The Guide
28 November 2023

Jasper Johns – The Artist as Collector from Cézanne to de Kooning

by Redaction NOW Village

From 30.09.2023 to 04.02.2024 at the Kunstmuseum Basel | Neubau

Jasper Johns (born 1930) is a major American artist of the 20th century. He is best known for his role as a precursor of the pop art movement. In the 1950s, he revolutionised the world of painting by creating iconic works featuring the American flag and targets. However, few people know that he was also a passionate collector of drawings.

The Kunstmuseum Basel is now offering a unique opportunity to discover the artist’s collection, highlighting his passion for drawing in all its forms. For decades, he acquired remarkable and sometimes surprising drawings that reflected his artistic curiosity and intuition. His collection includes works ranging from an anonymous self-portrait of an American boy from the mid-twentieth century to a self-portrait by Paul Cézanne, one of the most influential French artists of the nineteenth century. It also features drawings by Käthe Kollwitz, Johann Heinrich Füssli and Bartolomeo Passarotti, as well as a handprint by Marcel Duchamp.

The Jasper Johns collection offers a fascinating insight into the history of art and its ability to identify artistic connections across the centuries. It includes French drawings from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as works by American artists from the second half of the twentieth century, including Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning.

Baigneur descendant dans l’eau, Paul Cezanne, around 1885. | Ceci n’est pas une pipe, René Magritte, 1965, Collection of Jasper Johns © 2023, ProLitteris, Zurich.

The collection also bears witness to the personal ties that Jasper Johns maintained throughout his life as an artist. Most of the works were gifts or exchanges with artist friends, such as Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage and Merce Cunningham, as well as artists of an earlier generation, such as Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman and Franz Kline. Many of the works include dedications, recalling personal encounters, friendships and family moments.

The exhibition at Kunstmuseum Basel | Neubau presents a selection of 103 drawings from his collection, focusing on the theme of the human body, particularly portraits. The exhibition offers a diversity of graphic expressions from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century, including collages, sketches, studies and pictorial compositions, as well as musical notations.

Collection of Jasper Johns, Kunstmuseum Basel
Collection of Jasper Johns | Photo Credit: Julian Salinas

This exhibition is the fruit of a long and close relationship between the artist and the Kunstmuseum Basel, dating back to 1968. Jasper Johns has contributed generously to this collection over the years. This exhibition is a testament to this enduring friendship.

In short, Jasper Johns, as well as being a visionary artist, was also a passionate collector. This exhibition offers a unique insight into his art collection. It’s an exceptional opportunity to delve into the artistic world of this giant of modern American art.

Works on the cover:
Handprint with Letter, Marcel Duchamp, Collection of Jasper Johns © Association Marcel Duchamp / 2023, ProLitteris, Zurich
Jasper Johns, © 2022, Pro Litteris, Zurich, Photo Credit: John Lund
Jeune femme accoudée, Henri Matisse, 1941, Collection of Jasper Johns © Succession H. Matisse / 2023, ProLitteris, Zurich

Jasper Johns — The Artist as Collector
From Cezanne to de Kooning

30.09.2023 – 04.02.2024
Kunstmuseum Basel | Neubau
St. Alban-Graben 8, 4010 Basel
Website :