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From Roma Eterna: 2,000 years of sculpture, to Charles Ray’s contemporary approach

By Shirley L. Kearney

The Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig (Basel Museum of Ancient Art and Ludwig Collection) presents, for the first time in Switzerland, masterworks from the imperial Roman period up to the mid-19th century. Sixty of the works come from the Santarelli family collection and 10 from that of art historian Federico Zeri. They are thematically arranged in refreshingly soft pastel-painted rooms; the descriptive texts are in German and in an engrossing and entertaining English. Attention is called to the subtle differences in the execution of the sculptures conflicting with desire and reality. From children’s faces to a flayed man, rendered in the varied colours of marble, alabaster or porphyry, the works are there to be admired and studied.6_01 (Photo: The holy Stanislas Kostka, probably 1703 from the workshop of Pierre Legros (1666–1719.)

The exhibition opens with a reproduction of a sculptor’s workshop which integrates some casts from the Skulpturhalle.

For a unique experience, cross the street, St. Alban-Graben, and enter the Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Art). On the second floor is the exhibition of Charles Ray Sculptures, with works from 1997 to 2014. His material is steel. The Boy with the Frog (2009), which was recently removed from its original home at the Punta della Dogana in Venice as the city fathers failed to renew the permit for the site-specific sculpture, is making a first museum appearance. All of its eight-foot tall, stark white majesty can be admired in a room of its own.

The first piece on display is a painstakingly executed oeuvre (1997) of a wrecked 1991 Pontiac Grand Am which was dismantled and recreated in fibreglass.

The exhibition is a combined venture with the Museum für Gegenwartskunst (Contemporary Art Museum), located a short stroll away on St. Alban-Rheinweg near the Rhine, where further works are on show. The self-portrait of Shoe Tie (2012) is appropriately on the ground floor.image003 (Photo: Shoe Tie, 2012, © Charles Ray, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, Foto: Bryan Krueger)

An exceptional sculptural excursion spanning over 2,000 years. The Roma Eterna exhibition is open until 16 November; Charles Ray Sculptures until 28 September. On Friday 26 September, as a closure to the Charles Ray exhibition, the artist will present his personal comments on his creative work – in English –at 7 pm in the lecture hall of the Kunstmuseum, entrance on Picassoplatz. Entrance is free.

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