The exhibition ‘Living Abstractions’ at Kunstmuseum Basel is an exploration of Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s multi-disciplinary oeuvre, from her abstract paintings to Dada puppets.
Nicolai Aluf, Sophie Taeuber with her Dada head (1920), Berlin. Image from Tate’s press release.
A leitmotif of dance runs through the narrative and works, for Taeuber-Arp was an avid dancer and returned time after time to the medium in her art, with her marionette shows, for example, a special animated performance of which illuminated the museum’s exterior in March ahead of the exhibition.
After their Basel showing, the works will travel to the Tate Modern in London in July, before heading to the MoMA in New York in autumn. A prestigious triptych and fitting debut for Taeuber-Arp’s work on the international art circuit, where for years, it has been somewhat overshadowed by her male avant-garde counterparts, including her own husband, Franco-German artist Hans Arp.
However, her contribution to art history has long been recognised in Switzerland, where her ‘Tête Dada’ sculpture and self-portrait adorned the 50 franc banknote. You can view a virtual tour of the exhibition here, given by curator Eva Reifert.
Sophie Taeuber-Arp trained in the fine arts at the Debschitz School in Munich, before moving to Zurich to attend the Laban School of Dance. There, she participated actively in the Dadaist Cabaret Voltaire artistic circle.
Due to her subversive abstractions and Dadaist affiliations, Taeuber-Arp faced persecution from the National Socialists whilst living in Paris for several years in the 1930s.
She consequently fled with Arp to the South of France, where they lived in poverty. Taeuber-Arp died several years later in a tragic accident, but not before leaving behind a wealth of work that has since established her as a leading pioneer of geometric abstraction and constructivist art.