Is the Artwork of Sophie Taeuber-Arp Still Avant-Garde?
Decades after she painted this canvas, a new show reconsiders a misunderstood Swiss artist
A pioneering abstract painter, Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943) was also a skilled crafter of beautiful objects, from intricately beaded handbags to minimalist marionettes. That dual focus, says Eva Reifert, a curator at Kunstmuseum Basel in Taeuber-Arp’s native Switzerland, may be part of why her work has long been overlooked: “If artists try to bridge categories, people don’t know what to make of it,” she says. But this year a new exhibition, on view at the Kunstmuseum through June before it travels to the Tate Modern in London and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, aims to make amends. Through some 400 works, including jewelry, textiles, drawings and paintings, the show tells the story of an artist whom Reifert calls “a hub” of the avant-garde scene in the 1920s and ’30s, deeply involved in the Dada movement and later geometric abstraction. “You can’t put her in a box,” Reifert says. “Once you immerse yourself in her visual language, you realize how playful and balanced and animated each and every composition is.”