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Three to see: Basel

From the Beyeler's first photography show to Delvoye’s excrement-making machines

by José da Silva, Emily Sharpe  |  15 June 2017
Three to see: Basel
Wolfgang Tillmans’s Nite Queen (2013) (Photo courtesy of Galerie Buchholz, Maureen Paley and David Zwirner)
The Fondation Beyeler's Wolfgang Tillmans survey (until 1 October) is the institution’s first comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the medium of photography. With more than 200 works spanning the three decades of the German artist’s career, including abstraction, figuration, vast differences in scale and Tillmans’s distinctive method of installation, the survey exemplifies many of the key elements of exhibiting contemporary photography. Among the highlights are images from the early 1990s of the youth culture he was a part of around the time he moved to London from Germany that first put Tillmans on the art world’s radar. In contrast, his close-cropped and often saturated colour landscapes made 20 years later show another, more contemplative side to his work. In an essay accompanying the exhibition, the Beyeler’s senior curator Theodora Vischer quotes Tillmans on the essence of his photographic practice: “It’s all a matter of the gaze, of an open, anxiety-free gaze.”

This is exhibition at the Tinguely Museum is the first major retrospective in Switzerland of the Belgian artist Wim Delvoye (until 1 January). The show spans from early childhood drawings to recent works such as Cement Truck (2012-16), a full-sized steel lorry decorated with neo-Gothic tracery that has been installed outside the museum. Among the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your disposition) will be works from Delvoye’s Cloaca series. The excrement-making machines that recreate the process of human digestion were partly inspired by the mechanical works of Jean Tinguely. The survey will also include the controversial work Tim (2006-08), a tattoo on the back of a man named Tim Steiner who will be on show, topless, during the opening week. The work was sold to a collector in 2008 and when Steiner dies, his tattooed skin will be removed and framed. 

Leave it to Piero Golia, the artist responsible for installing a globe atop West Hollywood’s Standard Hotel that lights up like a beacon when he is in town, to bring some theatrics to his solo show at the Kunsthaus Baselland (until 16 July). “You could say that trying to make a traditional exhibition with Golia is well-nigh impossible,” writes the museum’s director, Ines Goldbach, in a book on the Italian-born, Los Angeles-based conceptual artist that is due to launch during Art Basel. Referencing the idea of art as merchandise—something bought by the square metre—Golia decided to see whether he could “break the numbers” with the help of a robot that possesses an unusual talent: painting. The machine, which weights several tonnes, has taken over a hallway of the Kunsthaus and has free rein to run back and forth on 14 metres of track, painting abstract and geometric compositions as he (or she) goes. Visitors will play their part in the theatrics as the robot is activated when people approach it. 

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