Art Basel 2018: Swiss Institute director Simon Castets' picks for what to see outside the fair
Simon Castets is director of Swiss Institute
, an independent non-profit contemporary art institution dedicated to promoting forward-thinking and experimental art making through innovative exhibitions and programs.
I've been coming to Basel for years, both as a consummate art lover and in my role as director of Swiss Institute. Over the course of my many trips to the city -- filled with visits to some of the world's best museums, and meetings with artists and curators -- I've always been impressed by how vital art is to the city's urban identity. It can be found almost everywhere you look, at the highest quality, in a city with fewer than 200,000 inhabitants.
So while Art Basel is the major draw this time of year, it's far from the only show in town. Here are some of the most exciting exhibitions to look out for beyond of the main event:
Summer exhibitions at SALTS
"Mud Female Buddha Equinox Ritual" (2014) by Bhanu Kapil and Sharon Carlisle Credit: Courtesy Bhanu Kapil/Sharon Carlisle
SALTS, tucked away in the city's outskirts on the banks of the Birs river, is one of the most exciting contemporary art institutions in Basel. The space is run by Samuel Leuenberger and curated by Elise Lammer. In addition to their astute selection of today's most compelling artists, what sets SALTS apart is their innovative approach to site-specificity. Each exhibition engages with the non-traditional gallery space in a fascinating way -- sometimes completely transforming it, other times enacting subtle, poetic gestures.
This week, they're opening solo exhibitions by artists Rodrigo Hernández and Jumana Manna, along with exhibitions by Bhanu Kapil and Khairani Barokka in the Printed Room, their space dedicated to the display of literary objects and printed materials.
Exhibitions by Rodrigo Hernandez, Jumana Manna, Bhanu Kapil and Khairani Barokka are on at SALTS until Aug. 24, 2018.
'Luke Willis Thompson: _Human' at Kunsthalle Basel
A still from "_Human" (2018) by Luke Willis Thompson Credit: Courtesy Luke Willis Thompson/Hopkinson Mossman/Galerie Nagel Draxler
Swiss Institute had the pleasure of hosting Luke Willis Thompson last summer when we invited him to screen and discuss his recent films. The year since has been transformative for the young artist: he was recently nominated for the Turner Prize.
"_Human," his first solo institutional exhibition in Switzerland, consists of a single-channel video depicting the work of late British artist Donald Rodney. In its elegant, restrained formal composition, the work deftly navigates complex, troubling ruminations on race, inheritance and systemic oppression.
That Thompson films his work on 35mm film, as opposed to digital, enacts a sensory experience that necessitates an in-person visit. Kunsthalle Basel's decision to exhibit Thompson's demonstrates their commitment to forward-thinking, politically urgent art.
'Bacon-Giacometti' at the Fondation Beyeler
Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon in 1965. Credit: Courtesy Graham Keen
During director Sam Keller's decade-long tenure, Fondation Beyeler has staged groundbreaking exhibitions of 19th- and early 20th-century masters such as Paul Klee, Claude Monet and Gustave Courbet, along with retrospectives for contemporary leaders like Roni Horn, Tino Sehgal and Wolfgang Tillmans
Their current exhibition pairs the work of Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti, two of the last century's most influential artists. This desire to catalyze new cross-cultural conversations through unexpected pairings is something we value at Swiss Institute (albeit on a much smaller and modest scale), and it's exciting to see it carried out here at the Beyeler with such precision and vitality.
'Carona' at Weiss Falk
"Carona" (1977) by Iwan Schumacher Credit: Courtesy Iwan Schumacher/Weiss Falk
It's hard to believe that Weiss Falk opened just two years ago, considering the number of outstanding exhibitions they have staged and how quickly they have altered the landscape of young Basel-based galleries.
Along with their keen eye for emerging artists, founders Oskar Weiss and Oliver Falk demonstrate a deep art-historical knowledge, particularly of Swiss art. This can be seen currently in "Carona," a group exhibition curated by Weiss and Arthur Fink, featuring works by Anton Bruhin, Hermann Hesse, Matthyas Jenny, Urs Lüthi, Meret Oppenheim, Markus Raetz, Iwan Schumacher, Peter Schweri and David Weiss.
"Carona" is on at Weiss Falk until July 28, 2018.
Summer exhibitions at FHNW Academy of Art and Design
An installation view of Teresa Solar's solo show, "Flotation Line," at der TANK. Credit: Courtesy Teresa Solar/Guadalupe Ruiz/der TANK, Intitut Kunst HGK FHNW
I am always eager to see the summer exhibitions put on at the Art Institute at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design
, led by the inimitable Chus Martínez. There are three exhibitions taking place throughout the campus, the first being Teresa Solar's solo show, "Flotation Line," at der TANK, curated by Martínez. The second two exhibitions are particularly exciting because they feature the outstanding work of students of all levels, from BAs to graduate students to post-grads -- a testament to all of the fantastic artists currently coming out of Switzerland.
'Theaster Gates: Black Madonna' at Kunstmuseum Basel
A photo from the archives of the Johnson Publishing Company featured in Theaster Gates' new exhibition. Credit: Courtesy Theaster Gates
Much of Theaster Gates' practice is rooted in a collaborative ethos, and "Black Madonna" is no exception. For the exhibition's opening week, Gates has brought in fellow artists, along with architects, researchers and musicians to compose a series of events to accompany his solo exhibition. Spanning the museum's two locations, the programs include recording sessions featuring Gates and his band, the Black Monks of Mississippi, improvisations by musicians of Jazzcampus, and reproduction exercises in which Gates himself will operate the Heidelberg printing press in cooperation with the Basel Papermill.
"READYMADES BELONG TO EVERYONE," the third edition of Swiss Institute's Architecture and Design Series, curated by Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen, opens at Swiss Institute's new location at 38 St. Marks Pl. in New York on June 22, 2018.
Top image: A photo from from the archives of the Johnson Publishing Company featured in "Theaster Gates: Black Madonna."