Kunstmuseum Basel Reopens in April with New $100 Million Building

It's an eventful year for the storied museum.

The newly-renovated Kunstmuseum Basel (right) with the adjacent new building (left). Photo: Julian Salinas, courtesy Kunstmuseum Basel
The newly-renovated Kunstmuseum Basel (right) with the adjacent new building (left).
Photo: Julian Salinas, courtesy Kunstmuseum Basel

After a year of touring the world, Basel’s world class collections can finally return home. The Kunstmuseum Basel, one of the largest and oldest public art collections in Europe, will reopen in April ahead of the major European fair Art Basel, following 12 months of closure.

The museum’s main building is a staple of every visit to the Art Basel fair. Built in 1936, it has undergone extensive renovation in the past year. Meanwhile, a whole new building—designed by Basel architects Christ & Gantenbein, who presented their project at a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday—has been completed just a stone’s throw away. The new wing, which cost CHF 100 million ($103 million), is connected to the main building with an underground tunnel, and echoes its neo-classical architectural elements and stone façade.

The new building by architects Chris + Gantenbein opens to the public on April 17. <br>Photo: Julian Salinas, courtesy Kunstmuseum Basel

The new building by architects Christ + Gantenbein opens to the public on April 17.
Photo: Julian Salinas, courtesy Kunstmuseum Basel.

This adds a third exhibition space to the institution’s existing main building and its second house, the Kunstmuseum Basel Gegenwart—previously the Museum für Gegenwartskunst (Museum of Contemporary Art)—which was renamed this past Friday.

The first exhibition in the newly-erected building is titled “Sculpture on the Move 1946-2016,”and will open to the public on April 17. The show is a survey spanning seven decades of works in the medium of sculpture, and includes artworks by Alberto Giacometti, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra, Katharina Fritsch, Félix González-Torres, and Oscar Tuazon, among other artists. 

It is also the last show curated by outgoing director Bernhard Mendes Bürgi.

The museum of contemporary art in Basel has been renamed to simply Gegenwart (Contemporary) <br>Photo: Julian Salinas, courtesy Kunstmuseum Basel

The museum of contemporary art in Basel has been renamed to simply Gegenwart (Contemporary). 
Photo: Julian Salinas, courtesy Kunstmuseum Basel.

The final change in this eventful year for the museum will take place in the summer, when Bürgi retires and is succeeded in September by Josef Helfenstein, who stepped down from his position as director of the Menil collection in Houston last summer after 12 years.

Josef Helfenstein <br>Photo: Lyn Lane, courtesy Kunstmuseum Basel

Josef Helfenstein will take up his new position as director in September 2016.
Photo: Lyn Lane, courtesy Kunstmuseum Basel

During its one-year closure, the Kunstmuseum Basel loaned parts of its holdings to be exhibited in other museums around the city, but also in international institutions. At the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, the museum’s loans proved to be a crowd magnet, drawing some 550,000 visitors in six months.


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