The Night on Five Continents

(Nederlands) Juan S. Hernandez, ontwerp voor vuurwerk Castillo, Octolán de Morelos, Oaxaca. Mexico, 1960. Sammlung Valetin Jaquet, ME 95

The Museum of Cultures in Basel presents the night as the subject of an exhibition in a, how could it be otherwise, multicultural story. The exhibition guides visitors through the night, showing art and everyday objects from five continents.

Today’s night in modern (European) society differs from the night of two centuries or even longer ago. Light or noise pollution at night are notions of the last century.

Nights used to be mainly pitch-dark periods between dusk and first dawn. Before the advent of gas and electricity, modern media and means of transport by fossil fuels, a different rhythm of life and perception of night existed.

Several topics of the night on different continents are portrayed. Below is a brief impression of this multifaceted show.

Bat mask, Burkina Faso, before 1973. III 19733

Papua New-Guinea, Windflag with bats, Awar, 1930. Vb 9304

The exhibition associates the bat as a nocturnal animal with a negative or positive significance. About 1 000 species exist in the world. Art dedicated many objects to the bat, from Batman as a defender of good to the bat as a bringer of doom and diseases.

The demons king Kala Rahu, Bali, arond 1940. A gift from Georg Andre Schlager. IIc 16412

The night always had something ominous about it. Witches, demons, ghosts, devils and other fable creatures came to life at night. Amulets, evening prayers and other objects brought or were expected to bring protection.

The night is not only for lullabies, dreams and sleep, a natural necessity but also for sleepwalking, brooding, nightmares and insomnia. Apart from modern medicines, this issue has always concerned humans and artists.

Selection of beds and sleeping objects and amulettes for adults and children/babies

The night is also the time of nightwear and the bed in all shapes and sizes, with particular attention to babies and children. The bedroom interior, curtains, ground covers and heating materials also varied. Again, human creativity and adaptation are almost inexhaustible on all continents.

The towns and villages used to be pitch black and virtually silent at night. Only vagabonds, carriages, church bells and night guards made themselves heard. Lanterns and torches illuminated the city. Night guards and lantern lighters did their rounds in all European cities well into the nineteenth century and had their rituals.

Selection of the vast diversity of lanterns

The night was also the time of (religious) celebrations and events. Fasnacht, full moon, St Nicholas, fireworks or spiritual manifestations often occurred or started in the dark.

The setting and rising sun, the stars, the moon and dark landscapes were also depicted in art on all continents in the most distinctive ways.

Nowadays, a city at night offers a different (light and sound) spectacle. High-tech presentations of modern nightlife also address this facet.

The Diorama Polyorama Panoptique, 1850, France, with reproductions of slides (2023). A gift from Sophie Zahn-Sarasin 1950. VI 19090.00,01-03, 05-07,09-11

The Champs d ‘Élysées in Paris by night and day 

The diorama was a popular box presenting slides before the advent of the moving image and photography. A unique effect was to darken the light, giving the picture two dimensions.

The exhibition gives an impressive and vivid picture of the (artistic) experience of the night on different continents. It is a challenging subject, but the versatile presentation, the wide variety of (art) objects, and modern techniques give a good impression of the experience of an eminently international and multicultural phenomenon.

The city of Chur (Canton of Graubunden) had 12 night guards until 31 December 1887. They announced the evening guard (Abendwache, from 19.00 (sibni) and later the morning guard (Morgenwache) by singing verses. No alarm clocks existed yet! Photo: TES

The Abendwache:

I träta jezz uf d’Abedwacht,

Gott geb üs allna a guati Nacht.

Und löschan all Füür und Liacht,

Dass üs dar liabi Gott whol b’hüat.

Sibni hätts g’schlaga, das tuan ieu kund,

Gott gäb üs allna a guati Stund

The Morgenwache:

Stönd uuf im Nama Jesu Christ,

Dar helli Tag vorhanda isch

Dar helli Tag üs nia verlaat,’

Gott gäb üs allna guata Tag.

A guatta Tag, a a glückseeligi Stund:

Das bitt’i Gott vo Herzansgr

The Rhine in Transition

(Deutsch) Plakat der Ausstellung. Museum am Lindenplatz

Over three years, 38 museums from France, Germany and Switzerland developed exhibitions on the Rhine in the Museums Network.

The project is the largest Rhine project since Johann Gottfried Tulla (1770-1828) and his Rhine regulation and correction of 1817. The exhibition “Lebensader: Rheim im Wandel” (Lifeline: The Rhine in Transition) highlights the local and regional importance of the Rhine.

The Rhine was once a branching stream with sandbanks and reed beds. Industrialisation, Rhine harbours and its development into a central traffic route have changed the river.

Peter Birmann (1758-1844), the Rhine near the Isteiner Klotz, (19th century) Kunstmuseum Basel

For many, however, the Rhine remained a romantic place of longing, as Rhine motifs from the municipal art collection show. The Rhine has always been an ambivalent habitat: it is threatened by man and is considered a threat.

Neuenburg am Rhein (Germany), 2023

Flood protection, species protection, microplastics, pollution and climate change, are significant issues of the 21st century. The exhibition focuses on problems, challenges, and environmental protection projects in Weil am Rhein and the region.

Édouard Vuillard and Japanese art

Woman with comb in front of mirror, 1800-1865. Museum Jenisch Vevey - Cabinet cantonal des estampes, Collection of the City of Vevey © Photo Musée Jenisch Vevey / Julien Gremaud

The Fondation revisits the work of Nabi master Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940), seen through the lens of Japanese art. Centred on the delicate landscape held at the Hermitage, La Maison de Roussel à La Montagne (1900), the exhibition shows the influence of Japanese art on Vuillard’s work.

The artist was a great collector of ukiyo-e prints, in which he found formats hitherto unknown in Europe. Around a hundred paintings and engravings of everyday life and nature scenes, created by Vuillard between the 1890s and the First World War, will be shown here in dialogue with some fifty Japanese masterpieces.

The great exhibition of Japanese art of 1890 at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris fostered his interest in Japanese aesthetics. While all the Nabi painters appreciated Japanese art, Vuillard collected the greatest number of prints, acquiring 180.

In 1890-1914 Vuillard’s paintings, drawings and lithographs were deeply imbued with references to Japanese art. He enriched his art by freely adopting Japanese codes, which offered him entirely new formats, viewpoints and asymmetrical compositions.

The exhibition will be organised around the different genres in which Vuillard worked, seen through Japanese aesthetics. A group of paintings by Vuillard’s Nabi friends, including Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Paul Élie Ranson and Félix Vallotton, who were also influenced by Japanese art, are also on display.