It was not the work of artists, critics and curators alone that made the development of modern and contemporary art possible. Another factor related to both economic and social concerns intervened as a catalyst in the process. This was art collecting.
This exhibition brings together two leading collections of early modernist art that now form part of the holdings of the Kunstmuseum Basel (Basel, Switzerland), the Im Obersteg Collection and the Rudolf Staechelin Collection, offering an opportunity to enjoy works by the most reputed early modernist masters, the vast majority of which have never before been seen in Spain. It is moreover a chance to explore the phenomenon of collecting, with a focus on its centrality to the formation of modern art.
Private collections of early modernism have traditionally been studied and exhibited with an emphasis on the contemplation of the works on display, neglecting the economic, social and political implications inherent to the activity of collecting in a context like that of Europe in the first decades of the 20th century. Nevertheless, collecting is above all discursive, and may be studied as such. A collection of whatever kind is made up not only of the works it contains but also of the narratives it successfully generates. It was in this sense that Walter Benjamin regarded the collector in his Arcades Project, viewing the act of collecting as related to the desire to understand and organize theworld as a cosmos: "Perhaps in this way it is possible to concretize the secret motive that underlies collecting: the fight against dispersion. The great collector is perturbed from the outset by the dispersion and chaos that subsume everything in theworld.”