Steve Erlanger offers a travelers guide to Basel, Switzerland in the New York Times that looks at the city’s character and how it was formed by the geography and commerce that surround it:
Basel benefits from its proximity to France and Germany — to Alsace, over which the larger countries fought for decades while the Swiss profited. Basel is situated elegantly along the Rhine, which both divides and somehow unifies the city, but it is also Switzerland’s only cargo port. As a crossroads city, it has an openness, with more immigrants and a daring not so commonly found in Zurich or Geneva. And the money in Basel, which comes largely from chemical and pharmaceutical giants like Hoffmann-La Roche and Novartis, is a little less quiet.
La Roche built the city a wonderful museum devoted to one of its few homegrown artists, Jean Tinguely; UBS remains a sponsor of Art Basel; and Ernst Beyeler, now 87, the dealer who made a fortune selling modern art, set up an exquisite museum of his own, the Fondation Beyeler, in what is considered one of the best buildings of the architect Renzo Piano. The renowned local architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron not only designed Beijing’s bird’s nest Olympic Stadium, but also one for the Basel soccer team, St. Jakob Park, which is worth a quick visit.
Basel has provided lavishly for its citizens, in public services and in public art and architecture. “Basel has wonderful museums, but it is not a museum,” said Sam Keller, director of the Fondation Beyeler and former director of Art Basel. “This is a city that doesn’t live from tourism.” But how pleasant it is, as a tourist, to benefit from all that public mindedness.
For Art Lovers, Basel Doesn’t End at the Fair (New York Times)