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Affordable Art Fair exhibition ‘Enjoy the unexpected’ is inspired by a weekend trip to Swiss city Basel

21:59 23/01/2024
The Affordable Art Fair in collaboration with The Bulletin

The exhibition Enjoy the Unexpected at the Affordable Art Fair Brussels 2024 from 7 to 11 February features new works by artist Malou Cohen that were inspired by a weekend trip to Basel.

‘Enjoying the unexpected’ is an essential aspect of any great city break, and the Dutch artist was invited to explore Switzerland’s capital of culture in preparation for a special exhibition at the fair.

In her artistic practice, Malou transforms discarded materials and lived moments into captivating works of art. Her approach is reminiscent of the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, who was inspired by the Dada movement and repurposed everyday objects and discarded materials to create his kinetic sculptures and installations (pictured below).


This special collaboration with This is Basel and Switzerland Tourism invites visitors to reconsider the role of unexpected materials and happenings in life and travel.

The city is famed for being home to an abundance of architectural treasures. They include historical landmarks such as the Basler Münster, city gate Spalentor and former brewery Werkraum Warteck as well as modern architecture, including the Kunstmuseum Basel’s new building by Christ & Gantenbein, Fondation Beyeler by Renzo Piano, Museum Tinguely by Mario Botta and Vitra Design Museum by Frank O Gehry.

In the following interview, Malou Cohen explains why Basel was a perfect canvas for spontaneous experiences.

AAF exhibition

What did you enjoy about Basel and what surprised you about the trip?

Prior to my visit, I had no real expectations, but the city positively surprised me as I roamed its streets. I was amazed by the fact that Basel has so many different neighbourhoods. The city seamlessly blends impressive stately architecture with more raw areas. Both coexist in a natural way. This visual contrast between the two was particularly inspiring.

I also appreciated the convenience of the BaselCard, which is provided to every hotel guest on their arrival. This card granted me free access to public transport, making it incredibly easy to explore the city.

Basel hosts abundant water features, from the Rhine River (pictured below) running through the city centre to numerous water points and fountains. Its vibrant cultural scene and hip restaurants added a very enjoyable dimension to the city.


How do you select and incorporate objects into your creative process and what role do they play?

My work combines found materials and objects with photographs or text heard from conversations in my surroundings. I take photos of things that catch my eye and resonate with me, often without a specific purpose in mind at the time. When I work on the composition of my works, I take all the different found materials, photographs of my lived situations and play around with them. Each of these pieces represent a fragment of everyday life and together they form new realities. They often look like some kind of theatre stages. Ordinary or even worthless things are often more precious to me than shiny, new materials.

What objects and situations did you bring back to your studio from your trip to Basel and can you tell us a little about the artworks?

During my brief but inspiring stay in Basel, I took 350 pictures of amusing details that caught my attention. In terms of physical materials, I collected some construction foam, fake leaves (in a box of things to give away outside someone’s doorstep) and a bag filled with stones from the beaches next to the Rhine River. Basel is a very clean city, so it was a challenge to find materials I could work with in the city.

All works in the exhibition are based on the weekend I spent in Basel but not all will be recognisable as such. The numerous fountains, for instance, made me include water in my work and the city’s reliefs drove me to experiment with clay. There were also a lot of new alternative horizons hiding in Basel like hidden landscapes that caught my eye.

Malou Cohen in studio

Your works often serve as gateways to new worlds. Can you describe the emotions you hope to evoke in viewers?

I hope to evoke a sense of wonder and curiosity in the viewer, much like the emotions I experience when I stumble upon something truly special. These moments make my daily life more meaningful and playful. I want the viewer to look at the world through fresh eyes, unburdened by preconceptions, and find the extraordinary in the ordinary. It brings me great joy when people get lost in their own dreams while discovering my work.

What would you recommend someone going to Basel for the first time?

Walk around Basel with fresh eyes, and follow your own senses and discover where they take you.

Readers can enter a competition to win their own weekend in Basel, Switzerland, by competing in a memory game. The competition ends on 11 February; the winner will be contacted shortly after.

Book tickets now for the 15th edition of Affordable Art Fair Brussels from 7 to 11 February in Tour & Taxis.

Photos: Malou Cohen; Basel Tinguely Brunnen c Susi-Maier; Cohen's studio; ST Kurzclip Herbstmesse 2022 Muensterplatz; Cohen in her studio