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Niko Pirosmani, Fondation Beyeler (mit Baselitz Raum) 17. Sept 2023 – 28. Jan 2024


Fondation Beyerler: Niko Pirosmani (mit Baselitz Raum)

17. Sept 2023 – 28. Jan 2024

In his 1772 play "Emilia Galotti", Gotthold Ephraim Lessing asks the court painter of Guastalla rhetorically whether Raphael would not have become the greatest genius of painting, even if he had unfortunately been born without hands. In a way, Lessing is anticipating the inevitable dispute between craftsmanship and intellectual conception that emerged with the advent of conceptual art in the 20th century at the latest. To what extent does an artist still have to realise technical masterpieces themselves today or to what extent is it enough to "only" (what a bizarre word in this context!) present a good idea? And what happens when neither one nor the other succeeds?

Take the current presentation of several works by Georg Baselitz at the Fondation Beyeler. Based on a presumed portrait of the Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani, long known only to art experts, the two double-sided oil paintings by Baselitz hanging from the ceiling are intended as an homage to his role model. In addition to their exemplary illustration of the history of painting from the beginning to the end of the 20th century, the paintings refer to Pirosmani's life and work history in particular through their titles "From Tbilisi to Paris and back I and II". While his works in the adjoining monographic exhibition fascinate across rooms with their almost surreal imagery, unusual colour combinations and unique motifs from the animal and human world, the pictures by the German painter are strongly reminiscent of the mass-produced cheap portraits by Mallorcan street artists, which promise their mostly inexperienced mass tourism audience handcrafted authenticity through special squiggling of the contours and supposedly unintentional splashes of colour. In true Baselitzian style, "From Tbilisi to Paris and Back I and II" are actually only ennobled by their upside-down presentation and, of course, the fame attached to the name of their great creator. The fact that this fame was basically justified is impressively illustrated by the painting "Various Signs" from 1965 in the same room.

Man kann somit nicht anders, als sich zu fragen: Wäre denn Baselitz auch heute noch das grosse Genie der Malerei, wenn sein Team ohne raumhohe Leiter zur Aufhängung gekommen wäre?

So one can't help but wonder: would Baselitz still be the great genius of painting today if his team had been able to hang his work without a room-high ladder?

Q.U.I.C.H.E. are semi-monthly thoughts about cultural moments in Basel and the surrounding area. Formulated by a loosely organised collective of queer people who dance in the haze of Basel's cultural scene.