Basel: Museums and Galleries

After exploring the town of Basel and sitting down to lunch at a bakery that also sold plated meals (Chloe had a ‘Pizza’ that ressembled a quiche, I had a veggie Strudel -which was delicious), we headed off to visit the temporary exhibition on Paul Gauguin, housed at the Foundation Beyeler. To get to the gallery, we had to catch the tram to one of the city’s outer suburbs. It was lovely to watch the buildings change and to see the parks and open spaces appear as we headed further from the city centre.

I enjoyed walking through the spacious gallery, their sculpture garden, temporary exhibitions and permanent collection. The Guaguin exhibition was very crowded, but worth seeing. A traveler, he lived for a time in Martinique and in Tahiti, and produced works depicting the lives of local people. Although he apparently was against many of the ideas upheld in these French colonies, I still find many of these later works unsettling. For me, there is a feeling of intrusion and misrepresentation, perhaps as a result of my education, which has often included a focus on the injustices of colonialism and a critique of this ‘natural’ superiority that now remains entrenched in some aspects of most societies. I find it difficult to appreciate art from other eras without applying my own 21st century judgments, without separating it from the ideas that are prevalent in my culture today. I’m not sure whether art remains tied to a particular moment in time, but I am convinced that knowing the history and the culture of the artist can help us immensely to understand the art they produced and the way in which our perceptions of this artwork have changed with time.

A Peter Doig exhibition was also on display. I loved his use of colour and layers to add intrigue and depth to his landscapes. The paintings were often beautiful, but tied to a sense of lonely chaos- strange dreamlike creations that made you question what they really represented. After viewing his paintings, we were able to see a selection of the artist’s experimental prints on paper. It was fantastic to see the development of composition, tone and colour as the prints progressed, and to recognise in them part of the final painting.

In late afternoon, we went to visit the Music Museum. Chloe being an avid cello player, studying Arts/Music at university, this was a stop we couldn’t miss. As small as it was, the museum housed a great collection of instruments, along with recordings of their sounds. It was fantastic to see the progression and refinement of musical instruments through the different ages. The focus was mainly on European and classical instuments, although there was also a temporary exhibition on guitars- acoustic, classical and electric. It was fun to do something interactive and to play with the sounds, but when we stumbled upon a listening lounge, we were more than happy to sit down and do nothing but soak in the music.

Basel is a Museum City. There are so many galleries and museums that you could easily spend a whole week of rainy days there and not get bored. I would have loved to have had more time to visit them, and perhaps one day I will come back for more. Although this Shoe Museum  would not be on the top of my list of things to see, I found it so eclectic that I wanted to share a few photos. There really is something for everyone!

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