The Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland, has welcomed discerning visitors since 1997 and its doors are now fully open once more as a sign of renewal and optimism. How delighted founder Ernst Beyeler would be to see his vision coming to life again as his passion for collecting is experienced by new and returning art lovers. From a career that began in a Basel antiquarian bookshop, Beyer went on to become a leading European art dealer and collector who has left an enduring legacy for others to enjoy.
Appealing to all ages and with an outreach program to match, all are welcome at the Fondation Beyeler whose glass-walled building sits in mature parkland looking perfectly at ease as a natural part of the landscape. Its permanent collection covers many of the great artists and the space also hosts world-class touring exhibitions and specially-curated shows.
Experiencing art in different ways is an integral part of what the Fondation Beyeler sets out to do. And this year, they have taken it to a new level through an innovative collaboration with UBSArt in presenting an Art Meditation concept hosted by Diego Hangartner. The idea is to offer an entirely different gallery and online experience – something which is much more contemplative, immersive and enduring.
In Diego Hangartner, UBSArt has identified someone with the ability to help us to explore our own consciousness and become much more in touch with the natural rhythms of our bodies. Diego spent eleven years in Dharamsala, home to the Dalai Lama’s monastery and had the privilege of receiving some teaching from him. He now has over 35 years of experience exploring the power of meditation and its capacity to deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world all around us. His own institute, founded in 2015 is dedicated to mental balance.
When our lives run at such a pace, we often fail to take even a moment to unwind and appreciate not just the miracle of life itself but all the things we can experience each and every day. In the art world, so much of the traditional gallery concept can be transitory with little time to build any sort of meaningful relationship with the artists’ works on display. Yes, there can be the vibrancy, laughter and clink of glasses at the private view but where is the truly personal moment? That is exactly what Diego is trying to get to with the Art Meditation program. He wants us to sit on the floor before these works, such as Monet or Rothko, and begin by becoming aware of how we breathe and how we feel. Simple questions matter: are we tense, are we receptive, are we ready? Managing these motions calmly can help us to prepare to focus on the artwork itself. It is all about taking the time needed to expand our awareness and have a deeper encounter with the art.
A painting or artwork is never frozen for ever. It is alive in our perceptions of it and a little allocation of time and reflection and meditation can give it new life. Diego remarks how artist Mark Rothko cared about the experience of the observer believing that a painting lives on in the way each observer reacts to it. At Fondation Beyeler, the idea of Art Meditation creates a special fusion between art, building, space and the observer.
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