- Graziano Scaldaferri
Home to one of the most important and prestigious international art fairs in the world, Basel is dotted with outstanding cutting-edge contemporary art galleries – many of which frequently participate in the fair. In our culture lover’s guide to this small Swiss city, we take a look at ten of the most prominent galleries and art spaces in Basel.
Among the oldest and most revered cultural institutions in Basel, Kunsthalle’s history began in 1872 when it was inaugurated as a place to showcase artistic activity and stimulate a creative exchange between artists and art professionals. The Kunsthalle has a collection of about 500 artworks, which, however, is not open to the public – at the heart of the museum’s program are temporary exhibitions by national and international contemporary artists. The Kunsthalle also boasts a grand library of art books and monographs, totaling to a whopping 30,000 volumes, a precious addition to the adjoining showrooms. Despite their 19th-century look, the Kunsthalle’s interiors have been carefully renovated, and fearlessly compete with Basel’s newer exhibition spaces.
Kunsthalle, Steinenberg 7, Basel, Switzerland, +41 61 206 99 00
Reflecting Switzerland’s geographical position as a bridge between Germany and Italy, Basel’s gallery Carzaniga exhibits contemporary works of art by German, Italian and Swiss artists (Bruno Suter, Serge Brignoni and Julius Bissier, among others), and publishes insightful catalogues and monographs of the exhibited artists. Carzaniga is best known for its exhibitions of works that were created during the brief but influential period of the Gruppe Rot-Blau and Gruppe 33. The two groups, which operated in the 1920s, numbered Expressionist painters who painted their scenes in an unnatural style, but one that mirrored the atrocities of the First World War and the actions of the fascist governments that emerged in the years following the war.
Carzaniga, Gemsberg 8, Basel, Switzerland, +41 61 264 30 30
Fondation Beyeler features art inside, outside and all around. Inside, the foundation’s permanent collection consists of around 250 paintings and sculptures by celebrated modern masters such as Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Vincent Van Gogh, and Pablo Picasso. These are exhibited alongside various contemporary masters and a series of 25 rare tribal art pieces from Africa and Oceania, brought together in a unique dialogue between radically different aesthetics. Outside, the beautiful, three-section building – specifically designed by Italian architecture superstar Renzo Piano to host Fondation Beyeler’s art – blends nicely with the lovely nature of Berowerpark, the parkland where the museum is located. Scattered in the park around the museum are numerous quirky sculptures by renowned contemporary artists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Alexander Calder.
Fondation Beyeler, Baselstrasse 101, Riehen, Basel, Switzerland, +41 61 645 97 00
Basel’s Mitart Gallery is home to artists working with painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and video installations. Each year, the gallery brings the works of talented national and international artists to the public’s attention through a number of solo and group shows.
Mitart, Reichensteinerstrasse 29, Basel, Switzerland, +41 61 692 90 20
Founded in 1969 by Gilli and Diego Stampa, Stampa has established itself as a space to ignite and propel a creative dialogue between the Swiss and international art scenes. Stampa was the first space to showcase the works of now acclaimed artists such as Vito Acconci, Miriam Cahn and Marlene Dumas, during exhibitions that exemplified collaboration between artist and gallery. Integral to the gallery’s cultural program is its bookshop: the beautiful catalogues, monographs and art books sold by Stampa play a significant role in stimulating an ongoing interest in art in Basel and beyond.
Stampa, Spalenberg 2, Basel, Switzerland, +41 61 261 79 10
Balzer Projects is synonymous with cutting-edge, forwarding-thinking art. This gallery aims to test the limits of contemporary art practices, and is especially committed to scouting new, talented artists from around the world. Unique to Balzer Projects are smaller and shorter-lived, but they enable the artists involved to set up an exhibit, presentation or performance, and present it to a select public of colleagues and collectors, alongside other visitors. Among the artists represented by Balzer Art Projects are Andreas Bauer, Brian Duggan and Angelika Schori.
Balzer Art Projects, Wallstrasse 10, Basel, Switzerland, +41 61 222 2152
Art foundations that loan their possessions to exhibitions in museums, galleries, and institutions usually have storage space set aside the non-exhibited items. The Emanuel Hoffman Foundation’s warehouse is a unique one. Called the Schaulager, this is a special structure constructed to provide optimal conditions for the conservation of the contained artworks; at the same time, it is open to the public. On display are prestigious classics of modern art, including paintings by Robert Delaunay, Paul Klee, and Max Ernst. Schaulager also hosts special exhibitions, such as an authoritative show on Paul Chan, a versatile Chinese artist who juggles installation, video, drawings and sculpture to explore contemporary social and political issues.
Schaulager, Ruchfeldstrasse 19, Münchenstein, Basel, Switzerland, +41 61 335 32 32
In a city that is one of the international shrines of ‘white cube art’, as avant-garde as it might be, a visit to Guillaume Daeppen’s gallery is nothing short of refreshing. Daeppen opened in 2006, and focused on young artists working with new media since inception. With a groundbreaking show in 2009 named Born to Be Punk, the gallery’s direction definitively shifted towards urban art, encompassing all those works of street art inspired by urban culture, and utilizing outsider techniques while still housing them in a traditional gallery space. The artists in Daeppen’s portfolio work with graffiti, drawings, stencil, comics and other media, providing an unexpected, surprising alternative to Basel’s haute artistic milieu.
Guillaume Daeppen, Müllheimerstrasse 144, Basel, Switzerland, +41 79 467 90 62
Von Bartha, one of the leading contemporary art galleries in Basel, has come a long way since it first opened in 1970. Today, the gallery has two large showrooms in the city, in addition to a third one in S-chanf. Of the venues in Basel, the so-called Von Bartha Collection is housed in a beautiful two-story urban villa, where two exhibitions are held every year. The second, the spacious von Bartha Garage, was only opened in 2008, and is reserved for large-scale installations. The gallery specializes in constructive art, be it in the form of paintings, sculptures or installations, and represents a roster of 15 exciting, talented artists, including Andrew Bick, Camille Graser and Christian Andersson.
Von Bartha Collection, Schertlingasse 16, Basel, Switzerland, +41 61 322 10 00
Von Bartha Garage, Kannenfeldplatz 6, Basel, Switzerland, +41 61 322 10 00
From painting and sculpture to photography and video, from installations to new media, there is no limit to the range of artistic disciplines that gallery Nicolas Krupp is fascinated by. Located in large premises – once an industrial establishment – on Messeplatz, within walking distance from Art Basel’s venues, the gallery focuses on the work of international young artists. Angela de la Cruz, 2010 nominee for the prestigious Turner Prize, plays with the limits of the flat canvas in works that mix painting and sculpture; Atta Kwami creates small- and medium-scale, colorful paintings inspired by the hues of Ghanaian architecture and African textiles; and duo Rico Scagliola and Michael Meier are best known for Musen, a series of photographic diptychs where they are dressed like Hollywood stars in certain pictures and then seen next to the original images.
Nicolas Krupp, Rosentalstrasse 28, Basel, Switzerland, +41 61 683 32 65