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Although being a relatively small country, Switzerland proves to be a real paradise for lovers of contemporary art and culture. Indeed, a vast range of attractions such as museums and galleries as well as festivals of music, theatre and literature are concentrated in a very small area. Discover more about the Switzerland Art Spaces on Kooness.

Almost all over Switzerland, visitors can admire numerous outstanding examples of architecture or historic locations where important artists worked. Switzerland is a country of collectors. A major part in the art market has long been played by the great industrial families, some of whom assembled important collections. The widespread view that art required private sponsorship prevailed in Switzerland until the 1970s. It is noticeable that the largest institutions opened since the 1990s were all financed privately.

If you are curious about private foundations don't miss the article by Anna Mutti When private businesses meet Contemporary Art | The case of Italy

Private foundations supporting the cultural production emerged in Switzerland early in time and have then increased in number and power. In the years some foundations have preferred to remain independent while others have opted for mergers. Mergers are consolidations, meaning that foundations were combined with other institutions in the same field. An example of this is the special legal structure found for the Berner Kunstmuseum and the Zentrum Paul Klee. On the one hand, the “Foundation Paul Klee” was dissolved to become, together with the “Maurice E. and Martha Müller Foundation,” the “Zentrum Paul Klee – Maurice E. and Martha Müller Foundation”. This foundation is a new structure, a subfoundation to the “Umbrella Foundation Kunstmuseum Bern – Zentrum Paul Klee”. 

1. Beyeler Foundation (Riehen, Basel)

The founder couple Ernst and Hildy Beyeler had a clear vision: the Beyeler Foundation should be an open, active museum that inspires an appreciation for art in a wide audience. A museum that promotes both cultural education and interpersonal encounters. It is well known for the exhibitions of renowned artists of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries that have brought the museum international recognition and established it as Switzerland's most popular art museum. The museum building was designed by the award-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano. Since its opening in 1997, over 6 million people have visited the museum: half from Switzerland, the other half from its neighbouring countries and around the world.


Beyeler Foundation - Basel


2. Laurenz Foundation (Basel)

The Laurenz Foundation, established in 1999 by Maja Oeri and her husband Hans U. Bodenmann in memory of their first-born son Laurenz Jakob, who died an untimely death, made possible the realization of the Schaulager. The Laurenz Foundation is dedicated to the promotion and support of the fine arts. The Laurenz Foundation facilitates the exchange with professionals, researchers and students in the art-related fields and organisms exhibitions and projects in the area of contemporary art. Schaulager combines the functions of storing, studying and presenting modern and contemporary art. It is based on the innovative idea of storing artworks so that they are accessible for study purposes.

3. Museum Tinguely (Basel)

The Museum Tinguely is the result of the cultural commitment of Roche. The Museum Tinguely was constructed by Mario Botta and inaugurated in 1996 as a gift to the people of Basel and to mark the centenary of Roche’s founding. Roche built the museum, contributed works from its own holdings and provided funding for additions to the museum’s collections. The Museum owns the greatest exhibition in the world of works by the sculptor Jean Tinguely, as well as works by Eva Aeppli and Niki de Saint Phalle. Alongside the permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions are constantly organized on the artists' contemporaries, as well as on other modern artists.

4. Zentrum Paul Klee (Berne)

The Zentrum Paul Klee was made possible through the founder families Klee and Müller, the authorities and the sovereign power of the City, the Canton and Burgergemeinde Bern as well as partners from the business. With around 4'000 works at its disposal, the Zentrum Paul Klee has the most significant collection of paintings, aquarelles and drawings worldwide and includes archive and biographical material from all the periods of Paul Klee’s work.

5. Kroll Foundation (Luzern)

Kroll Family Trust is actively engaged in promoting cultural activities and publications. Its aim is to promote modern and contemporary art to a broader audience, focusing its activities on exhibitions and publications, supporting institutions and foundations. The Trust’s origins lie in a private family collection that began with its patriarch, Aaron Kroll. By the end of the 1970’s, his son Michael, now a successful businessman, began pursuing his own interest in cultural objects both inspired by his father and his own individual taste and took the decision to diversify the Trust activity to embrace not only collecting art but fostering creative and intellectual initiatives through educational programs, publications and, in the near future, exhibitions. 

