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While we were in Basel for a weekend to see the military band performances, the Basel Tattoo, we spent Sunday morning checking out this museum.

Schaulager is one of the more enigmatic art museums which we have visited.


The word “Schaulager” means “show-warehouse” which is consistent with the museum’s philosophy of storing and at the same time showing as much of the collection as possible. The building finished in 2003 is the work of local (also internationally known) architects – Herzog & de Meuron – see their comments on this building here.

The works stored here are unpacked and arranged in accessible spaces, installed according to the artists’ intentions. The conditions under which the works are kept visible correspond to international conservation standards; they are maintained at levels of light, temperature and humidity determined as ideal for storing artworks. The works are thus in an ‘optimal condition’ for viewing.


One enters the museum through this small stone structure. The off-centered entrance is aligned compositionally with a sign with the name of the museum placed towards the top left.


The stone structure is empty inside except a trio of openings for ventilation.


One exits the stone structure at the side behind the railings into a small concrete courtyard.


The courtyard leads to the real entrance of the massive white-faced building behind the stone structure.


When viewed from afar, the facade of the white building consists of three panels that are aligned to give the impression of a blank projection screen in the center and LED video displays on either side.


The real entrance is set into a sliver of glass at the base of the building, the top line of the glass slants at an angle upwards from the horizon from each side, mirroring a sloped roof above it which forms a shallow canopy above the courtyard.


This is how the architects described the front of the building:

The external shape of the warehouse is pragmatically derived from the geometry of the internal storage arrangements and the setback requirements of the building code. This led to a polygonal building made out of materials extracted on site and looking as if it had been extruded from the ground. The façade of the polygon facing Emil-Frey-Strasse is indented to create a kind of forecourt, which identifies the entrance area visibly from a distance. This entrance seems to be guarded by a little building with a gable roof, constructed from the same earthy material as the warehouse. Together the little gatehouse and the indentation form a courtyard-like space with a metropolitan ambiance.


Schaulager houses the collection of the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation which was founded in 1933. After more than seventy years of collecting, the Foundation possesses paintings, groups of drawings, sculptures, installations, video projects and films by approximately 150 artists.

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Because the museum applies the “No Photography” rule very strictly, we barely took any pictures. So many of the images shown in this post are actually borrowed from Schaulager’s web site.

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According to Schaulager’s web site:

The works that entered the collection early on – such as Delaunay, Klee, Max Ernst, and the Belgian Expressionists – have long since become classics of modernism. Likewise, the works from the 1960s and 1970s – with striking groups of works by Joseph Beuys and Bruce Nauman – have long since become established in the history of art. The more recent purchases – groups of works by Jeff Wall and Katharina Fritsch or Fiona Tan and Andrea Zittel – explore new territory and challenge the viewer’s receptivity.

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Katharina Fritsch, Rattenkönig, (Rat-King) occupies a huge white room, a permanent home for this oversized work.


… just to put the size of the rats into perspective …


We only managed to see the exhibition’s lower floors, the upper floors were closed by the time we wanted to go.

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Leo di Caprio in Bjork’s swan dress ?


The current exhibition is ‘Future Present” which will run till the end of January 2016.


Basel is truly a place for art.

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