Thursday, January 7, 2010

Basel and Colmar

Fonation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
Isenheim Altarpiece

I will continue to archive my adventures of the last several months. In October I had the good fortune to spend time in Europe, most of which was doing an artist residency in Spain at Can Serrat located in El Bruc just outside of Barcelona. I started my trip visiting friends in Basel, Switzerland. While there I visited the Fondation Beyeler. The Beyeler is the life work of Hildy and Ernst Beyeler, who over a period of fifty years, as collectors and dealers, built up an exceptional collection of works by modern masters. Their collection, which was transferred to a foundation in 1982, was first publicly exhibited in its entirety in 1989. currently comprising around 200 works. The opening of the Fondation Beyler in 1997 provided the Beyeler Collection with a public museum. The building was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. Works by modern master such as Cezanne, Picasso. Rousseau, Mondrian, Klee, Ernst, Matisse, Newman, Bacon, Dubuffet, Baselitz. What was on exhibition during my visit was a great show of drawings, paintings,and sculptures by one of the Beyer's favorite artists: Giacometti.

While in Basel I also had the opportunity to drop down into the north of France to Colmar to visit the Unterlinden Museum, specifically to see the Isenheim Altarpiece. The museum, which opened to the public in 1853, is housed on the site of the former Dominican convent of Uterlinden. The Grunewald masterpiece was executed between 1512 and 1516 for the monastery of the Antonite order in Isenheim, a village 15 miles south of Colmar. This religious institution had a hospice on the premises where the monks ministered to victims of Saint Anthony's fire, a disfiguring disease now called erogotism caused by the ingestion of rye infected with ergot.
To stand in the presence of this work (because of poor weather I was in the room with only two other people) was a profound experience.

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