Why Go to Basel? Fondation Beyeler

by Chikashi

Fondation Beyeler

If you have even a passing interest in 20th century art and happen to be in or around Basel, then a little detour to the Riehen neighbourhood to visit the Fondation Beyeler is in order. Actually, you might even plan a trip to Basel specifically for it (and the Kunstmuseum Basel). The permanent collection is curated, rotated and displayed beautifully, in addition to long term collaboration with the Calder Foundation and the current feature exhibition of Ferdinand Hodler’s work.

I am not sure if one can get too excited about Hodler’s work unless one is or feels Swiss, but there is something strangely disarming about a painter who was rather fond of self portraits, showing subtle changes as his age advanced. In a sense he was way ahead of his times: today it seems quite normal to plaster dodgy pictures of oneself all over the Internet, particularly on Facebook, thanks to quick, easy and cheap digital photography. In contrast, the self portraits done in oil took time, a bit of skill and costly paint. Hodler ought to be the patron saint of the Facebook generation.

Hodler aside, Beyeler’s permanent collection, which includes some of the best pieces from Albers, Giacometti, Léger, Dubuffet, Miró, Kandinsky just to name a few, is nothing short of impressive. I would suggest planning a visit that includes lunching at their brasserie located at the opposite end of the garden. If the weather is nice, take a table outside for a lazy mittagessen. Beyeler’s space is not as expansive as, say, Fondation Maeght, so only a portion of the extraordinary collection are on view at any given time. Therefore, you will not need to allocate many hours for going through the galleries although there is a risk that you may end up staring at Monet’s Rouen Cathedral for longer than anticipated or getting lost in a Rothko piece, but be sure to include some time for a meal.

As far as getting there is concerned, if you, for example, take a taxi from Messeplatz in Basel, it will cost about CHF35, but the #6 tram, which runs every 10 minutes, will take you to the front of their gates for CHF3.40 in the same amount of time. If you plan to cycle there, then there is plenty of cycle parking space within the property. The entry fee for one adult is CHF25, but that’s Switzerland for you, and to be fair, given the quality of the content, it makes fees at many other museums seem terribly overpriced.