The Kupferstichkabinett (Department of Prints and Drawings) of the Kunstmuseum Basel is the largest public collection of drawings, watercolours and prints in Switzerland (approx. 300,000 works). From an international perspective, it is one of the world's finest collections of works of art on paper.
The majority of the early holdings come from the collection of Basel lawyer Basilius Amerbach (1533–1591), which was purchased by the City of Basel in 1661, and the collection of Remigius Faesch, which was donated to the University of Basel in 1823.
The Amerbach collection, with its thick portfolios from the workshops of Upper Rhine artists – from Holbein to Hans Bock the Elder – not only continues to shape the character of the collection. Until well into the modern era, it also determined the trajectory of purchasing and collecting policies, even influencing the acquisition of an extensive group of pages from the sketchbooks of Paul Cézanne.
For the 20th century, work groups by Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Brice Marden, Bruce Nauman, Francesco Clemente, Georg Baselitz, A.R. Penck, Rosemarie Trockel, Martin Disler and others lend the collection its unique face. An acquisition policy giving priority to drawings further distinguishes the Kupferstichkabinett from other collections.
The acquisition of contemporary art is generously supported by the Karl August Burckhardt-Koechlin Fund, which has placed its collection on deposit at the Kupferstichkabinett.
The holdings of the Kupferstichkabinett are regularly presented in changing exhibitions, sometimes under a thematic heading. They are also made accessible in exhibition and collection catalogues. On request, originals can be examined in a study room.