Basel adds art space to packed museum roster

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BASEL, Switzerland -- This Swiss border city, smack on the French and German frontiers, is an art lover's delight, with 40 museums packed into 14 square miles.

That's the highest concentration of such institutions among towns of similar size in Europe, and the collections in Basel -- home to the annual Art Basel show, the world's largest modern art fair -- range in subject matter from doll houses, toys and caricatures to modern art and industrial design.

The latest addition to Basel's bevy of galleries and museums is the offbeat Schaulager, a sort of combination warehouse, exhibition space and research center for contemporary artwork.

The Schaulager opened May 25 with the first of its planned, once-per-year shows to be open to the public: "Roth Time," a retrospective of the work of the late German-born artist Dieter Roth, which runs through Sept. 14.

Afterward -- and until the next show -- access will be restricted to students, researchers and other authorized visitors.

According to management, the Schaulager's primary mission is "conserving, researching and promoting" modern art, starting with the famed Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation collection, which has outgrown other area museums.

Holdings now number 650 pieces, including new media and installations too large to be displayed at other venues.

The Schaulager's unique architecture and cluttered display aesthetic facilitate easy access to works that might otherwise end up locked away at traditional art institutions.

From Klee to Guinea

The Schaulager's not all that's happening on Basel's museum front.

The Fondation Beyeler -- built by architect Renzo Piano in nearby Riehen to house 200 works of classic modernism -- hosts "Paul Klee -- The Late Work" from Aug. 10 to Nov. 9.

Meanwhile, Basel's Museum of Ethnology offers "Korewori: Magic Art from the Rainforest" until Sept. 28; the landmark show is the first exhibit of all 89 of the museum's New Guinea wood sculptures since 1979.

Savvy agents will sell clients on the Basel Card visitor pass, which offers free admission to 30 area museums and, optionally, free public transportation. Cards are available in 24-, 48- and 72-hour increments; a 24-hour card with free transit costs about $22.

The Swiss Museums Passport offers free entrance to 330 museums across Switzerland; one-month adult passes cost about $22.50, or $26.50 for one adult and up to five kids.

For more on museum visits in Basel, contact Switzerland Tourism at (877) 794-8037 or visit www.myswitzerland.com. Or, visit Basel Museum Services at www.baselmuseums.ch or Basel Tourism at www.baseltourismus.ch. For more on the Schaulager, visit www.schaulager.org.

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