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By Culturekiosque Staff

CHARLOTTE, 2 JANUARY 2010 — The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the only museum dedicated to the exhibition of mid-20th-century modern art in the southeastern United States, celebrates its grand opening today in Charlotte, North Carolina. Admission is free all day following the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The new museum is named after the family of Andreas Bechtler, a Charlotte resident and native of Switzerland who inherited and assembled a collection of more than 1,400 artworks created by major figures of 20th-century modernism. He donated the collection to the public trust. The Bechtler collection reflects most of the important art movements and schools from the 20th century with a deep holding of the Paris School.

Mario Botta: Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, exterior detail
Photo courtesy of Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

The collection comprises artworks by seminal figures such as Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miro, Jean Tinguely, Max Ernst, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Le Corbusier, Sol LeWitt, Edgar Degas, Nicolas de Stael, Barbara Hepworth and Picasso. In many instances the holdings by a particular artist are across various media (painting, sculpture, drawing, prints and decorative arts). Some works in the collection are also accompanied by books, photographs and letters illustrating personal connections to the Bechtler family.

Many of the artists in the collection were close friends of Hans and Bessie Bechtler (the patrons, now deceased, who started the collection in the 1940s) and their son Andreas. Some of the works were gifts to the family by the artists themselves. The Bechtlers were collectors who identified some of the most influential figures in modern art early in their careers and formed personal relationships with some of them.

Only a handful of the artworks in the Bechtler collection have been on public view in the United States. Until now, the collection was privately held by the Bechtler family of Switzerland and has since been committed to the city of Charlotte.

In an interview, on 29 December 2009, with WFAE, the National Public Radio station in Charlotte, Bechtler says it isn’t difficult to give up the art. "It’s like children. They are fabulous for you but don’t belong to you. You have to let them go. The collection has found such a beautiful building from Mario Botta, and it’s such a beautiful location the city made available. So, I could not feel better."

Mario Botta: Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, interior detail
Photo courtesy of Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

The museum building was designed by the Ticino-based Swiss architect Mario Botta (b. 1943, Mendrisio). Botta’s design for the 35,600-square-foot Bechtler uses strong, formal contrasts to surprise and engage visitors. Outside, the building looks monolithic, a square terra cotta tile-covered box. A cantilevered fourth-floor gallery hangs over a plaza with a column set in the middle. An interior four-and-one-half story, light-filled atrium contradicts that weight.

The Firebird, a 17-foot-5-inch outdoor sculpture, stands on the museum’s plaza. The sculpture is a bird-like creature covered from top to bottom in pieces of mirrored and colored glass. Created in 1991 by French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002), the sculpture was purchased by museum patron Andreas Bechtler specifically for placement in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.

Niki de Saint Phalle: The Firebird
Photo courtesy of Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is part of a public-private partnership that is creating new and enhanced cultural facilities along Charlotte’s South Tryon Street corridor. Joining the Bechtler on the Wells Fargo Cultural Campus are the Mint Museum Uptown (opening fall 2010), the Knight Theater and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is located at 420 South Tryon Street in Charlotte, North Carolina. Operating hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.; closed Tuesdays. Admission is $8 for adults; $6 for seniors, college students and educators; $4 for youth (11 to 14) and free for children (up to 10). For museum details please visit

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