Perhaps the most understated section of Basel is Parcours, which is literally a walk in the park. After winding your way through small ancient streets that seem worlds away from the Messeplatz—the remains of the Roman embattlement built in 15 B.C. still stand—you arrive in front of the church, surrounded by some truly lovely public works, all outside, not in a stuffy convention center.
The Swiss-born artist Yves Scherer installed a wonderful little mermaid thing in a fountain. What used to be a bishop’s quarters is now splayed with tapestries and banners by Lara Schniter that proclaim “Don’t let the boys win!” and “Be the walker not the dog.” Ugo Rondinone has a truly incredible work, a 32-foot stunner called the gracious. And twelve centuries after the Carolingian empire brought Christianity to Basel, Nate Lowman installed some crosses in the park.
“This is a return to the beginning, as the first Parcours was here,” Marc Speigler said in a quick speech during the cocktail party. “Most people just know a few places here—the messe, the Three Kings, the Kunsthalle. It’s good to get people out into the city.”
At one point, an ice cream truck pulled up to the reception, and that was a welcome sight, as it was the first sunny day of the week, and who doesn’t like ice cream in the park? Well, turns out this is no Shake Shack custard: it’s Painting the roof of your mouth (Ice Cream) by Davide Balula, the French artist’s contribution to Parcours. The four flavors—burnt wood, smoke, dirt, and river—each represent a series of works from Balula’s past, and the artist worked with former Noma pastry chef Daniel Burns to get the ice cream to taste as close as possible to the element it’s named for.
The artist Chloe Wise offered to split her sampler with me, so I accepted—for the sake of journalism, you know. And I can report back that the dirt tasted like dirt, and the burnt wood tasted like a certain thing that’s much worse. But that didn’t stop most of the collectors and patrons from going in on the stuff. Cries of “It’s so interesting!” and “Oh, you have to try it” came out from around the stand, as the scoop girl became inundated with orders.
Perhaps they were overcome by the beauty of Balula’s work, or just didn’t want to miss out. Or maybe they were going on a rumor that one man was spreading around the room.
“The black ice cream has weed in it!” he said.