Surviving Switzerland During Art Basel 2024
Advisory Perspective

Surviving Switzerland During Art Basel 2024

By Annabel Downes | Zurich and Basel, 7 June 2024

That there's even a possibility when arriving at EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg that you could mistakenly wheel your suitcase through customs into France or Germany and spend your Monday morning trying to talk your way back to the Swiss exit for Basel is enough to send most people's travel anxiety into a frenzy.

I'd argue for that reason alone, most visitors to Art Basel (13–16 June 2024)—albeit the nervy ones like myself—will come through Zurich, just an hour away by train.

Yet as visiting Art Basel entails more than just browsing the booths—with tons to see, do, eat, and drink en route to the fair—we'll start our tour in Zurich and continue to Basel including an unmissable exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel and what might very well be Switzerland's best Mexican restaurant.

Murales de Giacometti, Fraumünster Church.

Murales de Giacometti, Fraumünster Church. Courtesy Ocula Advisory. Photo: Rory Mitchell.

Löwenbräukunst, Zurich

In 1996, Löwenbräu, one of Germany's oldest and best-loved breweries was hijacked by the Swiss art scene. Youth riots throughout the 1980s set the stage for more liberal creativity in the city, which saw the likes of Kunsthalle Zürich and Hauser & Wirth set up shop in industrial-era buildings such as the former brewery on Limmatstrasse, forging reputations for legendary post-opening parties. Today there are dozens of art institutions within Löwenbräukunst's historic red-brick walls, many opening their doors during Zurich Art Weekend (7–9 June 2024).

Kunsthalle Zürich is host to American photographer David Armstrong's first extensive exhibition, alongside a solo presentation by the relatively unknown style-defying Portuguese artist Ana Jotta.

Nearby, Luma Westbau presents the exhibition Dissonant Belonging, comprising a series of photographic projects by the Palestinian artist Ahlam Shibli that reveal traumas that have left their mark on the bodies of oppressed, marginalised, and underrepresented members of society.

At Hauser & Wirth, Iranian-German visual artist Nairy Baghramian concludes her sculpture series 'Modèle vivant' (2022–ongoing). On the second floor, Musa Mayer, the daughter of Philip Guston and president of The Guston Foundation, helped curate an exhibition of her father's late figurative paintings dating from 1968 to 1979.

Shara Hughes, Branching Out (2024). Oil, acrylic and dye on canvas. 198 x 168 cm. © Shara Hughes.

Shara Hughes, Branching Out (2024). Oil, acrylic and dye on canvas. 198 x 168 cm. © Shara Hughes. Courtesy Galerie Eva Presenhuber.

At this point, it's about dividing the loyal from the lax. The former would cart over to Rämistrasse, our next leg of the tour. But for those who run out of steam, head for lunch at KINDLI on Strehlgasse 24, a Zurich staple for a good crowd and great food in one of the city's oldest buildings.

'Old Zurich people, business people, art people—you'll have conversations with them all,' one local claims.

And for those 11th-hour packers, or those lucky enough to have talked the pants off the art handler at Geneva's renowned freeport over a kernotto (Swiss risotto), you'll sigh in relief over the ample supply of disposable toothbrushes on offer in the bathrooms.

Even if you're in neither camp, taking to the brush between courses seems like a prime opportunity to ponder tomorrow's excitements. Is it worth trekking out to see Cloud Chronicles, Fondation Beyeler's experimental presentation of contemporary art? (Yes, always.) Will Mitchell-Innes & Nash's Joan Miro work on paper look as A++ as it does on my computer screen in London? (Yes, probably.) If I refrain from a second bratwurst at Messe Basel will I have the energy to crane my neck up to see the sculptural spectacles at Art Basel Unlimited? (No, probs not.)

Bratwurst at Messe Basel. Photo: Margaux Cerruti

Bratwurst at Messe Basel. Photo: Margaux Cerruti

If you are more partial to a sombrero than a white cotton tablecloth, La Taqueria in Kreis 4 (and in Altstetten too) is 'the best Mexican restaurant in Switzerland,' according to another credible local.

