ART/Culture/BASEL – the City and the Art

The quaint city of Basel
The quaint city of Basel

Basel (pronounced the same way as the herb) is a charming city in Switzerland.  Basel is so tucked away on the northern edge of the country, bordering both France and Germany, that it’s not on the regular Geneva-Bern-Lucerne-Zurich route and is often forgotten. And what a shame that is (I’ll tell you why in a minute).


It's worth a visit even to just ride the buses
It’s worth a visit even to just ride the buses

Basel is Switzerland’s third most populous city (approx. 195,000 inhabitants) and is located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet with suburbs in France and Germany.  Basel straddles Europe’s greatest river – the Rhine.  A small part of the city (Kleinbasel) sits on the northern shore, even though the rest of that riverbank is German – and so acts as Switzerland’s gateway to the sea. It’s a very pretty little city too.

Basel on the Rhine
Basel on the Rhine

CULTURE: for many Swiss people, Basel means the three Fs: football, Fasnacht (a large popular festival) and pharmaceuticals, all loved and hated in equal measure. But Switzerland’s third largest city has a lot more to offer than some effing stereotypes, a fact that is also lost on many foreigners visiting Switzerland.  ART is a BIG deal.  So are museums.

Amid all the museums and galleries that crowd into Basel, perhaps the quirkiest is the one dedicated to the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, aptly named “The Tinguely Museum.”

Jean Tinguely
Jean Tinguely

Tinguely was born in Fribourg but grew up in Basel, and created the most amazing sculptures you are ever likely to see. Many look like they were put together by a mad scientist using laboratory leftovers. If you thought the Swiss were dull, this museum will change your mind.  But I never thought they were dull.  I had a Swiss German friend (a girl named Simone) who I met travelling in the Philippines who was extremely avantegarde and fun.

artbasel5Moving right along, do you know what Basel, Miami Beach and Hong Kong have in common?

artbasel9All three cities stage premier international art shows, providing a platform for artists and gallerists from all over the globe.  It is considered the world’s largest and most prestigious fair for modern and contemporary art – goes by the name “ART BASEL.” Heard of it?

Art Basel was founded in 1970 by Basel art gallerists Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner and Balz Hilt.  They put their passion and determination behind a visionary idea of their city and  decided to feature only museum quality art work. Art Basel was founded and met with an immediate approval, with more than 16,300 visitors its inaugural year. The fair used a selection process which chose the most elite and exclusive art galleries to participate. These special exhibitions allowed visitors to experience the art on a more global scale,  as well as focus on particularly important featured artists.artbasel7

After more than 30 years of shows, Art Basel extended its fair from Switzerland, to Miami in 2002. Just last year, Hong Kong was added to the list of art-forward cities to participate. Art Basel currently hosts 300 exhibitors from all over the world, with a reported 75,000 to Miami’s location, with many of the exhibitors entirely selling out.

The Art Market’s boom amid world economic sluggishness is a sign of the growing gulf between the rich and the super-super-rich.  Taken from The Wall Street Journal (on Opinion Europe – June/20/2013):

A Matter of Taste and Millions

Samuel Lynne Galleries
Samuel Lynne Galleries

Art Basel is the world’s largest and most prestigious fair for modern and contemporary art.  Art Basel offers collectors the most expansive and high quality buying venue of the year. It provides an extraordinary overview of primary and secondary market material. And, increasingly, it is responding to the growth of the global art market, offering a more comprehensive look at galleries and art making practices around the world. It has for a long time set the standard among art fairs.artbasel8

Check out my previous blog post on Marfa, the little ART town of Texas

 Have you been to the city of Basel, Marfa or any of the Art Basel fairs?




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