Your Guide to the Best Shows in Basel

From Bruce Nauman at the Schaulager to the story of a 1970s artist community in Carona at Weiss Falk, all the shows to see in town this week

BY Aoife Rosenmeyer in Critic's Guides | 11 JUN 18

Bruce Nauman, Untitled, 1967, wax over plaster with rope, 43 x 66 x 11.5 cm. Courtesy: Daros Collection, Switzerland, © Bruce Nauman / 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich

Bruce Nauman, ‘Disappearing Acts’
17 March – 26 August

The Schaulager enjoys immense resources; its founder, Maja Oeri, a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and a major donor to its collection, is honoured with a MoMA gallery in her name. Bruce Nauman’s detailed survey exhibition, created in collaboration with that New York institution, where it will subsequently travel, is arguably the best use of the Schaulager’s ample space and art historical means since the museum opened in 2003. In gallery after gallery of drawings, sculptures, installations, video and sound pieces and immersive environments, Nauman is revealed as a foresighted observer and actor in the art field, one who also maintained a healthy disregard for that world. Take away his material, and what does an artist do? An empty studio provides ample food for thought. How does he justify his role in society? He thinks through surveillance – watching and being watched – long before cameras become omnipresent in our environments. What tradition does he belong to? He adopts the contrapposto stance of classical sculpture, then makes it his signature walk. And he adopts and elaborates each of these investigations. One of the most recent works, Contrapposto Split (2017), is viewed through 3D goggles. We see the aging, stalwart Nauman walk deliberately and awkwardly towards us, life size, across the studio floor, hands folded behind his head. His torso turns back, his legs continue forwards. The artist is disjointed but remains sanguine. We’ll catch up.

Theaster Gates, From the archives of the Johnson Publishing Company. Courtesy: Theaster Gates; photograph: Moneta Sleet

Theaster Gates, ‘Black Madonna’
Kunstmuseum Basel, Neubau & Gegenwart
9 June – 21 October

Theaster Gates – whose MA from the University of Cape Town is in Fine Arts and Religious Studies – makes the Black Madonna the subject of an exhibition project that occupies both the Kunstmuseum’s new wing and parts of the Gegenwartsmuseum down by the Rhine. (It will later travel to the Sprengel Museum Hannover and Haus der Kunst in Munich.) The Black Madonna has long been a cultural and religious phenomenon in Europe, for example the Black Madonna in the Einsiedeln monastery near Zurich, which draws pilgrims from far afield. But the motif has North American relevance too, with The Shrine of the Black Madonna in Detroit having great resonance in the radical black theology of the last century. In Basel, Gates creates a new variation on the theme using the photographic archive of the 1945-founded Johnson Publishing Company, which produced the American magazines Ebony and Jet for several decades, to create new iterations on the subject, while he also selects less typical illustrations of the Madonna to exhibit from the Kunstmuseum’s venerable collection. The Museum’s Gegenwart venue, meanwhile, becomes a sound studio and printing workshop, in keeping with Gates’ socially embedded practice. 

Across the Kunstmuseum’s venues are exhibitions by Maria Lassnig, Martha Rosler and Hito Steyerl and Sam Gilliam, amongst others. Nearby, the Kunsthalle hosts Raphaela Vogel and Luke Willis Thompson.

Rochelle Feinstein, left to right: Ear to the Ground, 2017; Who Cares, 2016, installation view, Kunsthaus Baselland, 2018. Courtesy: Kunsthaus Baselland; photograph: Serge Hasenböhler

Rochelle Feinstein
Kunsthaus Baselland
20 April – 16 July

‘My ends […] were to stretch, distort and hustle the canon into collaboration with external events ranging from lowbrow to wherever’ says Rochelle Feinstein in conversation with Ines Goldbach, the Director of the Kunsthaus Baselland. The paintings Feinstein brings to Muttenz are a far cry from the bright, cheerful, cartoonish productions shown at Francesca Pia’s Zurich gallery two years ago. Times have changed, and Feinstein’s perspective today is critical and somber. It’s fitting thus that a prominent work, Wall of Self, is an unflattering self-portrait, a dappled monochrome made of four canvases of varying sizes that form a stepped arrangement in pink, fleshy Caucasian. Other galleries include sculpture, a painted curtain, paintings and wall works. Colour is at a premium in this show; Feinstein can be plenty angry in black on white. The usual format at the Kunsthaus Baselland comprises three distinct solo shows, and three women are exhibiting this month. Alongside Feinstein are New-York based Naama Tsabar’s musical sculptures and Italian Rossella Biscotti’s meditations on city and community through her observation of an archeological dig site. 

The Kunsthaus Baselland should, in coming years, relocate to the Dreispitz campus nearby, which is already something of a cultural hub: in the Institut Kunst’s TANK gallery Teresa Solar’s exhibition opens on 12 June at 7pm, while Lynn Hershman Leeson’s show is ongoing at the HeK.

