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Fondation Beyeler

The Beyeler Foundation or Fondation Beyeler with its museum in Riehen, near Basel, owns and oversees the art collection of Hildy and Ernst Beyeler.


Art dealers Ernst Beyeler (16 July 1921 – 25 February 2010) and Hilda Kunz (1922 - 2008), known as Hildy, created the Beyeler Foundation in 1982 and commissioned Renzo Piano to design a museum, the Fondation Beyeler, to house their private collection.[1] The collection was first publicly exhibited in its entirety at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid in 1989, and was subsequently shown at Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, (1993) and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, (1997).[2]

By building Renzo Piano's museum structure in 1997, the Beyeler Foundation made its collection permanently accessible to the public. The museum is properly funded, and it receives annual grants from the cantons of Basel City and Basel County and the commune of Riehen.[3] In 2006, approximately 340,000 persons visited the museum. Hildy Beyeler died on 18 July 2008, and Ernst died on 25 February 2010.
Collection and exhibitions
Suprematist Composition (1915), oil on canvas, by Kazimir Malevich

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.[4] The collection is expanding, particularly in terms of works made after 1950 (recent acquisitions include pieces by Louise Bourgeois and Wolfgang Tillmans).[5]

White Curves (2002), made of white aluminium, by Ellsworth Kelly

Embedded in the Berowerpark in the Basle suburb of Riehen, the building features a glazed façade largely looking out onto the corn fields and vines covering the Tüllinger Hills. The two perimeter walls of the original garden site inspired the idea of the museum’s layout. Four 115-metre-long supporting porphyry walls running from north to south and standing 7m apart define the plan of the building. Resting on top of the solid foundation walls, the lightweight glass roof, white enamelled on the reverse, admits northern light but screens off light from the East and the West. Along the northern and the southern sides the roof projects far beyond the walls, shading the glass façades from the sun. Less than two years after the museum's inauguration in Autumn 1997, the building was lengthened by 12 metres. This increased the exhibition area by 458 m² to its current 3,764 m².

Situated vis-à-vis the museum building, the late-Baroque Villa Berower houses the museum’s administration department.
"Wrapped Trees"
Sculptures by Alexander Calder (front) and Ellsworth Kelly in the park

The garden surrounding the museum also periodically serves as a venue for special exhibitions. Christo and Jeanne-Claude veiled 178 trees in the park around the Beyeler Foundation and in the adjacent Berower Park between 13 November – 14 December 1998.
Further reading

Hollerstein, Roman. Renzo Piano - Fondation Beyeler. A Home for Art: Foundation Beyeler - A Home for Art. Birkhäuser Verlag, 1998. ISBN 978-3-7643-5919-5.
Boehm, Gottfried. Fondation Beyeler. Prestel, 2001. ISBN 978-3-7913-1885-1.
Beyeler, Ernst; Büttner Philippe. Fondation Beyeler. Collection. Hatje Cantz, 2008. ISBN 978-3-7757-1946-9.

See also

Museums in Basel


William Grimes (26 February 2010), Ernst Beyeler, Top Dealer of Modern Art, Dies at 88 New York Times.
Swiss art museum founder Ernst Beyeler dies at 88 The Guardian.
Martin Bailey (14 June 2013), An art-lovers’ paradise The Art Newspaper.
Swiss art museum founder Ernst Beyeler dies at 88 The Guardian.
Martin Bailey (14 June 2013), An art-lovers’ paradise The Art Newspaper.

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