The day I shook hands with Marina Abramović at Art Basel

Here is Marion B’s first piece for Tropolis – review of Art Basel + Guide: 

Basel: a prosperous and peaceful city. Towards the Tinguely Museum on the Solitude Promenade I am struck by the number of heads bobbing on the Rhine, some tailed by citric coloured buoys. Damn! Could you swim in this river, with its violent current? Though the Swiss never leave things to chance it is possible to dive in. This surprising new means of sightseeing enthuses me and I begin to search for spots to leave my clothes somewhere and swim along for a couple miles. Those Swiss think of everything: what I took for buoys are waterproof bags for clothing. Basel turns into a water-baby break: the pool of our Radisson Hotel is a pure manifestion of the seventies, designed by Dane Verner Panton.

All this gives me appetite for a long Art Day. At Art Basel I resist the urge to shop, leaving behind a portrait of Cindy Sherman and a Pierre Molinier piece. At ART UNLIMITED Mike Nelson’s After Kerouac engulfs the viewer. Damian Ortega’s reconstruction of a three-storey building is a beautifully striped construction with suspended furniture – tables, chairs and tables and paintings within. The FOUNDATION BEYELER presented a Jeff Koons exhibition and a set of films by Philippe Parreno including a superb Marilyn Monroe narrative, the ghost of the star wandering around her favourite Waldorf Astoria suite. The museum, by Renzo Piano sits like a jewel in open nature.

Herzog de Meuron’s Vitra Haus is a construct of twelve houses nested into one other, and well worth a detour even though its a little ‘Ikea chic’ inside. Vitra offer an ‘on demand’ service where you can watch your chosen chair come together right in front of you. 

And so to The Life & Death of Marina Abramović: precise scenography, perfect lighting and haunting music – which all came together to present the major themes in her work. My heart flipped when Marina’s assistant invited me backstage at the end of the show: the artist’s face was covered with a thick slick of white makeup, her handshake firm and her gaze piercing. 

Basel Guide

Sleeping (and swimming)

Radisson Blu Hotel, Steinentorstrasse 25, +41 (0) 61 227 2727

Sleeping, Eating and Terrace drinks

Der Teufelhof Basel Leonhardsgraben 49, + 41 (0) 61 261 10 10

Drinking: Aperol on the Rhine

Restaurant Veronica, St. Alban-Rheinweg 195
CH-4052 Basel +41 61 311 25 75

Sunday Brunch

Löwenzorn Brasserie, Gemsberg 2/4, +41 (0) 61 261 42 13

St Elizabeth Church Tower for Views 

Elisabethen Kirche, Elisabethenstrasse 10-14

Art and Architecture

Foundation Beyler

Fondation Beyeler, Baselstrasse 1014125 Riehen, Schweiz

Vitra Design Museum

Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Str. 1, Weil am Rhein

Musée Tinguely

Musée Tinguely, Paul Sacher-Anlage 2 | Postfach 3255 CH-4002 Basel


Kunsthalle, Klostergasse 5, Schweiz


Kunstmuseum, Sankt Alban-Graben 16


Schaulager, Ruchfeldstrasse 19, Münchenstein

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