Rodrigo Hernández, Zapaya, 2017, cardboard, wood, oil paint, 36 x 30 x 15 cm. Courtesy: the artist, Galeria Madragoa, Lisbon, ChertLüdde Gallery, Berlin and P420, Bologna

Rodrigo Hernández, ‘The gourd and the catfish’
15 June - 25 August
6-10pm, Thursday 14 June, with a performance by Khairani Barokka at 6.30pm

While Art Basel is in full swing Samuel Leuenberger will be best-known as curator of the Parcours project, but for many years he has run his own project space (in his own home) in the Birsfelden suburb, now co-curating it with Elise Lammer. How do you catch a catfish with a gourd? This is the 15th century Japanese koan that inspires Mexican artist Rodrigo Hernández’s presentation. Hernández picks enigmatic phrases and ideas from sources as disparate as his visual references. (At Salts he will show sculptures, a mural and relief pieces embedded in the wall.) Since 2013, each fair season at Salts has also included ‘The Printed Room’, a literary project initiated by Quinn Latimer, which Harry Burke now programmes in its final chapter. The diminutive space will host two complementary projects: Formidable Sparkles by Bhanu Kapil, and Selected Annahs by Khairani Barokka.

Across the river from SALTS, The Tinguely Museum hosts Gerda Stein & Jörg Lenzlinger’s labyrinthine production, while an exhibition of works by Gauri Gill opens on 12 June at 6.30pm.

Kimiyo Mishima, left to right: Comic Book 17-S7, 2017; Work 15-CS, 2015; Work 17-Tape Measure 4, 2017, all printed and painted ceramic. Courtesy: Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo; photograph: Serge Hasenböhler

Kimiyo Mishima, ‘Paintings and Sculptures’
Anne Mosseri-Marlio
8 June – 13 July

Anne Mosseri-Marlio has been pursuing a distinctive gallery programme since 2008, to the benefit of Zurich and now Basel – she worked with Larry Bell, for example, long before Hauser & Wirth took him on board. After showing works from the estate of Gutai figure Minoru Onoda last year, the second Japanese artist she will show in Switzerland is Kimiyo Mishima. On view are two distinctive bodies of work (of a yet more varied practice) by the octogenarian: large mixed media collage paintings from the 1960s and small ceramic works that make clear pop references. Since the 1960s the artist has preserved friable print media and other objects in heavy oil paint collages, and though they look quite different, the ceramic pieces share the same conceptual approach. Drink cans, designed for short term use, are petrified in time in a shopping basket; the instant gratification of purchase and consumption denied in perpetuity. A comic book will always remain open, the bent pages capturing how cheap paper reacts to being handled, but this book could only shatter, not disintegrate. In 1983, the artist’s work was in a show of contemporary Japanese art at the Musée d’ Art et d’Histoire, Geneva – and she is still contemporary to this day.

Meret Oppenheim, Octopus’s Garden, 1971, paper, sheeting and chalk on cardboard, 81 x 81 x 5 cm. Courtesy: Weiss Falk, Basel

Anton Bruhin, Hermann Hesse, Matthyas Jenny, Urs Lüthi, Meret Oppenheim, Markus Raetz, Iwan Schumacher, Peter Schweri and David Weiss, ‘Carona’
Weiss Falk
7 June – 28 July

Basel’s gallery scene is poorer for Jean-Claude Freymond-Guth’s departure last year, but there are still edgy commercial spaces here, albeit on a smaller scale. Weiss Falk are staging an atypical show this June, a collection of works on paper from the artists who gathered in the village of Carona in Italian-speaking Ticino in the 1970s. That canton has a history of artistic communion, such as the adherents of the Lebensreform movement who gathered in Monte Verita in the early 20th century; even before that it was a place of refuge for figures including Mikhail Bakunin. 40 years ago, a group including Meret Oppenheim, Markus Raetz, Peter Schweri, Anton Bruhin and David Weiss spent time in Carona, and more friends visited. To write a history of this group would be to unpick many intertwining family and relationship histories, so it’s fitting that it is now revealed by David Weiss’ son, Oskar, at the gallery he runs in collaboration with Oliver Falk. Their privileged perspective makes for a dense show in the modest gallery, and demonstrates the artists’ delight in graphic experimentation, in sketches and drawings that testify equally to their interest in social dynamics.

Elsewhere, Raimer Jochims and Emma Talbot are showing at Nicholas Krupp, General Idea and Vivian Suter’s works are to be found at Stampa, while an exhibition by Landon Metz opens in Von Bartha’s Basel garage on the 12 June.

Jamie Fitzpatrick and Lindsey Mendick, Snog, 2018, glazed ceramic, MDF, paint. Courtesy: Vitrine, London/Basel; photograph: Nicolas Gysin

Jamie Fitzpatrick and Lindsey Mendick, ‘SMUT’
13 June – 2 September
Opening: 5-10pm, 
12 June

The Wallace Collection is housed in the 18th-century Hertford House in a square north of Oxford Street in London. It is a sumptuous setting for a superb collection with emphases on 18th century French painting, furniture, porcelain and more. Contrast that with Vitrine’s Basel location: an angular, contemporary glazed space tucked under a road bridge next to a train station, tram stop and supermarket. British artists Jamie Fitzpatrick and Lindsey Mendick, both graduates of the Royal College of Art, bring a flavour of the historic London collection to this Basel location with works in sculpture, painting and sound that revisit the exuberance and excess of the French depictions of love and sensual encounters. Embraces and gestures are examined and recreated with keen interest in their standard vocabulary and how this might be altered or emphasised, reviewing gender and class distinctions in contemporary form. 

For more shows to see in Basel, head over to On View.

Main image: Bruce Nauman, Myself as a Marble Fountain, 1967, ink, with wash, on paper, 48 x 61 cm. Courtesy: Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation, on permanent loan to the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel; photograph: Kunstmuseum Basel, Martin P. Bühler, © Bruce Nauman / 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich

Aoife Rosenmeyer is a critic, translator and occasional curator based in Zurich, Switzerland.