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From Garage to Gallery, from Scrap to Art and Destruction

The late Bernhard Luginbühl was larger-than-life, and his works of art often massive – some of them can soon be seen in a former garage.

By Shirley L. Kearney

The mischievously whimsical yet serious Bernhard Luginbühl (1929 – 2011) would be smiling at the thought of his forthcoming exhibition (4 September – 24 October) to be displayed in the 850 m2 von Bartha building, a former garage, at Kannenfeldplatz 6. Outside, the petrol pumps still function. Inside, major art breathes in the space it merits.

Von Bartha was established in 1970 by Margareta and Miklos von Bartha, with their main focus on concrete art, op art and kinetic art to which it steadfastly holds. Since then several locations have opened in Switzerland:  the gallery collection is housed in a historic villa in the centre of Basel and can be visited by appointment; four to six exhibitions of contemporary art are held annually at the former garage at Kannenfeldplatz; in S-chanf, close to St. Moritz, a 60m2 high-ceilinged white cube is used for site specific installations.

Luginbühl’s massive and rusty creations showered the Bernese son of a butcher with an international acclaim which he handled in his laid-back stride, just as sending a selfie today.  He was a bigger-than-life individual in all ways. Many of his works move and clang; but then some are small and still; others have been blown up or set on fire in his combustion actions, usually in protest to urban development. Graphic design and film making were also on his chart. A selection of drawings are in the Engraving Cabinet of the Kunstmuseum Basel.

He married twice; the resulting five children carried on in the same artistic direction as their father, albeit in a quieter style.

The “Dickfigur Beteigeuze” (1996) structure stands outside the Tinguely Museum. “Amboss” (anvil) is a rusty playhouse complete with slide and softened with cascading vines is in “Park im Grünen” in Münchenstein; a beloved destination for frolicking children and adults.


He collaborated with like-minded expansive and explosive artists, such as Dieter Roth and Jean Tinguely. The Luginbühl Museum is fittingly housed in the former slaughter house in Burgdorf, BE.


Luginbühl exhibition at von Bartha: 5 September – 24 October
Admission free
Kannenfeldplatz 6
4056 Basel

Opening times:
Tuesday to Friday 2 pm – 6 pm
Saturdy 11 am – 4 pm

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