The photo archive of Kunsthalle Basel documents our more than 100 years of exhibition history by way of roughly 25,000 photographs. The analog contents of the archive are freely accessible, allowing the study of hundreds of past exhibitions as well as the works they contained and the audiences who visited. The digital archive of Kunsthalle Basel is part of the research database SALSAH of the Digital Humanities Lab of the University of Basel.
➔ To the digital photo archive of Kunsthalle Basel
Kunsthalle Basel’s photo archive is vast, holding many generations’ worth of crucial moments in the institution’s history and the history of modern art; it never fails to surprise even its custodians. Highlights include photos of exhibitions by artists who still shape the surrounding cityscape. Jean Tinguely, who designed the beautiful fountain outside our building, filled the galleries already in 1972 with his kinetic sculptures and machines in a much-visited exhibition. While the works of some artists have radiated far into the urban space, urban culture has also entered our rooms, as when parts of the Basler Fasnacht were banned during World War II, and Kunsthalle Basel was inspired to initiate the 1945 exhibition D’Basler Fasnacht, a kind of replacement for the drey scheenschte Dääg (three most beautiful days). Such flexible reactions to current events are characteristic of an institution of contemporary art such as ours. In 1969, for example, a dozen Basel-based artists, as part of the exhibition Für Veränderungen aller Art, transformed Kunsthalle Basel into mobile, participatory exhibition spaces accessible through a window—a completely anti-authoritarian move echoing the spirit of the 1968 movements. Exhibitions that anticipate the zeitgeist have their aftereffects in the city’s cultural memory and its cultural institutions. The Claude Monet presentation at Fondation Beyeler in 2017 prompted a dive into the photo archive, which revealed previously unpublished photographs of Monet’s Nymphéas — his impressive water-lily paintings —which were first shown outside of France in the Oberlichtsaal of Kunsthalle Basel in 1949. To make such discoveries accessible to researchers and to the general public, we showed many of these gems in the exhibition Exposed Exhibitions: Fotoarchiv der Kunsthalle Basel; we also invited contemporary artists to develop new works especially for the exhibition based on research in the archive’s collection.
Archives on the move is an interactive platform dedicated to the presentation of digital inventories of art institutions. A timeline invites you to discover the former directors of Kunsthalle Basel.
➔ To the timeline of Archives on the move