11 Apr 2020

The juxtaposition of Reinhard Mucha's "Walsum" and an icon from the collection of the Kunstmuseum, Hans Holbein the Younger's "Dead Christ in the Tomb", is an experiment that asks to what extent not every artist has an "imaginary museum" stored in his or her head.

In 2017 the Kunstmuseum Basel acquired Reinhard Mucha’s 1986 wall sculpture Walsum for its aesthetic quality and its exemplary demonstration of the artist’s approach. The current juxtaposition of Walsum with the Dead Christ in the Tomb by Hans Holbein the Younger in the Old Masters gallery is an experiment by the departments of Old Masters and Contemporary Art. We ask to what extent all artists have an 'imaginary museum' stored in their mind – a resource of all the art works they have seen, either as originals or reproductions. From time to time, these appear reflected in their own work as variously refracted fragments, sometimes obvious and sometimes veiled.

Reinhard Mucha’s artistic work for example was mainly influenced by his engagement with Minimal Art and its chief protagonist Donald Judd, as well as Joseph Beuys. At the same time, however, we can observe surprising and interesting formal analogies between Walsum and the Dead Christ in the Tomb. Not only is Walsum's front wall in particular reminiscent of the colour shade and wood surface of the current frame of the Dead Christ. Above all, we can draw a direct parallel between the two rectangular niches, clad in dark felt and let directly into the wall, and a remarkable peculiarity of Holbein’s painting: Christ is resting in a wall tomb, a claustrophobically narrow niche of a kind that is not found at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, but certainly in the Roman catacombs.

The other images in this cabinet intend to show how unique Holbein’s choice was within a very broad pictorial tradition: In practically all other representations of the period a free-standing tomb serves as the resting place of Christ.

Of course Reinhard Mucha has known the Dead Christ in the Tomb for a long time – he is familiar with the original in its frame. Perhaps he perceived intuitively what art history deducts via comprehensive comparison, and absorbed it in Walsum either consciously or subconsciously.