For a country where a Sichuan hotpot or an Eritrean injera are as scarce as a bench at an art fair, this is quite a claim. With blue corn quesadillas, Oaxaca cheese, tons of Mexican sodas and beers, and few pretensions, the eatery is only slightly let down by the lack of bathroom dental products.

Altstadt, Zurich

While in Zurich's Old Town, it would be worth your while to check out the entrance hall of Zurich Police Station adorned with floral frescos by Augusto Giacometti (a cousin of Alberto Giacometti), and Chagall's stained-glass windows at Fraumünster Church.

Giacometti has also done a job on the choir windows of Grossmünster Church, a short walk across the river from Fraumünster. There you can bask in the stained glass windows by Sigmar Polke before heading over to Rämistrasse, a street home to Hauser & Wirth Publishers' HQ and five fabulous neighbouring galleries and shows.

Galerie Urs Meile is showing Chinese artist Shao Fan's ink drawings, Bernheim Gallery brings Russian-born Ebecho Muslimova, a two-part painting presentation with Mendes Wood DM's São Paulo gallery, while Galerie Peter Kilchmann hosts the multi-disciplinary South Londoner Grace Schwindt.

Surviving Switzerland During Art Basel 2024 Image 147

Courtesy Ocula Advisory. Photo: BAJ.

Mai 36 Galerie is showcasing Matt Mullican, an artist they've worked with since the gallery was first established in Lucerne in 1988, while around the corner on Waldmannstrasse, Galerie Eva Presenhuber is hosting New York-based Shara Hughes' joyful landscape paintings.

For drinks, Stereo Bar, Milieu, and Raygrodski are where to go after-hours before heading to Supermarket, an electronic club opened in a former garage in Zürich-West. For the audiophiles, the club boasts 360-degree LCD panels and great sound; for chuffers, there are two bars and a great garden canopied by trees. And for the bluffers, it's only open on Saturday 15 June, so you've got an out. Lucky you.


By the time you've taken the train to Basel, seen all the art you've ever wished to see in one day in one trade centre, and rented a dry bag (and prayed that it's worked) for your ride down the Rhine, there's often little left in the tank.

Floating down the Rhine. Photo: Annabel Downes.

Floating down the Rhine. Photo: Annabel Downes.

But if there's one show to see, it's Kunsthalle Basel's solo exhibition of Nigerian-born artist Toyin Ojih Odutola. You may have laid eyes on her distinctive mark-making technique—layers of detail with ballpoint pens, pencils, pastels and charcoal—in the Nigerian Pavilion at Venice this year. Her first institutional presentation in Switzerland provides a thorough and captivating collection of newly drawn works on paper, primed linen, and canvas panels.

As briefly pondered over while in the bathroom at KINDLI, the Fondation Beyeler transformed their entire museum and surrounding park for the first time in its 25-plus-year history into an 'experimental presentation of contemporary art'. Meanwhile Gagosian on Rheinsprung opens an exhibition of work by Donald Judd. Ten single-unit works are mounted to the wall, all made by the artist in Switzerland between 1987 and 1991.

GANNET, Basel. Photo: Charlie Hui.

GANNET, Basel. Photo: Charlie Hui.

Of course, these exhibitions come secondary to what brought us to Basel in the first place. That being GANNET, the food, drink, and live music venue in Basel's harbour district at Holzpark Klybeck. Miake Izakaya Basel, the city's first authentic Japanese izakaya restaurant, is equally good.

For late-night bars, recommend RENÉE and Basso, while those who missed out on Supermarket's short window can get their fix at Elysia, a techno club offering the best dance floor, sound system, and vibe in Basel.

With the anxiety of Basel airport behind us, we find ourselves dreading the trek back to Zurich. But it's worth it as we love the art, but also perhaps the thought of our two month summer hiatus a little more...

Main image: Courtesy Ocula Advisory. Photo: Annabel Downes.

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