Basel is synonymous with art. From the graffiti murals splashed around the city centre to some 40 museums, countless galleries and world-class art shows, this is a place where young artists thrive alongside museums housing old masters.
Helping us navigate the scene through a local's lens is Filip Wolfensberger, co-founder of acclaimed art collective Cicolupo. Following in the footsteps of established sculptors, such as Jean Tinguely and Bernhard Luginbühl, Wolfensberger and his work partner Pascal Martinoli defy genres to create statement pieces for public spaces from recycled materials.
Whether they're making a floating shark or a giant metal elephant, their big, bold works are instantly recognisable. Wolfensberger takes us on an art tour of his city.
Discover Basel's creative side with Filip Wolfensberger, co-founder of Cicolupo
How did Cicolupo form?
I set up Cicolupo in spring 2010 with Pascal Martinoli, Joel Lobsiger Vargas and Manou Clément. We all emerged from very different fields of expertise and cultural backgrounds.
We founded the Swiss art company after having done different works together and have since worked on numerous projects and organised a range of events in Zurich, Basel and Berlin.
Manou left the group and Joel started his own projects in the Philippines in 2014. However, Pascal and I are still working on Cicolupo projects in Basel. We grew up here. We lived in other cities but came back and we like to combine our skills to develop our own contemporary kind of expression. We have experience in a large variety of fields, such as painting, illustration, comics, photography, sculpture, installation, theatre, puppeteering, acrobatics, dance, music, design, animation and film.
Were you inspired by the likes of Jean Tinguely and Bernhard Luginbühl and their connections to Basel?
Yes. Basel is known for its museums, exhibitions and cultural events. The Tinguely Fountain [a landmark by Tinguely in which he placed machine sculptures in an enormous pool of water on the site where the stage of the old city theatre was once located] was impressive to me as a kid and still is today. He brought movement into art and all the pieces he used tell their own stories. Next to it, you will find Richard Serra's Intersection. This monumental sculpture shows the characteristics of architecture and makes them experienceable. There are many other works like this. Basel is an inspirational environment.
What route should we take for a great public art tour?
Start with the bull in Riehen - one of our big animals that came to life by assembling scrap metal. Finish with the elephant in Kaiseraugst. Basel is bookended between them.
Which galleries would you particularly recommend checking out and why?
Philipp Brogli's gallery Artstübli in the Steinentorberg district is becoming known as the creative hub of the Swiss urban art scene and Brogli has conceived some cool projects.
Filter4 Gallery in Bruderholz is a very special place - a contemporary exhibition and performance venue housed in a 100-year-old former water station.
Do you have a favourite museum?
Cartoonmuseum Basel, close to the river, is my favourite for laughs, while I really like the Beyeler Foundation Museum, which is a little further out, in Riehen, for its architecture and surrounding garden. The museum oversees the art collection of Hildy and Ernst Beyeler.
Are there any cafés that are super-popular among the creative crowd?
We mostly drink coffee in our workshop, garden or atelier, but there are nice cafés along the riverbank or in the old town. The many small riverside cafés along are called "buvettes". Each has its own style. Also try a place called Mitte, in the centre of Basel, and a café called Zum Kuss, near the train station.
Which flea markets would you recommend?
Flea Market Petersplatz is open on Saturdays, and is a nice place for a walk, while browsing the many stalls.
What is the music, theatre and nightlife scene like?
There is a big offering. In summer, there are always numerous outdoor events here. A lot of activity happens around the harbour, especially in a place called Landestelle. Atlantis Basel was once famous for its concerts and it's still a nice place to visit. The small Marionetten Theater is the place to see puppeteering shows. The city's most famous showcase for the arts would be Theater Basel. There is also a big festival that takes place in the old barracks, Polyfon, and the Imagine Festival pops up at several venues across the city.
Is there a spot that's great for nature and recreation?
There are many parks in Basel. Birsköpfli, on the riverbank, has a popular swimming and sunbathing area.
What is the most inspiring place to explore in Basel?
That would be our workshop area… but it is kept a secret!
To find out more about Basel, visit myswitzerland.com.