Continuing the mission of Kunsthalle Basel to promote knowledge and curiosity about international art, the library of the Basler Kunstverein is free and open to the public. It houses an impressive selection of 30,000 books and catalogs on topics related to contemporary art and subscribes to 35 different magazines of art and culture.
- Opening hours
Tue/Thurs 9 am–12:30 pm and 1:30–5 pm
(outside opening hours by appointment)
You can see the books recently acquired by the Basler Kunstverein here.
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About the history of the library
The history of the Basler Kunstverein library traces back to 1812, the same year the Basler Künstlergesellschaft was founded. Although the library’s purchases were relatively modest until the end of the century, the reading, discussing, and sharing of these art books among artist and art-minded members was a popular activity. When the Künstlergesellschaft was dissolved in 1839, the holdings of the library, a total of forty volumes and brochures, became the property of the newly founded Kunstverein.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the library specialized more strongly in modern art, primarily thanks to librarians Ernst A. Stückelberg (1905–1912), Rudolf Riggenbach (1914–1922), and Georg Schmidt (1922–1937). Stückelberg expanded the holdings on French art of the nineteenth century, which Riggenbach continued. To this day, these books constitute the historical core of the library. Publications like Wassily Kandinsky’s On the Spiritual in Art, which was acquired in its publication year, 1912, represented the latest tendencies of the avant-garde. More such volumes soon found their way into the holdings, in particular under Schmidt’s tenure.
By 1937 the library contained five thousand titles, including many rare first editions, and was one of the most complete art libraries in Switzerland. Today it holds roughly thirty thousand titles. The latest acquisitions are almost exclusively books on contemporary art, reflecting both the theoretical and artistic predilections of Kunsthalle Basel’s directors and exhibition activities. The long-standing White, male, Eurocentric focus is gradually being diversified thanks to artists’ books, magazines, and exhibition catalogues on more diverse and global practices.
Since its founding, the library has been significant not only as a custodian of publications by and about artists who have exhibited at Kunsthalle Basel, but also as a meeting place and source of inspiration for them. In 1985 for instance, Joseph Beuys, Jannis Kounellis, Anselm Kiefer, and Enzo Cucchi met in the library for several days at the invitation of then-director Jean-Christophe Ammann and passionately discussed art around the table that still graces the reading room today. For her 1999 exhibition, Candida Höfer took iconic photographs of the very same reading room. Innumerable readings, performances, and other events have taken place there, and nearly every artist who has exhibited at Kunsthalle Basel (a venerable list) has ventured up the stairs and into the library. If only those walls (of books) could speak!
Library Stack is a living collection of independent ebooks, audio files, videos and digital documents being published within the fields of contemporary art, design, media studies, cinema, architecture, and philosophy.
Edcat is a digital catalog for art editions and publications bringing together artists, publishers, researchers, collectors, and distributors.