Living in Basel gives you many opportunities to see and experience various aspects of culture. The city is full of museums and musical events as well as local festivals and activities; last week was Art Basel. Art Basel is one of the largest contemporary art fairs in the world. Since the New York Times calls it ‘the Olympics of the art world’ I thought it would be worth taking in.
So last Friday afternoon my daughter and I went down to the Messeplatz and bought tickets. Besides discovering that it’s a massive exhibition I learned a number of things. First off, I don’t know much about modern or contemporary art. There were a number of galleries showing what I recognized as art, you know, a painting of something. There were some works by Picasso, Klee, and Andy Warhol. But, there was also a whole lot of stuff that looked, well, unfinished or like it was done by a five year old. Now, I am trying to keep an open mind since like I said, I don’t know anything about modern art. It’s just that I am really not sure how a bundled stack of newspapers qualifies as art. It looks exactly like what my Swiss neighbour puts out at the curb once a month. I had a lot of questions which leads me to the second thing I learned.
Looking at the paintings, sculptures, pictures and pieces made me want to learn more about modern art. Rather than being turned off I really wanted to know more. What is it that people with an appreciation for modern art can see that I can’t? If the book store had been selling “Modern Art for Dummies” I would have bought two copies, at least. Why can some people look past the swirl of paint on a pie plate and see something deeper? While I couldn’t appreciate or understand everything I saw that afternoon it made me long to know more, to enter into the experience that other people were able to have and share.
The final thought I had as I left the fair was a reminder to me that God is the author of creativity. He is the original creator. In The Message, Genesis 1:1 reads, “First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see.” He created mountains, trees, rivers and rocks. He created bumble bees and tigers, eagles and hump backed camels. We live in an amazing world of diversity and beauty. It was God’s gift to his people; he placed us in the middle of it. He even created us, made us in His image. I believe that one of the ways we are created in His image is that like Him we have the ability to create. We may not all be artists but we create in other ways, we have different canvases and different approaches. The power to be creative, to express some deep impression or desire, like what I saw at Art Basel, is evidence of God’s mark on who we are and our desire to know Him. So, go ahead, be creative, it’s a God-like thing to do.