Basel: Beyond the Art Fair
Story & photos by Paul Clemence
It is that time of the year, when the art and collectible design clique descends on the Swiss town eponymous with the world leading art fair, Art Basel (which opens today), to see the latest offerings the exclusive galleries have for them. The sheer amount of great (and bad) art available can be quite daunting and dizzying. Add to that the never-ending stream of bubbly filled soirées and schmooze fests and pretty soon one is begging for a break from it all. But what else to do in Basel? Here then are some suggestions for escaping the art marathon of the Messe hallways and rest both the eyes and mind while and still not miss your art kick:
Museum der Kulturen: Although still a cultural environment, the focus here are ethnographic items collected from all over the world and displayed in sophisticated presentations that will give some of the art installations in the fair a run for their money. Located smack dab in the heart of the historic medieval city center, in 2011 the original museum building from 1849 received a contemporary update by Basel’s renown architecture office Herzog & de Meuron, featuring an origami like pleated roof covered in black hexagonal tile. https://www.mkb.ch/de/programm.html
Der Teufelhof Hotel: The perfect place to lounge and yet keep a foot in the art scene. Misleadingly simple looking from the outside, and developed as an art hotel way before the current “curated hospitality” trend, Der Teufelhof features whole guest rooms uniquely designed by artists that are re-designed every season. There’s a basement archeological site, a superb wine cellar featuring its own label, two fine dining restaurants ( one Michelin-starred) and even a theater ( after all, the hotel was founded by a couple of actors who imagined this would be a means to finance their craft). https://www.teufelhof.com/
Brasilea: The Brasilea Foundation was created based on the collection of its founder, collector Walter Wüthrich, with the objective to foster the promotion of Brazilian art in Basel (“Basilea” in Portuguese). Uniquely located in the margin of the Rhine River in the border triangle (where Switzerland, Germany and France meet), the institution is currently showing its collaboration with bathroom ceramics manufacturer Laufen that’s called “Impressões”. The project features an original sculptural polyhedron piece by Brazilian sculptor Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro that was then made multiples of and customized by several Brazilian artists. https://brasilea.com/
Rehberger-Weg Walk: If you can pull yourself away from the masterpieces on display at the Foundation Beyeler’s blockbuster exhibit “The Young Picasso”, a reinvigorating pilgrimage will take you to the uber design destination, the Vitra Campus. The 6 kilometer hike starts just across the fields to the East of the Foundation and crosses all the way through the border control into Germany and its vineyard-covered hills. From up there on the hills, one can get wonderful panoramic view onto Basel and a birds eye appreciation of the unique collection of starchitects buildings that compose the Vitra Campus. The path, also known as “24 stops”, was conceived by artist Tobias Rehberger and features several of his pieces as markers along the way. https://24stops.info/en/intro/
“Fishbagging” in the Rhine: If all this is still too much art stimulation for you, there’s always the option to literally float around Basel, or as the locals call it, “fishbagging”. Using an unique, locally designed, fish-shaped bag called “wickelfisch”, that allows you to safely store your belongings while still using it as a floatation device, the locals throw themselves in the Rhine River and let the current take them down for a ride. It is for sure one of the most refreshing and original ways of sightseeing out there. https://www.basel.com/en/rhine-swimming
Paul Clemence is an award-winning photographer and writer exploring the cross sections of design, art and architecture. A published author, his volume Mies van der Rohe’s FARNSWORTH HOUSE remains to this day the most complete photo documentation of that iconic modern residential design, and a selection of these photos is part of the Mies van der Rohe Archives housed by MoMa, New York. He is widely published in arts, architecture and lifestyle magazines like Metropolis,ArchDaily, Architizer, Modern, Casa Vogue Brasil and others. Archi-Photo, aka Architecture Photography, his Facebook photo blog quickly became a photography and architecture community, with over 970,000 followers worldwide. An architect by training, Clemence is originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Fishbagging, the Teufelhof hotel, the museums, the whole town is wonderful. Years ago my brother went to med school there, and now Clemence has written/photographed a lovely — and useful — portrait.