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“Have a Seat” and enjoy the art

Look forward to a new perspective with the current “Have a Seat” exhibition in the Helvetia Art Foyer, which is all about the subject of sitting. Including a woman at a dangerous tilt, and items from the Helvetia collection.

16 April 2018, author: Margrith Mermet, photos: Viktor Kolibàl

Sitting has an interesting history. In the past, the act of sitting down on a chair was reserved for the elite – a symbol of power. Not until the 18th/19th century did the chair become an everyday object – one which ordinary mortals were permitted to use. Michael Thonet brought the first mass-made chair into circulation with his design for a coffee house chair in 1859. Today, sitting is one of the most common everyday positions, both for work and leisure activities.

Works of varying styles

The pieces in the “Have a Seat” exhibition represent the themes of seating and sitting in a range of different forms. Nathalie Loch from Helvetia’s Art department is the curator of the exhibition. “In my work with our collection, I realized we have several pieces whose artists had dealt with the subject of sitting,” she explains. “I found the subject very relevant, given how Helvetia’s employees spend so much time in this position.” She soon had twice as many works as she was ultimately able to exhibit. “Have a Seat” comprises paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations of varying styles dating from 1915 to 2016, supplemented by two loaned works by Zilla Leutenegger. The “rock the chair” installation by the Zurich artist depicts a woman rocking back and forth on her chair at a dangerous tilt. The second installation by the artist involves an actual rocking chair – this time a small black one mounted on a base, with its movements projected onto the wall behind in an infinite loop.

Thinking up stories

In choosing the exhibits, Nathalie Loch wanted each work to tell a story – and to fit together within the various groups. On one large wall, for example, she placed eight handsomely framed portraits reminiscent of an ancestral gallery, each showing individual men and women sitting for the artist. The paintings were created between 1915 and the early 1970s, and for the most part reflect traditional gender roles – the beautiful model, the strong soldier, men practising their profession and ladies at leisure. “The viewer is free to decide which story a work is trying to tell, or to think one up for themselves.” The various interpretations have led to interesting discussions among the exhibition’s visitors.


“Have a Seat” comprises works by:
Coghuf, Alexandre Blanchet, Charles (Karl) Hindenlang, Ernst Morgenthaler, Karl Dick, Werner Hartmann, Irène Zurkinden, Zilla Leutenegger, Vincent Kriste, Rudolf Maeglin, Elisa Larvego, Christoph Hänsli, Olaf Breuning, Gustav Stettler, Robert Indermaur, Studer/van den Berg, Jürg Kreienbühl, Kurt Fahrner, Eva Aeppli, Camillo Paravicini

The exhibition will be open until 24 May 2018.
Opening hours: Thursdays 4 p.m.–8 p.m. (excluding 10 May)
Admission is free
Helvetia Art Foyer
Steinengraben 25
4051 Basel