6. Emmanuel Hoffman Foundation (Basel)

In 1933 the 36-years-old Maja Hoffman-Stehlin created a foundation in Basel, which was devoted to the progressive goal of collecting works of art and making them accessible to the public: the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation. The main focuses of the Foundation are the collection, the conservation and public display of art with an uncompromising orientation towards the future. Since its inception, the Emmanuel Hoffman Foundation has consistently pursued its progressive aim of supporting contemporary art and making it available to the general public. In 2003, the Foundation’s collection became the heart of the Schaulager.


FUTURE PRESENT, 2015—2016, Andy Warhol, Maja (Maja Sacher-Stehlin), 1980, Emmanuel Hoffman Foundation. Courtesy by Schaulager


7. Gottfried Keller Foundation (Winterthur)

The Gottfried Keller Foundation is an example of great cultural patronage. The Gottfried Keller Foundation (GKF) was established in 1890 by Lydia Welti-Escher, the daughter and heir of the politician, business leader and railway entrepreneur Alfred Escher. The Foundation's name since its inception is a homage to the celebrated Swiss poet and painter Gottfried Keller, who was a friend of the Escher family. In the years since its creation, the Gottfried Keller Foundation has acquired more than 6,500 works of art for Swiss museums.  Often, the aim has been to secure important objects for a Swiss museum before they were sold abroad, or to buy back Swiss art that had been exported. The result is one of the most significant collections of Swiss art from the 12th to the 20th centuries, in which all genres of fine and applied art are represented. An example of a museum financed by the Gottfried Keller Foundation is the Segantini Museum in St. Moritz. 

8. Kunst Museum Winterthur | Reinhart am Stadtgarten (Winterthur)

The Kunst Museum Winterthur | Reinhart am Stadtgarten, formerly called Museum Oskar Reinhart, was historically the building of the Oskar Reinhart Foundation. When it opened in 1951, it was the first private museum in Switzerland. The Museum owns works raging from the 17th to the 21st century. 

9. Nestlé Foundation for Contemporary Art (Lausanne)

Nestlé S.A.’s long commitment to the arts was specifically recognized in 1991 via the creation of the Foundation Nestlé pour l’Art to mark the company’s 125th anniversary. The Foundation’s mission is to promote the creation of contemporary artwork in Switzerland. The Foundation strives to participate effectively and with the financial resources at its disposal in the support of innovative projects while taking full responsibility for the risk inherent in every artistic creation.

10. Bonhôte Foundation for Contemporary Art (Neuchâtel) 

The Bonhôte Foundation for Contemporary Art was founded in Neuchâtel to support all forms of contemporary art, particularly through financial grants. It focuses on promoting artists and/or events in Switzerland, especially in the regions where the Bank is present.

11. Ghisla Foundation (Locarno)

The Ghisla Foundation was established in 2014, with the aim of providing the community with an artistic heritage of international value, to be shared by all those who recognize an indelible richness in art. Its headquarters occupy a futuristic building, just built according to a project by the Moro & Moro architecture studio of Locarno and located in the city centre. The space of the Ghisla Foundation hosts the collection of the Ghisla spouses but also temporary exhibitions. 


Ghisla Foundation - Locarno


12. Nairs Foundation (Scuol)

Established in 2005, the NAIRS Foundation is a unique synthesis of an art gallery, a cultural centre and a residence for artists. It connects the Engadin with Swiss and international contemporary art. In its role as an art gallery, the NAIRS Foundation holds exhibitions of Swiss and international contemporary art and hosts a variety of cultural events and conferences. 

13. UBS Culture Foundation (Zurich)

UBS Culture Foundation was founded on the occasion of the merger of Union Bank of Switzerland (SBG) and Swiss Bank Corporation (SBV), together with the UBS Foundation for Social Issues and Education, which replaced the predecessor banks’ so-called Anniversary Foundations. Since 1999, and in accordance with its stipulated purpose, UBS Culture Foundation deploys the annual yield from the Foundation’s capital to support cultural and artistic life and creativity in Switzerland. The UBS Foundation does not only support the conservation of existing cultural achievements but notably also fosters the innovation of art and culture in all its forms of expression. 

14. Migros Foundation (Zurich)

The collection of the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst owes its existence to the supportive gesture of an entrepreneur: Gottlieb Duttweiler, the founder of the largest Swiss retailer, Migros, began to purchase works of art in the mid-1950s. Since the beginning, the Museum has been characterized by a swiftness and flexibility in engaging with new artists and artworks. The Museum relies on the production of works in close collaboration with the artists rather than on pieces that are already known quantities. Moreover, most of the works shown in exhibitions are then purchased by the Foundation, becoming part of the Migros collection. 


Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the artworld.


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