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Elena Filipovic Takes the Helm at the Kunstmuseum Basel The New Director Introduces Herself

The Kunstmuseum Basel has a new director: Elena Filipovic moved into her position in April 2024. She succeeds Josef Helfenstein, who retired at the end of 2023.

Elena Filipovic

Of her new mandate, Filipovic says, “It is an honor to take on this impressive responsibility and I am deeply committed to protecting and further expanding the legacy of one of the world’s important art museums.” The Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel, the city’s public art collection, constitutes the Kunstmuseum’s historic core; its formation goes back to 1661 in an effort to preserve works of art and artists’ creativity and ideas for future generations and to share them with audiences from both near and far. This tradition of a truly public museum in which the encounter with art has served as a source of vital inspiration and a challenge to common perceptions of the world is something Filipovic wishes to build upon. To that end, she aims to enlarge the audience by strengthening Kunstmuseum Basel to become a place that is even more accessible, inclusive, and welcoming.

“The Kunstmuseum Basel is already exceptional but I believe it also has the potential to become even more so through a heightened commitment to seeing itself in the now: a museum in which we understand that we have hundreds of years of art that can resonate with and tell us something important about our life in the present. A museum in which we can look at Holbein’s Dead Christ in the Tomb, for instance, and come to understand how we as a society have always grappled with mortality, loss, and faith, such that a painting more than 500 years old can still speak to us today.” That is how Filipovic sketches her approach: the museum with its art treasures spanning seven centuries, she believes, must develop new modes of thinking and action in its programming and research to help us grapple with the complexities of today.

One focus of her work will accordingly be on the collection. Filipovic will not only gradually add new accents in the presentations of art from the collection in all three of the museum’s venues. She hopes also to expand the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel with carefully reflected acquisitions and gifts, for example of works by underrepresented artists from a range of backgrounds. She moreover believes that central issues in contemporary society such as sustainability and diversity are key challenges the Kunstmuseum Basel needs to address.

Visitors can already see the first of what will be gradual changes initiated by Filipovic in the collection presentation. Furthermore she will co-curate a retrospective exhibition in spring and summer 2025, which will take a new look at the work of the French-Italian sculptor and photographer Medardo Rosso (1858-1928) from a contemporary perspective. The presentation of this oeuvre, which helped pave the way for modernism, is produced in cooperation with the Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig / mumok, Vienna, and will be rounded out by works by other artists.


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