The Kunstmuseum Bern (Museum of Fine Arts) is Switzerland’s oldest art museum with a permanent collection. In autumn 2010, over 150 masterpieces from this institution were on show at the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung (Hypo Cultural Foundation) in Munich. The selected paintings, drawings and sculptures were created by more than 60 Swiss artists. Thus, these works not only represent the Kunstmuseum’s collection but also reflect the development of art in our neighbouring country.
In looking back over seven centuries, is it possible to detect a specific quality that is unique to Switzerland? Can certain themes or artistic expressions be detected within this countries art production? How can one define a national, a Swiss art? Can this be found in works by artists who, although they were born in Swiss cantons, spent their lives elsewhere, achieving glory from beyond the borders of their home country? In the same way, surely one should show the works of those artists who worked in Switzerland and set a precedent there, even if they never received a Swiss passport? The exhibition posed such questions and, with a plethora of masterpieces, permits the visitor to see »Swiss Art« in a new light.
from the independence from the Holy Roman Empire to the 1960s
The exhibition began with altarpieces dating from the 15th century, a time when the Swiss achieved independence from the Holy Roman Empire. Portraits from the 16th to the 18th century bear witness to the dominant influence of Protestantism within the Alpine republic. Majestic mountain panoramas reflect the concept of a national state as glorified in Schiller’s »Wilhelm Tell« (1804) and that was recognised under international law in 1848. Rooms dedicated to individual artists from Albert Anker via Karl Stauffer-Bern to Ferdinand Hodler illustrate an independent artistic development that also met with recognition beyond the Swiss border, to enter the international stage with the Giacometti family, Paul Klee and Jean Tinguely. Finally, artists like Franz Gertsch, Diether Roth, Daniel Spoerri or Pipilotti Rist set a contemporary tone.
The works for this exhibition were selected by Roger Diederen (curator at the Kunsthalle), Matthias Frehner (director of the Kunstmuseum Bern) and Christiane Lange (director of the Kunsthalle). Following the presentation in Munich, the Kunstmuseum Bern had shown this group of works in its own galleries. From September 2011, a slightly smaller variant of this exhibition was shown at the Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design in Oslo.