In the 1950s, enlarging the collection of modernist works and branching out into contemporary art emerged as a central objective of the Kunstmuseum’s collection-building program. A donation from the Schweizerische National-Versicherungs-Gesellschaft, a major insurer, enabled the museum to buy four works by exponents of Abstract Expressionism for the collection in one fell swoop. This acquisition of contemporary American art put the Kunstmuseum Basel on the map as one of the leading progressive art museums of the time.
The presentation at the Neubau takes the legendary 1959 purchase as its point of departure to illuminate foci of our collection of art of the second half of the twentieth century. Iconic works by the Abstract Expressionists and the Minimalists are contextualized with more rarely seen treasures and new acquisitions. Arranged in loosely chronological order, the exhibition in eight rooms features artists with similar interests in materials, creative techniques, or themes.
The current display in room 7 showcases a group of artists whose works devise different approaches to social and political concerns. In particular, they are interested in uncovering historical and contemporary power structures. Art by Sherrie Levine, Vito Acconci, Theaster Gates, and Sam Gilliam turns the spotlight on social inequalities in the United States. The works by On Kawara and Alighiero Boetti expand the thematic spectrum by supplying a global and a Eurocentric perspective, respectively.