New Picasso exhibition opens at Kunstmuseum Basel
In its own words, the Kunstmuseum is revisiting “one of the biggest moments” in its history with “The Picasso Story”: the acquisition of seven Picasso paintings in 1967. The new exhibition shows the historical context of this period in time.
“The Picasso Story” celebrates a jubilee: 50 years ago, the museum’s seven Picassos were first exhibited in Basel. Now, they are all to be presented together once again. But the preview of “Art. Money. Museum. The Picasso Story, 50 Years Later” on Thursday also revealed how the paintings were originally acquired.
What was going on behind the scenes – who were the masterminds behind that event in 1967, which was later often called “The wonder of Basel”? The exhibition is less about art and paintings and more about a (probably unique) happening in the museum’s and Basel’s history, Kunstmuseum director, Josef Helfenstein, told the media yesterday.
The Basel “Picasso-Story” started with a disaster: An aeroplane owned by the Basel charter carrier, Globe-Air, crashed in Cyprus, killing 124 people. The company’s main shareholder, Peter Staechelin, faced financial problems. Two Picasso paintings, which had been donated to the Kunstmuseum by Staechelin’s father and had formed part of the collection since 1947, were now at risk of being sold.
But Basel did not give them up that easily. The cantonal authorities agreed to provide six million Swiss francs to buy the paintings and this was backed by the public in a popular referendum. This amount financed a large part of the 8,4 million francs needed to acquire the two Picassos – today, the total amount would be much, much higher. The rest of the amount was collected with donations.
What happened then could only be described as a “wonder”. Not only did Basel get to keep the two paintings “Les deux frères” and “Arlequin assis” – Picasso himself, who had been following the events from Mougin in Southern France, gave the city four more paintings as a gift. And then, the Basel patron Maja Sacher donated one more painting. How did it come to this?
But curator Eva Reifert and exhibition director, Christoph Stratenwerth, did not provide more information about the “wonder” yesterday. Instead, they showed who had played which role – museum director, art commission, patrons, Basel artists, visitors – and this shed light on the controversial situation.
The acquisition of the two Picassos was a topic of debate – in the end, the public had to vote on the matter. And the arguments of supporters and opponents from 1967 show that times haven’t changed that much regarding art, money, and museums.
Is art really worth millions? Shouldn’t tax money be used for retirement homes instead? And why does this art in particular belong in a museum? Those were a few of the discussion topics back then. The exhibition also shows newspaper readers’ letters about Basel’s Picassos from 1967 – an intriguing window into the past.
Likewise, original donation receipts with amounts ranging from ten francs to several tens of thousands are fascinating from today’s perspective. The exhibition also features pictures by the press photographer, Kurt Wyss, and of course the seven Picasso paintings themselves. As a highlight, a draft version of his central piece “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” is also on display.
With its historical context and comparatively small amount of paintings, the new exhibition (open from 10 March to 12August) cannot be compared to the Kunstmuseum’s grand Picasso retrospective from 2013. It follows Josef Helfenstein’s idea of creating content with the existing collection of the Kunstmuseum.
The weather forecast for the third "Bummelsonntag"
The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the buvette bars are opening up at the Rhine promenade. Everything seems to be getting ready for spring. During the next days, however, sun and rain will go hand in hand.
Let’s start with the good news: The temperature will continue to rise in the next few days. Today, the maximum temperature will reach 12.7 °C, with a slight chance of rain in the morning and late afternoon.
The weekend will also be warm, reaching 10.7 °C on Saturday. In the morning, there is a 50 per cent chance of rain which will reach 100 per cent later in the day. Therefore, it is wise not to forget your umbrella and Wellington boots.
On Sunday it will remain dry until noon – perfect for a little stroll. However, the third “Bummelsonntag” is most likely going to be wet: at 7pm, there is a 100 per cent chance of rain.
Driver injured in road accident in Läufelfingen
A driver was taken to hospital after her car slid on ice at Untere Hauensteinstrasse in Läufelfingen (Baselland) yesterday morning.
According to current investigations by Baselland police, the 27-year-old was leaving the village when she lost control of her car on a left bend due to ice on the road. The car spun 180 degrees before rolling down a slope for about 20 metres.
The driver was slightly injured and had to be taken to a hospital. The vehicle had to be retrieved with a crane and waslater towed away.