Art Centre Basel (acb) was founded in January 1984 by Suzanne Greub and has since gained international recognition in the field of exhibition curating and management. acb is situated in the heart of the city of Basel, Switzerland. The building was acquired in 1983 and was totally renovated, originally being intended as an exhibition space. However, it was at the suggestion of William Rubin, then Chief Curator at MoMA, New York, that the idea of travelling exhibitions was born, after he visited acb’s inaugural exhibition.
The focus of this initial exhibition ‘Resonances: Tribal Art – Modern Art’ was on the juxtaposition of modern and non-Western art and the exhibition was accompanied by an in-depth catalogue. ‘Resonances’ was shown at the Art Centre Basel from January to June 1984 and reflected the two characteristics that were to mark further exhibitions of acb: topicality, and a combination of different artistic fields and directions.
The first travelling exhibition curated by acb began its tour in January 1986 to two leading museums in Europe, and six in the USA, after being inaugurated in Basel. ‘Authority and Ornament: Art of the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea’ was an international success. In the IBM Gallery of Science and Art, New York, this exhibition attracted 60,000 visitors.
‘Expressions of Belief: Masterpieces of African, Oceanic, and Indonesian Art from the Museum voor Volkenkunde, Rotterdam’ was the third exhibition managed by acb and the first not to be shown at its premises due to the shift in focus from displaying to solely creating and curating international travelling exhibitions. From this point onwards, the programme of acb developed from its focus on non-Western arts to all aspects of world art.
The exhibition ‘Masterpieces from Central Africa: The Tervuren Museum‘ was curated by acb by selecting 100 masterworks from the collection of the Tervuren Museum and travelled to acclaimed museums in Europe, Canada and the USA where the show was praised by its international audience.
After its tour through Europe from 2000 – 2001, the architectural exhibition ‘Museums for a New Millennium: Concepts, Projects, Buildings’ was displayed in the United States and Mexico. From mid-2004, the exhibition was on show in five Japanese museums before concluding its five year international tour in mid-2005 in South Korea. The exhibition comprised a total of 410 exhibits, including 33 architectural models. The exhibition catalogue was published in seven languages. ‘Museums for a New Millennium’ was created by the Art Centre Basel and was academically supported by the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich.
Its follow-up exhibition, ‘Museums in the 21st Century: Concepts, Projects, Buildings’ was on tour from 2006 to 2011 and travelled to 15 museums around the world. Among them were the Pergamon Museum on the Museumsinsel in Berlin, Germany, the National Museum in Oslo, Norway, the Royal Museum in Antwerp, Belgium and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark. The catalogue was published in eight languages.
The success of the architecture exhibition was followed by the exhibition ‘Masterpieces of Medieval Art from the National Museum in Warsaw’, which travelled from 2007 to 2008 to the Seedamm Kulturzentrum near Zürich in Switzerland, the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon, Portugal, the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna, Austria and the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The medieval art collection of the National Museum in Warsaw (NWM) is the most valuable collection of medieval art in Poland and one of the best museum collections in Europe, with masterworks of ecclesiastic art from the golden age of the Gothic period between the 12th and the early 16th century. This major exhibition presented a splendid and representative choice of 27 of the most important winged altarpieces, paintings and sculptures from the NMW collection.
In 2011 the highly anticipated ‘Gauguin Polynesia’ exhibition opened at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, Denmark, which had been curated by Suzanne Greub for several years. The exhibition then travelled to the Seattle Art Museum in the USA. It examined the complex and dynamic relationship between the artworks of Paul Gauguin and the Polynesian arts and cultures he encountered after his arrival in Tahiti in 1891.
‘ Gauguin Polynesia’ was very well received among critics, scholars and museum-goers alike (e.g. 210, 000 visitors in Seattle alone, making it one of the best visited shows in the museum’s history). Furthermore, as a confirmation of the quality of our show and publication, the well-known British art critic Mr. Brian Sewell, included our catalogue ‘Gauguin Polynesia’ in his ‘Top 10 Art Books’ of 2011. (London Evening Standard, December 22, 2011).
In 2015 the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum in Denmark will show our exhibition ‘Monet – Lost in Translation’. Starting with the precursors of plein air painting, the school of Barbizon (Théodore Rousseau, Camille Corot and others) and the circle of Honfleur (Eugène Boudin and Gustave Courbet), the exhibition will display masterworks by Caillebotte, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley, taking the viewer from the forest of Fontainebleau to the beaches at the Atlantic Ocean, from the banks of the Seine and Epte, to blooming fields and finally into Monet’s garden at Giverny. With over 40 lending institutions involved, this exhibition promises to be an extraordinary show.
In 2016 we will show our exhibition ‘Picasso: The Artist and His Muses’ at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Canada. It will examine the significance of Pablo Picasso’s six most prominent muses: Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Roque in the development of his work. The show will feature works spanning almost his entire career from 1906 to the early 1970s, in six sections dedicated to each of these women respectively.
Recently we curated two exhibitions ‘The Cranachs: Courtly Portraits‘ and ‘Towards Impressionism: Landscape Painting from Corot to Monet‘ with works drawn entirely from the collection of the Musée des Beaux-arts de Reims, which will start their international tour in 2018.
Since 1984, the Art Centre Basel has been led by Suzanne Greub, and with the support of deputy director Katharina Beisiegel since 2010. acb works with leading specialists from around the world thus ensuring exhibitions and catalogues which reflect the latest developments in the corresponding academic field.