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Exhibition sheds light on colour

An art exhibition tracing the transformation of colour into light has opened at the Beyeler Foundation just outside Basel. Part of it is in the open-air, but most is in a museum which could have been built with such a theme in mind.

An art exhibition tracing the transformation of colour into light has opened at the Beyeler Foundation just outside Basel. Part of it is in the open-air, but most is in a museum which could have been built with such a theme in mind.

When Italian architect Renzo Piano designed the Beyeler museum, he created a masterpiece worthy of the permanent collection it houses. Thanks to the glass roof and large windows, the building exploits a flood of natural light pouring down onto its contents.

And that makes it a perfect setting for a special exhibition entitled "From Colour to Light".

Works and installations by 54 artists are arranged in three sections. The first includes paintings by Turner, Monet and Van Gogh, and shows how Matisse, Derain and Vlaminck discovered pure colour and its luminosity while spending summer holidays together in the South of France.

The second section has large-format paintings by American abstract expressionists and works by installation artists who use fluorescent and neon tubes to mark "the transition from painted light to painting with light".

One of them is "an artificial barrier of blue, red and blue" by Dan Flavin (see picture).

A tour of the exhibition ends with a work which chief curator Markus Brüderlin says seems to negate the theme - a square white picture with a dark background by Robert Wyman, entitled "Paramount".

"It is only fitting that the exhibition should end with white, "writes Brüderlin in the catalogue, "for white - let us define it here as light - is the sum of all the colours. And if white is subjected to prismatic diffraction and colours re-emerge, the reverse transition - light to colour - can also occur."

Most of the final part of the exhibition is some distance from the museum. In Basel's Theaterplatz, huge semi-circles of light have been projected onto the facade of the theatre and Kunsthalle (art museum) by French artist Michel Verjux.

The exhibition ends on July 30.

by Richard Dawson

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