Jasper Johns, born in 1930, ranks among the major American artists of the twentieth-century. Widely regarded as a precursor of Pop Art, Johns began producing his iconic paintings of US flags and targets in the late 1950s: the series Flags and Targets earned him international fame, and today his works may be found around the globe. And yet it is unlikely that more than a select circle of individuals are aware of the artist’s activities as collector.
Artists’ collections are commonly the outcome of gifts or a flourishing exchange of works among colleagues. The same holds for Jasper Johns, but by no means for all the works comprising his collection: he acquired a large portion thanks to his keen connoisseurial eye whereby not all the works are from the hands of contemporaries. Ranging from the nineteenth century through to the present, both comprehensive bodies of works— those, for instance, by Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning,— and expressive single sheets— such as those of Käthe Kollwitz, Marcel Duchamp or Sol LeWitt,— form part of the collection. In its entirety, the collection stands testimony to Johns’s strong affinity to all facets of the medium of drawing.
The Kunstmuseum Basel exhibition features a selection of approximately 100 drawings from the Collection of Jasper Johns. As a point of departure, the central subject is the human body, to which a large number of these works on paper is dedicated. The show encompasses a variety of expressive drawing styles spanning Impressionism and Abstract Expressionism through to contemporary works, and, for the first time, affords a truly representative insight into this singular collection.
On occasion of the exhibition, we dedicate an entire gallery at our Neubau venue to Johns’s works in the Kunstmuseum Basel’s collection. The presentation combines his most important paintings with prints from the Kupferstichkabinett’s extensive holdings.