PRINT February 2001


Basel’s new director

IN THE LAST TWO turbulent seasons, the Swiss art world has shown a remarkable, if unenviable, penchant for the kind of intrigue and treachery more fitting for miniseries than museums. First came the Kunsthaus Zürich’s decision in January 2000 to appoint Christoph Becker as director—a politically safe choice in the face of the more adventuresome and prominent favorite, Bernhard “Mendes” Bürgi, the founding director and curator at the Kunsthalle Zürich. Now Bürgi, forty-seven, is the upset victor at the Kunstmuseum Basel, the oldest public art showcase in Switzerland, and with his appointment comes high drama: accusations and lies, a resignation and reprisals, and a bitter political struggle over the fate of the museum.

While the tawdry campaign of innuendo and threats rifled through Zurich in the fall of ’99, a quiet search had been under way in Basel for months. Katharina Schmidt, the

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