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Basel can rejoice in being, once again, the host of Marc Chagall’s Self Portrait (1914) and Picasso’s Buveuse d’Absinthe (1910). After a year of touring the world, Basel’s world-class collections, including that of major Swiss collectors Rudolf Staechelin (1881–1946) and Karl Im Obersteg (1883–1969), have finally returned to its renewed home—the Kunstmuseum in Basel.
The Kunstmuseum reopened on April 17 with an entirely new building designed by local architects Christ & Gantenbein, linked to the museum’s renovated 1936 main building by a new underground tunnel. The $103 million building and passage allows for additional space within the whole museum, providing a total of 10,000 square meters of new exhibition space.
Furthermore, the Kunstmuseum’s third annex, the Museum für Gegenwartskunst (Museum of Contemporary Art), has been renamed to “Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart.” Similarly, the other two venues are now known as “Kunstmuseum Basel | Main Building” and “Kunstmuseum Basel | New Building,” thus strengthening the institutional affiliation of the three venues.
The permanent modern collections of Staechelin and Obersteg, which attracted 550,000 visitors at the Reina Sofia in Madrid, returned to the main building. The Garden Halls on the main building’s ground floor focus on Swiss art, while the new building houses collections spanning from 1950 to 1990, with a special focus on American art. The Gegenwart building, designed to be the most contemporary, concentrates on works from 1990 to today.
The renewed museum’s special exhibition “Sculpture on The Move: 1946-2016,” which will be a compulsory stop during Art Basel, plays out over both the new site and the neighboring Gegenwart branch. The show presents a wide range of sculptures by Alberto Giacometti, Richard Serra, Katharina Fritsch, and Felix González Torres, to name a few. The exhibition also marks director Bernhard Mendes Bürgi’s last show with the museum, as he will be succeeded by Josef Helfenstein this September.