Planted in the prototypical surroundings of the protestant upper middle class, Saint Fabiola, a popular representative of Catholicism, will generate a fascinating conflict between two contrasting worlds.
For nearly twenty years the Belgian artist Francis Alÿs has been collecting images of Saint Fabiola, a fourth century patrician Roman woman who, despite divorce and remarriage, later did such fervent penance that she was welcomed back to the faith and, after her death, sainted. She is the patron saint of the divorced, the deceived, the mistreated and of widows. For years she fell into oblivion, but in the nineteenth century returned to popularity as the protagonist of a novel named after her. Francis Alÿs acquired his Fabiola portraits, mostly the work of amateurs, in flea markets and antique shops throughout Europe and America. All the works have been left in their original state. The artists, dates and places of origin are largely unknown.
Francis Alÿs has been presenting his collection since 1994. He looks for a special location for each Fabiola exhibition, devising a new constellation for the portraits, which now number over 350. He cunningly uses the collection as a Trojan horse, penetrating and occupying ever more new spaces. Embedding his swarm of images in their new environment, he illuminates new and unique aspects of the collection - and of the host location.
Through their sheer quantity alone the mass of images develop a creative potency, taking root in their alien environment and revealing its qualities. The galleries of haut-bourgeois residential living at the Haus zum Kirschgarten, otherwise so calm and self-possessed, are set to be taken over entirely by the conflict with their intruder, allowing a fascinating dialogue to unfold across social, cultural and religious boundaries.
Thanks to Schaulager’s international collaboration with the Dia Art Foundation, New York and Basel’s Historisches Museum it has been possible to create a unique exhibition, which can only be seen in Basel.