Historic Beauty Meets Contemporary Art in Art Parcours 2011

06/17/2011 04:42 pm ET | Updated Aug 17, 2011

The highly successful Art Parcours program returns for its second edition at Art Basel 42 from June 15-19, inviting viewers to discover the historic city via high-caliber art. Developed for Art Basel 41 by Jens Hoffman, curator and director of the CCA Wattis Institute in San Francisco, the innovative and interactive program blends the scenic beauty of the city with the works of groundbreaking contemporary artists. “When I was asked by Art Basel to conceive a program for the fair that would have a stronger interaction with the city, the first thought that came to my mind was to create a concept that would revolve around the history of Basel,” Hoffman said, in a recent interview with “I went to see various cultural history museums and was fascinated by the diverse and long history of the city. I walked around the old parts of Basel and it immediately made sense to me to connect contemporary art with historical sites.”

Art Parcours is definitely the personification of Hoffman’s idea: uniting the past and present by coupling contemporary art with the culturally and historically-rich Basel. “Basel is rich in history and I wanted to connect my love for history with my love for contemporary art,” Hoffman stated. The first edition of Art Parcours in 2010 took place on the Münsterhügel; this year’s Parcours will feature sites along the Rhine, in the St. Alban Tal area. Art Parcours 42 highlights location-specific artworks by both emerging and established artists (Joan Jonas, Anne Chu, Yinka Shonibare, Ai Weiwei, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Ugo Rondinone, Kris Martin, Frederico Herrero, Gabriel Sierra, and Chris Johanson). Locations include a large cargo ship (Chris Johanson), sections of the old city wall (Ai Weiwei), and the St. Alban Church,(Kris Martin) among others. Pairing the works of these contemporary artists with Basel’s historic landmarks creates a tangible connection between the old world and modern culture that visitors will experience firsthand. “The fair halls are so clean and proper and without much character that the historical buildings that we have chosen seem like the best contrast,” Hoffman explained. “In addition to that, I felt it was important to introduce audiences to this rich history - and what better way to do this, than through art?”

mutual art art parcour

After Hoffman found the venues he spoke to the artists, to collaborate on what pieces would best compliment the chosen locations. “These historical sites all carry social or political subjects into the present that I am interested in exploring with the artists,” Hoffman said. One such example is the work of controversial artist Ai Weiwei, whose recent arrest in late April by the Chinese government has made international headlines. “When I saw the old city wall I had to think of Ai Weiwei's project for Documenta 12, for which he brought 1,001 Chinese citizens to Kassel. The problem obviously was how to get visas and the whole bureaucracy involved with that.” Hoffman continued, “The city wall seems like a symbol of the difficulties of traveling and entering other cultures, countries and places when you do not hold the right passport. It stands in opposite to the way most of us involved in the privileged context of art move around the globe these days. When I thought of this project for Art Parcours in December 2010, Weiwei had not been arrested yet.”

In addition to the 10 artists whose site-specific works are highlighted along the Rhine, there will also be presentations at Art Parcours Night, on Thursday June 16th, with performances by artists and musicians. Artist Chris Johanson will perform with his band ‘Sun Foot’ atop an artwork-turned stage set on a cargo barge. The show will continue throughout the evening with DJ Chris Garret and a film projection by Johanna Jackson, as well as musical performances by local bands. Food, drinks, and extended hours for Art Parcours promise to keep the crowd captivated by this unique project. “I am fascinated by history and one of the most interesting aspects of Art Parcours has been getting to know the city better.” Undoubtedly, the lucky visitors to this inventive show will have the same sentiments after experiencing all that this very special “journey” has to offer.

Written by Staff

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