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Francis Bacon’s paintings and Alberto Giacometti’s sculptures at the Beyeler Foundation gallery. Photo: Arvind Vijaymohan
Francis Bacon’s paintings and Alberto Giacometti’s sculptures at the Beyeler Foundation gallery. Photo: Arvind Vijaymohan

A gentleman’s indulgences

This week: Beyeler Foundation

I had originally considered not talking shop here, but I’m bending the rules a touch.

I suspect I am one of the privileged few whose travel, thankfully, does not involve the commonplace drudgery of meetings and presentations. Perhaps the finest facet of my day job is that it mandates visiting spaces filled with art. While on the move, I’ve consumed more galleries than calories and spent more time with paintings than with people. About museum collections, the spectrum has been rather wide, with visits encompassing acute highs and lows—literally. From 53 storeys above ground with a spectacular panoramic view of a city, to a private subterranean lair housed below a world-famous landmark—I’ve seen a fair lot.

Amongst my favourites is the Beyeler Foundation in Riehen, Switzerland. Created to house the private collection of Hildy and Ernst Beyeler, who co-founded Art Basel, the most prestigious event on the global art calendar, this Renzo Piano-designed museum has always been a treat for the senses.

Overlooking the verdant expanses of the Tüllinger Hills, it is as much a visual delight to walk through the museum as is strolling through its lush lawns. Over the past 15 years, my annual itinerary during Art Basel has featured a day dedicated to driving up to this museum, usually followed by a picnic en plein air, a la The Sound Of Music. This year I missed my picnic due to a spectacular show that kept me indoors till I was asked to leave by the otherwise polite ushers (I’d lingered well past closing hour).

The show was centred on Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti—two legends whose works, surprisingly, have never been displayed together in a dedicated exhibition. On the surface, one might’ve failed to grasp the common constituents but the parallels emerge magically.

Both preferred to render their vision in a larger than life scale. They created these overwhelming works in claustrophobic studio spaces. Their primary subject, throughout their illustrious careers, was the study of the individual. They are known for portraiture, for depicting in stark setting and light the solitude of the human figure, always contorted and misshapen. These individual narratives find voice via about 100 spectacular works, many being seen publicly for the first time, resulting in the perfect symphony.

I can’t wait to return to the foundation. As much for their next exhibition as for the Brie, bacon and fig jam Zopf sandwiches that I hope not to miss out on next year.

Arvind Vijaymohan is CEO, Artery India.

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