Nauman’s first solo exhibition in Europe was at the Konrad Fischer gallery in Düsseldorf in 1968. It marked not only the beginning of a long-standing relationship, but also—in light of Nauman’s inclusion in such prestigious exhibitions as documenta 4 in Kassel (1968) and “When Attitudes Become Form” at Kunsthalle Bern (1969)—the starting point of his early reception in Europe.
For the 1980 exhibition “Skulptur im 20. Jahrhundert,” at Wenkenpark in Riehen near Basel, Nauman created two cast-iron works based on his 1977 drawings: Circle and Untitled (Three Crossroads in Circle Form). A subsequent exhibition in 1984 at Merian-Park in Basel included a corridor installation by Nauman. Between 1986 and 1990 Bruce Nauman had no fewer than three solo exhibitions in Basel. The first and most comprehensive retrospective exhibition of his drawings was held in 1986 at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst of the Kunstmuseum Basel (today’s Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart), under the aegis of Dieter Koepplin, who headed the Department of Prints and Drawings. The exhibition, accompanied by a catalogue raisonné of more than 500 drawings, toured a number of institutions throughout Europe and the USA. This was followed by an exhibition at
Kunsthalle Basel curated by Jean-Christophe Ammann, director of the Kunsthalle at that time: “Bruce Nauman. Works from 1965 to 1986.” The sculpture Square, Triangle, Circle (1984), now in the collection of the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation, was acquired from this exhibition. On the eve of the opening, Nauman showed his Good Boy Bad Boy (1985) as part of the legendary “Videowochen im Wenkenpark” event, showcasing new media. A conversation between Belgian curator Chris Dercon and Bruce Nauman, filmed by the organizers at the time, is now being screened as part of our fringe program. In 1990, the Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Basel added to the artist’s continuing exposure by showing his latest sculptures and installations; Shadow Puppets and Instructed Mime (1990) in the collection was acquired from this presentation. In 1998, a version of Nauman’s Truncated Pyramid Room was installed in front of the Burghof in Lörrach, near Basel, as part of the Lörrach Sculpture Path. The drawings for this sculpture have been part of the collection of Kunstmuseum Basel since 1985.
The fact that this sweeping 2018 retrospective is further complemented by the presentation of two works at Kunstmuseum Basel is an expression not only of the enduring collaboration between the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation and the Kunstmuseum but also an indication of their shared commitment to an oeuvre that has lost nothing of its emotional intensity and profound gravity throughout the decades. Since 1972 no other artist’s works have been so consistently and continuously collected by the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation. Now crossing three generations, the first works were acquired for the collection by its founder Maja Sacher-Stehlin. Vera Oeri-Hoffmann took up the baton in the same spirit, and since Maja Oeri has become president of the Foundation, the growing number of works by Nauman has become an even stronger cornerstone of the collection. This retrospective exhibition therefore not only bears witness to an extraordinary sense of commitment as well as being a moving example of a now vanishing close relationship between artist and patron, but is also proof positive of an early and unbroken interest in the directly confrontational yet highly sophisticated oeuvre of one of the most important artists of the present day.