The exhibition Basel Short Stories turns the spotlight on the Kunstmuseum Basel’s rich collection, presenting world-famous works as well as rarely-seen treasures in new contexts. The display is set out before a backdrop of illustrious and largely forgotten, private and world-historical—and, in some instances, grotesque—events in the history of Basel that are brought into focus by art from the Kunstmuseum’s collections.
The show intends to remind visitors of the extraordinary potential of the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel, the municipal art collection of Basel, by demonstrating the fresh perspectives that open up when forgotten or obscure works are shown in dialogue with icons of the collection. The curators have arranged a kaleidoscope of characters, voices, and scenes that illustrate that a museum is a complex, infinitely surprising, and continually evolving organism. Loosening the reins of the art-historical canon, the exhibition presents a more freewheeling encounter between works of art and documents that reveals unexpected affinities. It is organized around selected moments in Basel’s varied history of ideas and everyday practices and the lives of individuals associated with the city: the humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam, the painting The Dead Christ in the Tomb by Hans Holbein the Younger, the illustrator and naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian, the historian and art historian Jacob Burckhardt, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the 1912 Basel Peace Congress, the figure skaters Frick and Frack, the inventor of LSD Albert Hofmann, and the women’s rights activist Iris von Roten.
Examining both familiar treasures and unknown pieces from a fresh angle, Basel Short Stories will invite longtime fans who know the museum inside out and the broader public alike to discover the collection’s history and uncharted riches. Crossing disciplinary boundaries to bring together art, science, everyday life, and popular culture, the exhibition will be readily accessible to wide and diverse audiences.
A book to be published in conjunction with the show will mix illustrations, quotes, and excerpts from historic texts with contributions by experts in a range of fields. An extensive program of events will spin out the stories narrated in the exhibition in dialogue with our visitors.