The Schaulager in Basel is already a very special institution and exhibition space. With the solo show “Francis Alí¿s: Fabiola“, Schaulager has realized also an unusual project. Instead of presenting artist Francis Alí¿s collection of images of Saint Fabiola in its own premises, Schaulager staged the exhibition in the Haus zum Kirschgarten, once Basel’s foremost town house, and now a museum of extravagant domestic lifestyles.
The Belgian artist Francis Alí¿s has collected images of Saint Fabiola for nearly twenty years. The Fabiola portraits are mainly the work of amateurs. The reference of all the images is the 1885 portrait of Saint Fabiola by the French realist painter Jean-Jacques Henner. Over the years, Francis Alí¿s gathered over 370 portraits, done in a variety of media such as oil painting, gouache, embroidery, ceramics, and enamel. Alí¿s acquires the portraits in flea markets and thrift shops throughout Europe and Latin America.
Francis Alí¿s has been presenting this collection since 1994, for the first time in Mexico City, followed by London (Whitechapel Gallery, 1997), New York (The Hispanic Society of America, 2007/2008), Los Angeles (LACMA, 2008/2009), London (National Portrait Gallery, 2009), Burgos (Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reina Sofia at Monasterio de Santo Domingo de Silos, 2010). After Basel, the next stop is Lima, Peru.
Alí¿s uses his Fabiola collection as a Trojan horse. It is never presented in a conventional “white cube” gallery. Instead, he looks for a special location for each Fabiola exhibition. This location must have a historical context.
Francis Alí¿s: Fabiola / Schaulager at Haus zum Kirschgarten, Basel / Switzerland. Opening reception, March 11, 2011.
PS: More information and videos can be found on the Schaulager website, including a glimpse behind the scenes, video walkthroughs, the documentation of the press conference, and a conversation between Francis Alí¿s and the curator of the exhibition, Lynne Cooke.
> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.