In Basel – arguably the art capital of Switzerland – there’s a contemporary art collection that, in the 20 years of its existence, has grown to become a much-loved and un-intimidatingly accessible place to discover art.
The Swiss art museum opened to the public in 1997 by Ernst and Hilda Beyeler, both art dealers, and what nowadays we would call a power-couple in the art world.
Dubbed ‘Europe’s pre-eminent dealer in modern art’ by the New York Times, Ernst Beyeler, who was born in Basel, eventually amassed an art collection worth 2 billion CHF.
His collection included work by Braque, Klee, Matisse, Monet, Picasso and Mondrian, many of which were purchased from the American banker, industrialist and art collector G. David Thompson.
Instead of housing the impressive 340-piece strong collection in a foundation dedicated to the collection’s previous owner, Beyeler divided the works between the Kunsthaus Zürich, the Basel Kunstmuseum and the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, eventually establishing his own (private) foundation in 1982 – and thus consolidating his reputation as an art authority.
Today, the Fondation Beyeler, a single-storey building designed by Renzo Piano with floor-to-ceiling glass facades that lets loads of natural light pour in, holds 300 works of art. It is an open, active museum that is meant to inspire public appreciation for modern and contemporary art, and it definitely succeeded in doing that, earning the spot of most popular art museum in Switzerland.
Located in the middle of Berower Park, where Alexander Calder and Elsworth Kelly sculptures were placed as well, it is harmoniously integrated into its surrounding greenery, grazing cows and the foothills of the Black Forest. Renzo Piano conceived of three wings adapted to the terrain, and allowed the whole collection to be accessible on one level.
With a major Bacon-Giacometti exhibition in the works for May 2018, the museum is surely worth the 1-hour drive from the Widder Hotel – and it’s open every day, so take your pick for an ideal time to visit.
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