giacometti and Hans Arp to Richard Serra, Joseph Beuys, and Eva Hesse, as well as to Fischli and Weiss, Robert Gober, and Charles Ray. At the Museum für Gegenwartskunst (Museum for Contemporary Art), the exhibition continues with recent works by Gabriel Orozco, Danh Vo, and Monika Sosnowska, among others.

Museum Tinguely: This scenic museum on the banks of the Rhine offers above all an immersive experience of the found-object sculpture of the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely in all its clanking, heaving glory. The building, designed by Mario Botta, also offers ample exhibition space, and the museum frequently presents artists whose work relates in some way to Tinguely’s. On view during Art Basel will be Michael Landy: Out of Order (June 8 – September 25, 2016), the first retrospective by this Young British Artist outside the UK. Landy questions the function of art and artworks in society, and is perhaps best known for the 2001 project Break Down, in which he drew up a list of his possessions, in order to systematically destroy them.

Anne Imhof, Parade: Aqua Leo, 1st of at least two, 2013. Video HD, 52min, Portikus, Frankfurt, Germany. Photo: Nadine Fraczkowski.

Kunsthalle Basel: During the week of Art Basel, the Kunsthalle will open Angst, a new project by Anne Imhof, recent winner of the Preis der Nationalgalerie 2015. Combining drawing, installation, and performance over the duration of the exhibition, Imhof will present an “opera” of sorts, mixing amateur and formally trained performers with moving sculptural elements.

Just outside Basel:

Fondation Beyeler: In addition to its outstanding permanent collection (the legacy of art dealer Ernst Beyeler, the museum’s founder, as well as one of the founders of Art Basel) and Renzo Piano-designed building, the Beyeler will this summer have on view the special exhibition Alexander Calder + Fischli/Weiss (May 29 – September 4, 2016), focusing on themes of balance, equilibrium, and precariousness common to these artists’ work. Although the subject of a retrospective this year at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, the chance to see the ingenious and canny works of Peter Fischli and David Weiss in combination with the inventive playfulness of Calder promises focused insights on an important aspect of the Swiss duo’s contribution to contemporary sculpture.

Alexander Calder, Tightrope, 1936. Wood, wire, rod, lead, and paint, 115.6 × 69.9 × 351.8 cm. Calder Foundation, New York © Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, NY / 2016, ProLitteris, Zurich. Included in Fondation Beyeler, Alexander Calder + Fischli/Weiss (May 29 – September 4, 2016). 

Vitra Design Museum: Not far from the Fondation Beyeler, this museum is dedicated to the research and presentation of design, past and present, and investigates design’s relation to art, architecture, and daily life. A building by Frank Gehry houses the museum’s collection, which includes major objects from the history of design as well as the estates of such renowned figures as Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson. One such figure, Alexander Girard, an influential textile artist and interior designer, is currently the subject of a major retrospective at the museum (A Designer’s Universe, March 12, 2016 – January 29, 2017). The Vitra campus also includes numerous notable buildings designed by architects such as Tadao Ando, Zaha Hadid, and Herzog & de Meuron.


Zurich: The weekend before Art Basel opens has become known as “Zurich Art Weekend,” a time when art lovers on their way to Basel stop over in its neighbor to the east for exhibitions and events at the city’s galleries and museums. Among special events will be the opening of the Manifesta Biennial, which has taken place in different cities since its founding in 1993. The artist Christian Jankowski is the curator for the Zurich edition, which opens June 11 at venues around the city. See and for details.

Colmar: Matthias Grünewald’s 16th-century Isenheim Altarpiece may seem distant from the contemporary concerns of Art Basel, but its pathos-laden depiction of suffering and resurrection have inspired artists as diverse as Otto Dix, Barnett Newman, and Jasper Johns. Just a short distance from Basel, the Musée Unterlinden recently debuted a renovation of the 13th-century convent and former public baths housing the collection, and a new building by Herzog and de Meuron to provide more space for the display of modern and contemporary works.

by CATHERINE CRAFT, Nasher Sculpture Center Curator

Nasher Sculpture Center