The Fondation Beyeler is a museum of modern art that ranks as one of the finest in the world. It has won international renown with its exhibitions of celebrated artists of the 19th, 20th and 21st century. Its central aim at all times is to facilitate, for its visitors, a personal, immediate, sensory experience of art.
The Fondation Beyeler is a museum of modern and contemporary art open 365 days a year. It is considered one of the world’s most beautiful museums. Its exhibitions of renowned artists of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries have brought the museum international recognition and established it as Switzerland’s most popular art museum. The focus is the visitor’s personal and sensory experiences in encountering art and nature.
The museum addresses itself to a broad public and aims in particular to fire the enthusiasm of young people for art. This was a goal especially close to the hearts of the museum’s founders, Basel art collectors Ernst and Hildy Beyeler. The couple wanted to make their world-famous collection accessible to the public and to share their passion for art and nature with others. In 1982 they converted their private collection into a foundation and in 1997 opened the Fondation Beyeler in their home town of Riehen, near Basel.
The museum lies in an idyllic setting within a park full of mature trees and lily ponds, looking out across fields of corn, grazing cows and sheep towards vineyards rising on the foothills of the Black Forest. The museum building, designed by multiple award-winning Genoese architect Renzo Piano, blends elegantly into this cultivated landscape and offers magnificent views of its surroundings. It thereby achieves a uniquely harmonious fusion of nature, art and architecture. Inside the generously sized galleries, daylight and artificial lighting combine to present the works of art to their fullest advantage.
The art museum is located in an English park with a historical villa, old trees, and water lily ponds. The museum building, designed by award-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano, fits elegantly into the cultural landscape and offers beautiful views of the park, cornfields, grazing cows and sheep, as well as the vineyards at the foothills of the Black Forest. The spacious rooms showcase the art in the most beautiful natural light. A green conservatory invites you to linger and read. The Fondation Beyeler combines nature, art, and architecture in a unique harmony.
The Beyeler Collection is rehung several times a year and is thus seen in constantly changing constellations. It comprises some 200 works of Post-Impressionism, Classical Modernism and contemporary art, together with 20 objects of ethnographic art from Africa, Oceania and Alaska.
The Fondation Beyeler regularly organizes exhibitions devoted to the great masters of modern art and to the leading artists of our own day. Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Henri Rousseau, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian, Kasimir Malevich, Constantin Brancusi, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Serra, Jenny Holzer and Félix González-Torres are just some of the artists whose works have been seen to date. Periodically, too, the museum conceives thematic exhibitions on cities and art movements that played a key role in the development of modernism. Every year the Fondation Beyeler also collaborates with contemporary artists on projects inside the museum and outdoors in public spaces. Examples include Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s legendary wrapped trees, Jenny Holzer’s light projections in Zurich and Basel, the installation of Félix González-Torres’s string of lights across the Mittlere Brücke bridge in Basel, and the presentation of Louise Bourgeois’ monumental spider sculpture in various Swiss cities as well as outside the Fondation Beyeler in Berower Park.
The Fondation Beyeler understands itself as an open and vibrant museum that is pledged to furthering public access to art and art education, and to providing a stimulating forum for personal exchanges, through a lively program of exhibitions and cultural events.
As the most visited art museum in Switzerland, the Fondation Beyeler has injected new life into the regional museum landscape and has already attracted almost 5 million visitors since first opening its doors. Around half of these guests come from abroad, with over 10,000 every year arriving from overseas.
Collector couple Ernst and Hildy Beyeler assembled a collection of fine works of classical modernism over fifty years, parallel to their work as successful gallery owners. The collection was converted into a foundation in 1982, and exhibited in its entirety for the first time in 1989. The collection includes approximately 300 paintings and sculptures and gives a personal view of classical modernism that is based above all on quality.
The Fondation Beyeler is the owner of the Beyeler Collection, and is dedicated to making the works accessible to the public by operating the museum. One of the foundation’s further goals is to awaken and nurture an interest in the arts in young people.
In 1952, Ernst Beyeler and his wife Hildy renamed their antiquarian bookshop at Bäumleingasse 9 in Basel “Galerie Beyeler,” thus laying the foundation for a unique career. This led to the establishment of the Beyeler Foundation in 1982 and culminated in the opening of the Fondation Beyeler in 1997, now one of the world’s most important and beautiful art museums.
