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Alchemy at Fondation Beyeler – From Sceptic to Enthusiast

In an adapted version of lyrics from a song by the 1970's band America, this article is for all the lonely people thinking that "art" has passed them by.

This, because an outing to an art exhibition would normally be the last thing I would want to do on a weekend.

I fear I was born without the culture gene, despite my love of creative expression in the form of the written word. Consequently, it came as a huge surprise to even me how deeply absorbed I was during my visit to Fondation Beyeler’s The Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting 0,10 (Zero-Ten) and Black Sun exhibitions.

I must confess: I actually enjoyed spending three hours contemplating abstract art. Never before! So, how did this alchemical process from sceptic to enthusiast come about?


Fondation Beyeler

Firstly, I have a soft spot for the Fondation Beyeler. If there is one museum I will go to without kicking and screaming, it is most certainly Beyeler. As a nature lover, the location and design of the museum is a real treat with its stunning, peaceful gardens and amazing views on the surrounding Tüllinger Hill.

Fondation Beyeler Park

The architectural contrast between old and new – namely, the traditional villa with its outbuildings and the modern museum designed by Renzo Piano – are a balanced complement, rather than being in any way conflictual.

Moreover, inside the museum building, the harmony between the creativity of nature and creative human expression is not lost. In many of the exhibition rooms, huge windows overlook the luscious outside vegetation with its water features, giving the rooms both natural light and an extra spatial dimension.

Fondation Beyeler - Gallery Entrance

The second alchemical ingredient was almost certainly the wonderful commentary provided by the Beyeler museum guide, who explained in simple and clear terms the history and concepts underlying the abstract artwork I was contemplating. Her good choice of words and amiable personality brought the whole exhibition to life for me.

In fact, I still had a smile on my face the following day, suggesting the impact of the art on my psyche was emotional and not solely intellectual – a coup d’art no less!


The Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting 0,10

The Fondation Beyeler exhibit marks the centenary of The Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting 0,10, which took place in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) in the winter of 1915/16. The display includes most of the works that are still in existence from the original exhibition; around one third of them – the other two-thirds were probably destroyed over time or in the melee of the Russian Revolution.

To complement these original works from 0,10, the Fondation Beyeler exhibition incorporates additional artwork from the same epoch. Consequently, the exhibition is considered a homage to 0,10 rather than a reproduction.

The Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting 0,10 is synonymous with Kazimir Malevich's painting Black Square - an icon of abstract art. Equally revolutionary was Vladimir Tatlin’s hanging sculpture Corner Counter-Relief made from recycled materials.

In Search of 0,10 - Kazimir Malevich - Black Square Black Circle

The original 0,10 exhibition was not solely a man’s prerogative since women were represented in equal numbers among the 14 artists whose works were displayed. But Malevich and Tatlin opened up completely new paths in what turned out to be a legendary exhibition whose impact on modern art is felt until this day.

Fondation Beyeler - Andy Warhol

In fact, Fondation Beyeler’s parallel display entitled Black Sun is a collection of paintings, sculptures, installations and films by artists from the 20th and 21st centuries whose works have been clearly influenced by Malevich’s Black Square.

Black Sun - Damien Hirst

The most unusual, from my non-savvy perspective, is Damian Hirst’s Black Sun – a large black sphere, which from a distance appears to be made from carpet-like fibres. On closer inspection, it is comprised of hundreds upon hundreds of dead flies stuck together with resin.


More Information

- Fondation Beyeler exhibit information, Riehen/Basel
- Oct 4, 2015 - Jan 10, 2016
- RailAway combo offer: Get 10 percent off the rail fare, public transportation transfers and museum admission.

Black Sun - Ellsworth Kelly


Sam is a freelance communications consultant in Basel. She is the author of three books on self-development topics and considers herself to be a world citizen.

On her days off, Sam can often be found hanging out with the furry residents at the cat shelter in Muttenz.

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