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Special Issue: Basel

Up Here Where the Air is Clear

The Must See Swiss Shows

Rudolf Stingel, Untitled (2010). The Broad Art Foundation © Rudolf Stingel. Photo: Christopher Burke Studio, Courtesy Gagosian

BY Christian Viveros-Fauné
art and culture critic

In Must See

Not enough still images, objects and videos inside the Messeplatz to satisfy your insatiable hunger for art? You’re in luck. Switzerland’s third largest city is home to 40 museums, many of which save their best exhibitions for Art Basel (until Sunday). Here are our pick of the top shows to see while you’re in town.

“Rudolf Stingel”, Fondation Beyeler (Until October 6)

Born in 1956 in Merano, Italy, and based in New York since 1987, Rudolf Stingel is one of the most celebrated conceptual painters of his generation. From his highly realistic oil paintings to his use of prefab materials like Styrofoam, carpet, and reflective aluminum panels, the enigmatic artist has long challenged traditional notions of what constitutes a painting. Organized by Stingel and guest curator Udo Kittelmann, the artist’s eponymous exhibition features discrete and room-sized works that channel the artist’s career preoccupations: the themes of time, memory and perception, as well his embrace of ornamental design and industrial materials. The exhibition promises both familiar and new paintings along with site-specific works designed to animate the institution’s exhibition and restaurant spaces.

Rebecca Horn: Body Fantasies, Museum Tinguely (Until 22 September)

Video still from Rebecca Horn’s film Berlin – Exercises in Nine Parts: Feathers Dancing on Shoulders (1974–75). © 2019: Rebecca Horn/ProLitteris, Zürich

Rebecca Horn is currently enjoying an important career twofer: not one but two parallel exhibitions at partnering European institutions. The first, at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, explores the theme of transformation, as tracked by the use of film in the German artist’s oeuvre (“Rebecca Horn: Theatre of Metamorphoses”, until 13 January 2020). The second, at Basel’s Museum Tinguely, combines early performative works from the 1960s and 1970s and later kinetic sculpture to highlight Horn’s explorations of the contested space between the body and its technological extension, the machine. Titled “Body Fantasies, this show traces the development of Horn’s individual works as “stations in a process of transformation” while emphasizing five decades of shape-shifting continuity.

The Cubist Cosmos: From Picasso to Léger, Kunstmuseum Basel Neubau (Until 4 August)

Pablo Picasso, Head of a Young Girl (1914). © Centre Pompidou, Mnam – CCI/Jean Claude Planchet/Dist. RMN-GP © Succession Picasso / 2019, Pro Litteris, Zurich

Produced in cooperation with the Centre Pompidou, this show is the first to bring together both museums’ masterworks to reconstruct the wider context of Cubism, as captured by the gems bequeathed to the Kunstmuseum Basel by Swiss banker and collector Raoul La Roche. Rounded out by works on loan from other international collections, the exhibition features some 130 early 20th-century masterpieces, including paintings by Cézanne, Picasso, Braque, Léger, Juan Gris, and Robert and Sonia Delaunay. The survey traces Cubism’s evolution from 1908 to the years after the First World War, chronicling the movement’s enormous stylistic range and highlighting the revolutionary energy it imparted to later artistic developments.

Entangled Realities: Living with Artificial Intelligence, HeK (Until 11 August)

Jenna Sutela, nimiia cétiï (2018). Image courtesy

A view of the future from inside the computer, “Entangled Realities” is dedicated to exploring the idea of artificial intelligence and its evolving, increasingly unpredictable effects on society. How many more decisions will humans cede to algorithmic systems? Who supervises the infrastructure of these computer-based networks? What role will artists play in shaping these newly interwoven realities? Curated by Sabine Himmelsbach and Boris Magrini, “Entangled Realities”brings together more than a dozen global artists and collectives—including Sebastian Schmieg, Zach Blas & Jemima Wyman, and Trevor Paglen—to “critically interrogate the development and creation of new realities currently taking place, so that we can control their development and not vice versa”.

Leiko Ikemura: Toward New Seas, Kunstmuseum Basel Neubau (Until 1 September)

Leiko Ikemura, Kamikaze (1980). Christoph Schenker, © 2019, ProLitteris, Zurich

Polymath Leiko Ikemura has long believed in embracing art-making in all its forms. Among her Whitmanesque mottos: “Be the vessel. Don’t refuse the material”. The Japan-born, Berlin-based artist’s newest exhibition “Toward New Seas brings a wealth of together drawings, paintings, sculptures and writing to arrive at a “focused retrospective” organized in consultation with the artist and the National Art Center, Tokyo. Consisting of 16 installations based on as many of Ikemura’s signature poetic themes, the show is the artist’s largest solo museum outing to date. Featuring some 210 characteristically oneiric works that span the length of Ikemura’s 40-year career, the exhibition includes 40 of the artist’s early paintings, as well as drawings and examples of her published poetry.

“Clément Cogitore: Part II”, Kunsthaus Baselland (Until 7 July)

Still from Clément Cogitore’s film The Evil Eye (2018). Courtesy the artist and the Gallery Eva Hober and Gallery Reinhard Hauff © 2019, ProLitteris, Zurich

Fresh from winning the 2018 Prix Marcel Duchamp, France’s leading contemporary art award, the 35-year-old Paris-based photographer and cinéaste presents his award-winning film The Evil Eye (2018), the product of a streetwise epiphany he described to one reporter this way: “I was in New York and saw the same face on a product in a supermarket and then on a political poster, and I became interested in how these stock pictures are waiting for something to exist—an ideology or something to sell.” Curated by Ines Goldbach, the young artist’s first solo museum exhibition in Switzerland will also feature additional dystopian visions the artist has crafted from the shiny photographic surfaces of our advertising-image soaked society.

“Olivier Mosset: TUTU”, Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich (Until 8 September)

Olivier Mosset, Untitled (TUTU) (2013), detail. Courtesy Galerie Andrea Caratsch, St. Moritz

Starting in the mid-1960s, the Swiss-born, Tucson-based artist Olivier Mosset became a purveyor of a kind of rigorous if fashionable conceptual painting. A champion of a kind of abstraction that, in the words of Catherine Perret, associate professor of modern and contemporary aesthetics and theory at Nanterre University (Paris X), reveals little about itself and nothing about the painter, Mosset is now an elder statesman of a school of painting whose mission is largely to critique originality. This show takes the measure of the artist’s embrace of the monochrome, seriality, and the ideal of painterly “objectivity”, and also includes a light work made in collaboration with lighting designer Madjid Hakimi, and an installation of Mosset’s “Cimaises”, a series of paintings-cum-sculptures made from ice, for the first time.

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