|Out of the centre|
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Perhaps your one single reason for coming to Basel at all, and certainly the city’s sole unmissable attraction, is the astonishing gallery run by Fondation Beyeler at Baselstrasse 101 in the northeastern suburb of Riehen (daily 10am–6pm, Wed until 8pm; Fr.8; tram #6 to Riehen Dorf; www.beyeler.com). A masterfully soothing building, sympathetically designed by Renzo Piano, architect of Paris’s Pompidou Centre, houses a small but exceptionally high-quality art collection featuring some of the best works by some of the twentieth century’s best artists – Picasso, Giacometti, Warhol, Rodin, Klee, Kandinsky, Bacon, Miró and more. Both Matisse’s paper cutouts (Nu bleu and others) and Mondrian’s geometric abstractions – familiar from innumerable posters and T-shirts – still have the power to startle as full-size originals. Mark Tobey’s crazed White Journey and Oncoming White are hypnotic. For some gentle relief, sink into a huge white sofa opposite a giant Monet, where piped Debussy (daily 1pm) fuels dreamy contemplation of the waterlilies in front of you and, through a floor-to-ceiling window, the watery gardens outside. Continue your reverie in front of a massive Rothko canvas with minimalist music by the American composer Morton Feldman (daily 2.15pm).
Across the border in Germany, 10km north of Basel, is the small town of WEIL-AM-RHEIN, unremarkable but for being the location of Vitra, a famous design company which collaborates with top international designers to produce office and home furniture, and whose premises – on an out-of-town green-field site – are the work of some of the world’s leading contemporary architects. If you’re halfway interested in design, the Vitra Museum is well worth a visit (Charles Eames Strasse 2, Weil-am-Rhein; Tues–Sun 11am–6pm; DM10, or a Fr.10 banknote only; www.design-museum.de). Bus #55 from the forecourt of Basel Bad. station takes twenty minutes to drop you outside the museum (passport needed; a two-zone Basel bus ticket is valid, but Swiss Pass and other Swiss transport tickets are not). The building itself is engaging enough to start with, a teetering, almost Cubist concoction by American architect Frank O. Gehry, while inside you’ll find a changing series of exhibitions on various themes of design, concentrating on furniture: it’s interesting to be able to see the originals of chairs which are now ubiquitous, such as the fold-up moulded plastic chair (Giancarlo Pirette, 1968), as well as classic designs by Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Philippe Starck and others. It’s also possible to join a two-hour guided tour of architecture on the Vitra site (Tues–Sun 2pm; DM13; in German only), which includes a factory designed by Nicholas Grimshaw and the supremely elegant, award-winning fire station by Zaha Hadid.
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