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ERNST BEYELER: 1921 - 2010



By Culturekiosque Staff

PARIS, 6 MARCH 2010 — One of the world's most distinguished  art dealers and collectors of modern art, Ernst Beyeler, died last week at the age of 88. The Swiss connoisseur and founder of the small but chic museum, the Fondation Beyeler, died quietly in his sleep on 25 February at his residence in Riehen, Switzerland, a suburb of Basel.

In the course of 60 years at his Galerie Beyeler at Bäumleingasse 9 in Basel, he mounted over 300 exhibitions and sold about 16,000 original works of art to renowned museums and private collectors around the world. 

Beyeler and his wife Hildy, who died on 18 July 2008, were also gifted art collectors and philanthropists. "They amassed one of the most significant collections of modern art in the world, and made it accessible to the public by establishing our museum, the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen," said the Foundation Council in a statement to the press. "We mourn him deeply."

Fondation Beyeler
Photo: T. Dix

The museum building, designed by the well-known architect Renzo Piano, was inaugurated in 1997. Since then, Ernst Beyeler organized a long series of important exhibitions that displayed his collection of some 220 works. The museum's nineteen galleries illustrate the development of abstract painting, starting with Monet and Cézanne, and focus mainly on protagonists of classical modernity such as Kandinsky and Mondrian, also touching on cubism through Léger, Braque and Picasso. Alongside the surrealists Ernst and Miró, individuals as difficult to classify as Giacometti, Klee and Dubuffet are also represented. Works by the major representatives of American abstraction, such as Pollock, Newman and Rothko, interact with those by post-war European painters, such as Bacon, Kiefer and Baselitz. Forty striking works of African and Oceanic art complete the collection which was shown at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid (1989), at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin (1993) and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney (1996 - 1997).

Fondation Beyeler: The Giacometti room
Photo: T. Dix

After resigning from the foundation presidency in 2009, Ernst Beyeler placed the fortunes of the foundation and museum in the hands of Hansjörg Wyss, President of the Foundation Council, Georg Krayer, President of the Administration Council, and Sam Keller, Museum Director.

Ernst Beyeler was also one of the founders of the Art Basel art fair. Active for decades on the Art Basel committee, he contributed seminally to making the event one of the most important annual gathering places for the art world.

In addition to his great passion for art, he was actively engaged in the protection of nature and the environment. In 2001, he and his wife established the Art for the Tropical Forests Foundation.

The memorial service for Ernst Beyeler will take place in the Basel Münster on Thursday, 18 March at 14h30.

Headline photo above: Ernst Beyeler
Photo courtesy of Fondation Beyeler

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