Wolfgang Tillmans, Tree Filling Window, 2002

Lucas Arruda.

Olafur Eliasson, Moss Room, 1994.

The title of the Fondation Beyeler’s exhibition, The Mind’s Eye, refers to the ability of someone - artists, in this case - to imagine and visualize a particular event. The exhibition presents 40 works depicting nature covering 100 years - from Monet to Otobong Nkanga or Olafur Eliasson. Over the course of a century, our relationship to nature has changed. Claude Monet’s painting is full of joyfulness and optimism, showing nature as unspoiled, even if he could sense the fragility of the garden he had created. In Otobong Nkanga’s, an artist born in 1974, the large tapestry is filled with beautiful shells, aquatic plants, corals, but the ocean floor has collected objects reminiscent of machine parts. Pierre Huygue, whose sculpture has given its name to the exhibition, uses a variety of materials - “materialized deep image reconstruction”, synthetic and biological material, aggregate (sugar, resin, stainless steel), microorganisms - explores what it means to exist in the world as a living being. Among the other artists featured in this beautiful and sensitive show: Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Miro, Max Ernest, Wolfgang Tillmans, Lucas Arruda, Roni Horn, Rachel Whiteread. 

There could not be a more wonderful setting for such an exhibition on nature than the beautiful Fondation Beyeler, on the outskirts of Basel. It is set in a gorgeous park surrounded by fields. The structure was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. The private foundation, imagined by Swiss gallerist Ernst Beyeler and his wife Hildy, has become the most visited cultural institution in Switzerland. It’s literally a small piece of paradise and the exhibition The Mind’s Eye reminds us of the beauty but also the fragility of “Nature” at this moment in our history. 

Jean-Sébastien Stehli

The Mind’s Eye. Images of Nature from Claude Monet to Otobong Nkanga. Fondation Beyeler, outskirts of Basel, Switzerland. Until Aug 27, 2023.

June 26, 2023 — Jean Sebastien Stehli