Basel & its taste for art

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Museumsstadt Basel: Der Geschmack von Kunst

© Mauritius Images Basel & its taste for art Basel boasts the highest density of outstanding museums in Europe, offering a unique fusion of art, design and architectural aesthetics. Some even have a culinary bonus.

Basel is crazy about art. Furthermore, this Swiss city is also crazy about good taste and outstanding culinary art. There's no accounting for taste, as the saying goes. But you can talk about it. And in the art city of Basel in particular, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. In 2020, the Tinguely Museum hosted the exhibition 'Amuse Bouche. The Taste of Art', continuing its series on the human senses in art with 45 international artists. Does art taste sweet, sour, bitter, salty or even umami, it asked. For all the senses play an essential role in the experience of art.

This taste for art can also be found in the GenussStadt Basel programme, which runs until October 2022. And of course in the places that display art. With the world's largest collection of the Swiss sculptor's works, the museum is the top address for fans of Jean Tinguely (1925-1991). The impressive building located right by the Rhine was created by Ticino architect Mario Botta. The permanent exhibition presents an overview of four decades of Tinguely's work, while the interactive temporary exhibitions show a colourful spectrum of artists and themes of the 20th and 21st centuries based on Tinguely's works.

Great architecture meets delicious food. Both are perfectly combined in Museum Tinguely and in the Chez Jeannot bistrot in the middle of the works.

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Beyeler's taste in art

The Fondation Beyeler is one of the most visited museums in Switzerland. People come because of the world-famous collection of classical modern art by Hildy and Ernst Beyeler, the extraordinary exhibitions, but also because of the unique building by star Ticino architect Renzo Piano with an idyllic park including a lily pond and sculptures by Alexander Calder and Ellsworth Kelly. With works by Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Klee, Giacometti, Warhol and Bacon, the collection brings together more than 300 masterpieces. And perhaps Fondation Beyeler also owes its appeal to the combination of an important collection with the light-flooded, fascinating museum architecture with views of cornfields and vineyards. A planned extension by architect Peter Zumthor will create a unique ensemble of buildings.

The perfect taste after enjoying art can be found in Restaurant der Villa Gut Berower in Berower Park. The Kunstmuseum Basel is notable for a number of features. It is the oldest public art collection in the world, the largest art collection in Switzerland and a world-renowned public institution for contemporary art. The historical core of the collection is that of Basel lawyer Basilius Amerbach, which was bought by the city and university in 1661 and opened to the public in 1671. This has developed into the Basel Public Art Collection, which comprises around 4,000 paintings, sculptures, installations, videos and 300,000 drawings and prints from seven centuries. Superlatives here, too.

Fondation Beyeler is not only the most visited art museum in Switzerland, but  a unique combination of art, architecture and nature.

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Three venues for art

In 1936 the main building on St. Alban-Graben was opened, and in 1980 the first expansion took place with the opening of the Museum für Gegenwartskunst (Museum of Contemporary Art) on St. Alban-Rheinweg – one of the world's first museums for contemporary art. Today it bears the name Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart and is a laboratory for diverse contemporary art production. In 2016, a third building opened opposite the main building and connected to it via an underground passageway. Basel architectural firm Christ & Gantenbein is responsible for the  structure, many elements of which echo those of its older sibling across the street. Its light colours make it a respectful neighbour and it is designed for special exhibitions and for presentations of collections. 

Vitra Design Museum. Renowned  architects Frank Gehry and Herzog & De Meuron are responsible for the architecture. 

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Since 1872, Kunsthalle Basel has been one of the world's most renowned and active public institutions for contemporary art. Known for its bold and diverse programme of spectacular exhibitions and its commitment to both well-known and unknown artists, it fits perfectly into the wide spectrum of exceptional art venues.

Art Basel also shows how cosmopolitan the city's art scene is. Basel becomes a Mecca for art lovers from all over the world while the leading international art fair takes place, and, for at few days at least, the most important temporary museum. Over 250 carefully selected gallery owners show art from the 20th and 21st centuries. 

With its outstanding collection of artworks from the early Mediterranean civilisations, the Basel Antikenmuseum (Museum of Antiquities) brings a Mediterranean art vibe to the city. It preserves the foundation of modern Europe, with 5,000 years of culture. The art journey goes from Greece and Rome to Etruria, from Egypt via the Levant to Mesopotamia and Iran. It is the only museum in Switzerland that exclusively presents ancient art and culture from the Mediterranean region annd is home to the country's largest collection of ancient cultural artefacts. During the GenussStadt Basel festival, the museum is a place for deliciously interesting encounters under the motto 'Culture meets Culinary Arts'.

It is not just the outside of the Vitra Design Museum building in Weil am Rhein by renowned architect Frank Gehry and the exhibition depot by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron that demonstrate the perfect combination of art, design & architecture. This flows through to the museum concept, as it explores and conveys the history and present state of design, relating it to architecture, art and everyday culture. It is one of the leading design museums in the world.

Two large temporary exhibitions are presented twice a year in the main building, while smaller exhibitions are shown in parallel in the Vitra Design Museum Gallery. Many exhibitions are created in collaboration with well-known designers and deal with contemporary topics such as technologies of the future, sustainability, mobility and social responsibility.

So much more could be said about Basel, but one thing is indisputable: the city is the cultural capital of Switzerland because here culture is lived, created, promoted and celebrated again and again.