Fasnacht & Art & Tinguely
3 February – 16 May 2010
The Basel Fasnacht (Carnival) in its present form is a development of the past hundred years. Piccolo players, drummers, drum majors, vanguard, outriders, small wagons, Guggenmusik (often deliberately discordant variations on popular songs played on brass instruments) and cliques (club-like groups that dress in costume on a particular theme and march to drums and piccolos). Although the individual elements already existed in the 19th century, their present combination and the role of themes in the Fasnacht only crystallised in the 20th century, i.e. since the Fasnacht Committee has existed to provide a certain organisational framework. As a tribute to the Fasnacht Committee in its centenary year, the Museum Tinguely is staging an exhibition on «the art» of the Basel Fasnacht.
A number of artists have played a large, indeed crucial role in the development of the Basel Fasnacht and in particular in the importance attached to annually changing themes that comment on and make fun of political, social and cultural events. In particular, Jean Tinguely and the Kuttlebutzer epitomised the artist clique in their time. The practical realisation of the themes – which outsiders often find difficult to understand – was often left to artists and graphic designers, who designed the costumes and masks that gave each float its specific character, (usually) in accordance with the wishes and ideas of the theme commissions. The real showpiece of a float, which also imposes an element of discipline on Fasnacht art, was and is the lantern that depicts the chosen theme for the year. Not surprisingly, lanterns are thus the clearest manifestation of Fasnacht art and its development. Accordingly, they are also the focal point of the exhibition.
Perhaps the Fasnacht's view of art and artists' view of the Fasnacht furthermore reflect the openness with which the city has consistently responded to new developments in art. Ridicule and irony may have been instrumental in making it easier for some to come to terms with new and unknown phenomena. Seen in this way, «Fasnacht & Art & Tinguely» are old acquaintances who once again are jointly honoured at the Museum Tinguely.