In 1968, the Kunstmuseum Basel was the scene of a premiere: the first public presentation of the complete set of Picassos that the museum had acquired the year before. The fiftieth anniversary of this milestone is an excellent occasion for an extended presentation of art from the collection that takes a fresh look at the events around the purchase of Picasso’s Les deux frères and Arlequin assis by the citizenry of Basel and Picasso’s subsequent donation of several paintings to the museum. The show turns the spotlight on the actors whose concerted efforts secured these works that have become anchors of the collection’s identity and a treasure beloved by the people of Basel: now as then, the museum’s development depends on an ongoing dialogue between citizenry, artists, director, and patrons.
The central question has always been: «Which art makes it into the museum?» It was the subject of a controversial debate between sometimes irreconcilable camps when the special loan for the Picasso purchase was proposed and the «beggars’ festival» was held to raise the balance, and it is no less contentious today. The exhibition is designed to revisit the dispute with statements from citizens and artists and probe its implications for the local sense of pride and community, art and commerce, and the citizenry’s relationship with its art museum.
The poignant photographs Kurt Wyss took in 1967 bring the past back to life, as do newspaper volumes, photo albums, and interviews presented on media tables. The table talk format will let the exhibition grow over time, integrating new contributions to the discussion. This arrangement sets the seven Picassos that entered the Kunstmuseum’s collection fifty years ago in the context of the contention over art and museum strategies—underscoring once more their timelessly arresting presence.
The exhibition is organized in cooperation with teamstratenwerth and Emyl.