Street art in Basel
Urban art: double-take art
Walking around Basel and letting your eyes wander to the right and left (and sometimes upwards) from time to time, you will be rewarded: you will discover impressive street art and graffiti everywhere in the city centre. National and international artists are also constantly creating new, colourful artworks on the outskirts of the city.
Urban art has become an integral part of the art scene in recent years and is now an indispensable element of urban tourism in major cultural metropolitan centres. This is also true of Basel. By the 1980s, the city had already become a graffiti hotspot in Switzerland. Much has happened since then. Urban art has established itself as a recognized art movement in its own right, and street artists are legally allowed to express themselves in various locations around the city. International street art stars are invited to urban art festivals and parallel events of Art Basel to decorate the city with their works of art. Invader, The London Police, Espo, Tarek Abu Hageb, Tika, Mr Cenz, Bane, Chromeo, Bustart – all of them and many more have chosen to make Basel facades their canvas.
You can admire particularly beautiful graffiti and murals along the tracks between the Swiss SBB railway station and the Schwarzwaldbrücke bridge, around the Schänzli (near the St. Jakob-Park stadium), near the Sommercasino, as well as at the harbour. Not to mention the Bell site, which has been home to Basel’s largest street art installation since August 2020: Over 30 artists from near and far created a wall of 1700 m2 at the Change of Colours event. A larger mural had never been created in Switzerland before.
Hotspots of street art
Spray-painting in public spaces is basically prohibited. However, in recent years more and more spaces in Basel have been approved as areas in which urban artists can give their creativity free rein. While their works are merely tolerated at certain locations in and around the city, at other sites the art was commissioned. Be inspired by our selection of hotspots and set off on a journey of discovery through colourful, urban Basel.
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“Urban art” refers to complex wall designs created by artists, many of whom have years of experience and apply impressive techniques. Graffiti is mostly text but is often enhanced with images. Street art is more heavily image-focused and relates to the local area. It can, but need not, have a political dimension. Instead, it aims to get people thinking, to entertain, provoke and amuse. The artists often express their own feelings through their works. A concrete wall may therefore be the backdrop for a sombre picture or, on the other hand, for colourful, balloon-like letters. Graffiti and street art are constantly being renewed and sprayed over, and the hotspots are therefore changing all the time. Most spray-painters are aware of the ephemeral nature of their works and always have a supply of new and impressive motifs on hand.
Given its location in the tri-border area of Germany, France and Switzerland, Basel attracts artists from all corners. The city has been a graffiti hotspot for decades. And in recent years, Art Basel has also consistently attracted international street art celebrities to the creative hotspot on the Rhine.
Travelling to Basel by train is worth it for the legendary graffiti alone, which you can appreciate through the windows on both sides before entering the Swiss SBB railway station. The artworks are scattered all over the city centre of Grossbasel, with further hotspots on the Bell site and at the harbour: Uferstrasse at Klybeckquai is a popular meeting place, especially in summer, and there is an abundance of graffiti to be discovered all the way to the tri-border area.
The book entitled StreetArt Basel & Region is Switzerland’s first guide to street art and provides an insight into the scene, lists hotspots in the region and introduces the main artists.
The book is available in most museum shops in Basel and at the Bider & Tanner bookshop.
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