Kunsthalle Basel forms a vital part of Basel’s cultural centre and is located next to the city’s theatre and opposite the concert house Stadtcasino. Kunsthalle Basel is a place for innovative exhibitions that bring together local and international, avant-garde, emerging and contemporary tendencies and offers space for the presentation of new works and unique methodologies as well as for a wide range of public programs that include artist talks, performances, film screenings and music events. From 2003-2014, Kunsthalle Basel was led by director Adam Szymczyk, till he undertook the direction of documenta Kassel. Since end of 2014 the Kunsthalle Basel is under the directorship of Elena Filipovic, the first female director in that position.
The construction of Kunsthalle Basel was prompted in 1864 by the merger of the Society of Basel Artists and the Basler Kunstverein founded in 1839. At the inauguration of the building in spring 1872, the former president of the Basler Kunstverein, Johann Jakob Im Hof, summed up the programme of the future Kunsthalle: ’to provide a place for the fine arts in order to stimulate, promote and spread artistic interest within our hometown as well as to foster friendly relations between artists and art lovers.’
In the 1920s and 1930s, before the opening of Kunstmuseum Basel, Kunsthalle Basel was home to and displayed a part of the public art collections. Due to financial issues in the 1950s, there was a time when the building was rented to the state, but, after being renovated in 1969, it was returned to the Kunstverein.
Using revenue from two of the ferry services across the Rhine, Kunsthalle Basel was built between 1869 and 1872 based on a design by Johann Jakob Stehlin-Burckhardt. The artists Arnold Böcklin, Carl Brünner, Ernst Stückelberg and Charles Iguel contributed the architectural adornment of the building. The ground floor of the building was dedicated to serve as an artist’s clubhouse (today Kunsthalle Basel Restaurant).
By 1927, the building had been extended several times to additionally house a workshop for sculptors and a sculpture hall (today STADTKINO Basel). Between 1969 and 1973 the Kunsthalle underwent a first period of renovation. The library, whose inventory goes back to the founding year of the Kunstverein and today has a focus on contemporary art publications, in 1992 has been installed permanently in the rooms of the former caretaker apartment. In 2004, the Steinberg building underwent further, major renovations executed by the architects Miller & Maranta, with the intent of both restoring its former glory and simultaneously updating it in an attempt to prolong its relevance in the art and architecture world. In the same instance, the Swiss Architecture Museum S AM moved into the first floor of the building.