Adam Szymczyk and documenta 14
An “intellectual programme” in Basel
On 31. October 2014, just 11 months after being appointed the future head of the Documenta, Adam Szymczyk took his leave as the director of the Kunsthalle in Basel. According to an article in the local newspaper written to mark the occasion, Szymczyk was a “relatively unknown” person when he took up his post in 2003. During his time at the Basel Kunsthalle he stamped its character with an “intellectual programme […] far removed from the paintings that his predecessor Peter Pakesch so loved: in the direction of emptiness, reduction, installation work and interventions. Few of the international artists whom he presented were previously known at the knee of the Rhine. His exhibitions were always a challenge, even for people who were used to art: but a challenge that was taken up willingly by visitors. He opened up an approach to art, which was up-to-date, often political and socially relevant.” He countered the accusation of not being open to local artists by introducing a new idea, “regional exhibitions”, and including the Hochschule für Gestaltung and Kunst FHNW in the concept. 
Szymczyk opened his programme of exhibitions in Basel in 2004 with an exhibition entitled “Earth, Wind and Fire” by the Polish multimedia artist, Piotr Uklański (*1968 Warsaw), with whom he had been working in the Warsaw gallery Foksal since 1999. In 2005 he presented further Eastern European attitudes to art with an exhibition by the Polish sculptor, installation artist, filmmaker and photographer, Artur Żmijewski (*1966 Warsaw); in 2007 he presented the work of the Romanian artist, Dan Perjovschi; and in 2008 he presented an exhibition entitled “only those wild species that appeal to people will survive” by the Slovakian artist, Ján Mančuška. He documented critical artistic attitudes to the marketing of art with solo exhibitions by the Danish artist group, Superflex (2005), Gustav Metzger (2006), Peter Friedl (2008), Goshka Macuga and Danh Vo (both 2009), Matthieu Kleyebe Abonnenc and Adrian Melis (2013) and two group exhibitions, “How to Work” and “How to Work (More for) Less” (both 2011). Szymczyk’s thematic exhibitions dealt with the construction and reconstruction of historic events, episodes and narrations, intended to open up another way of looking at how we write history: “QUAUHNAHUAC. It’s precisely a Utopia” (2006), “Report on Probability” (2009), “Strange Comfort (Afforded by the Profession)” (2010) and “Winter Line” by the Scottish artists, Ross Birrell and David Harding (2014). His retrospectives presented the New York artist, Lee Lozano (1930-1999), the Dutch media artist Bas Jan Ader (1942-1975) and the Indian painter, graphic artist and photographer, Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990). In 2011, on the occasion of an exhibition in Vienna by the Romanian-German concept artist, Daniel Knorr , the New York Times published an article about him entitled “Superstar among Curators”, maintaining that he was “something of a curatorial rock star”. When Szymczyk left Basel there were mixed reactions to his challenging programme of exhibitions from artist colleagues and people working in the local cultural scene. According to the TagesWoche, he was 21st in the global list of the 100 leading art curators published in 2014 by the London ArtReview. In November 2016 he had moved up to second place in the list that is compiled anonymously by a group of international experts.
 Karen N. Gerig: Bye bye, Adam!, TagesWoche Basel, 31.10.2014, http://www.tageswoche.ch/de/2014_44/kultur/671978/
 Following an invitation by the Fundacja Galerii Foksal/Foksal Gallery Foundation in 1999 Piotr Uklański made a mosaic of broken ceramic from the ceramic factories in Ćmielów und Pruszków for the entrance of the department store Smyk in the centre of Warsaw. In 2002, in the Galerie Foksal, he worked this into a large format presentation containing portraits of artists and colleagues in the Foundation, one of whom was Szymczyk (“Foksal Gallery”, 425 x 230 cm). cf. Ewa Gorządek: Piotr Uklański, on: culture.pl (2004), http://culture.pl/en/artist/piotr-uklanski
 Ginanne Brownell: Superstar Among Curators, The New York Times, 13.6.2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/arts/14iht-rartadam14.html
 Karen N. Gerig: Stimmen zu Adam Szymczyks Abschied, TagesWoche Basel, 31.10.2014, http://www.tageswoche.ch/de/2014_44/kultur/671964/