The sphere of business grew to include North America and Ernst Beyeler met G. David Thompson of Pittsburgh, who first appeared as a client and later sold his legendary collection of modern art. He was regarded as a notoriously unpredictable collector and attracted a great deal of attention in the art world. In buying his collection, Ernst Beyeler gained the respect of prestigious New York galleries. He then sold complete groups of works from the Thompson Collection to museums, establishing a reputation that would open doors from that point on. He received great acclaim for placing a group of works by Klee in Düsseldorf and Giacometti sculptures in the specially founded Giacometti Foundation in Zurich. Beyeler the art dealer proved his credentials as a museum curator long before his own collection began to take shape.As the broker of major art deals, Ernst Beyeler became a friend to many museums. He later gave the impulse for entire exhibitions and actively supported them.
For all his fame, he did not forget his modest beginnings. The challenging quality of a work of art remained the most important thing. He shared this love generously with his clients, visitors, and later with his museum staff. He never lost sight of the essentials, nature, inner balance, and political and ecological aspects. The hustle and bustle of the city never penetrated into the rooms at Bäumleingasse, which had a medieval modesty that let art have center stage.
Ernst and Hildy Beyeler assembled a collection of fine works of classical modernism over fifty years, parallel to their work as successful gallery owners. The Collection was converted into a Foundation in 1982, and in 1989 it was publicly exhibited for the first time in its entirety at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. The collection won international acclaim and the collector couple went on to expand it with great care.
The foundation marked the birth of the idea of building a museum. Ernst Beyeler was looking for a suitable place and found it in his hometown of Riehen: the grounds of the Villa Berower offered the desired connection to nature and seemed made for the construction of a museum that would harmoniously unite architecture, art, and nature. Beyeler commissioned Renzo Piano without a competition for the construction of the Fondation Beyeler museum, which was opened on October 18, 1997.
Ernst Beyeler acted as director of the Fondation Beyeler until 2003. Christoph Vitali took over in 2003, then Sam Keller in 2008 and until today. Ernst Beyeler passed away in 2010, two years after the death of his wife Hildy.
Collection and Exhibitions:
The Beyeler Collection is presented several times a year in rotating exhibitions. It comprises roughly 300 works of post-impressionism, classic modern and contemporary art, and 30 ethnographic art objects from Africa, Oceania, and Alaska. The collection is researched and maintained by the Fondation’s own team of conservators and restorers. The museum also houses works on permanent loan from artists and associated collections such as the Daros Collection, the Collection Renard, and Anthax Collection Marx.
The Beyeler Foundation opened its doors on 18 October 1997, presenting 140 works of modern classics, including 23 Picassos. The overall collection of 200 works of classic modernism reflect the views of Hildy and Ernst Beyeler on 20th-century art and highlight features typical of the period from Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh to Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Francis Bacon. The paintings appear alongside some 25 objects of tribal art from Africa, Oceania and Alaska. A third of the exhibition space is reserved for special exhibitions staged to complement the permanent collection.
The culmination of Beyeler’s career came in 2007 when all the works that passed through his hands were reunited at the museum for a grand exhibition that included van Gogh’s 1889 Portrait of Postman Roulin, Lichtenstein’s Plus and Minus III and a huge expressive drip painting by Jackson Pollock. The collection is expanding, particularly in terms of works made after 1950 (recent acquisitions include pieces by Louise Bourgeois and Wolfgang Tillmans).
The garden surrounding the museum also periodically serves as a venue for special exhibitions. In a work called “Wrapped Trees”, Christo and Jeanne-Claude veiled 178 trees in the park around the Beyeler Foundation and in the adjacent Berower Park between 13 November and 14 December 1998.
The Fondation Beyeler regularly organizes exhibitions dedicated to the great masters of modern art and the major artists of our time. Thematic exhibitions about cities and art movements that played a decisive role in the development of modern art are presented periodically. Projects with contemporary artists are also realized every year in the museum and in public spaces. The Fondation Beyeler regularly cooperates with leading international museums and cultural institutions.
Cultural events and art mediation expand the array of offerings and make art more easily accessible. The Fondation’s diverse program includes artist talks, concerts, dance performances, recitals, lectures, panel discussions, cabaret, and film screenings. Internationally acclaimed artists, scientists, musicians, dancers, actors, directors, and other personalities are regularly invited as guests. Guided tours, workshops, and games for young people, families, schools, companies, clubs, and groups are also offered daily.
The Fondation Beyeler is an open and active museum that promotes access to art, cultural education and experiences, as well as interpersonal encounters. The restaurant and the museum shop contribute to this as well. Since its opening in 1997, over 6 million people have visited the museum: half from Switzerland, the other half from its neighboring countries and around the world. The Fondation Beyeler’s website provides insight into the collections and activities. It also includes films, photographs, and texts about artists, exhibitions, events, art mediation, restoration, publications, editions, and other projects.