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A Bead Curtain in the Stairwell

Pipilotti Rist, one of Switzerland’s best known contemporary artists, was asked to create a percent-for-art project at the former Nationale Suisse head office in Basel. Thanks to the transparent façade of that building, the bead curtain she thereupon installed inside the six-storey-high stairwell is clearly visible from the outside of the building as well.

The stairwell connecting the old and new wings has thus been embellished with a work that is responsive to the site’s architectural parameters and that traces an arc from a more traditional to a modern style of architecture.

Thousands of plastic beads

Rist’s installation consists of thousands of coloured, facetted beads which she strung on wires and which together give the impression of a rather crudely pixellated picture. The plastic beads form a colourful curtain, which because it catches the light streaming in from the outside casts coloured shadows on the walls – shadows that vary in shape and intensity depending on the time of day and year. Rist once referred to her work as a “colour shower” raining down through all six storeys and so connecting them. Titled aufgeweckter Rosenscheitel (lit. “aroused rose apex”), it is indeed a kind of rose window – that is to say, a contemporary variant of the rose windows of Gothic cathedrals, which bathe their interiors in atmospheric light. Thanks to Pipilotti Rist, therefore, Basel’s “Architecture Boulevard” linking the main station and the Rhine is now one major cultural attraction richer.

Pipilotti Rist

Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist invites viewers to embark on a journey of the senses, transporting them into wondrous worlds where they can roam amid colours, corpuses, and the world of nature. Born in Grabs in 1962, she lives and works in Zurich.
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