Works from the Esther Grether Family Collection

Hauptbau / Curators: Dr Josef Helfenstein, Dr Eva Reifert

The Kunstmuseum Basel seizes a unique opportunity to present works from an eminent private collection in Basel: the Esther Grether Family Collection, an internationally renowned collection of art from classic modernism to the present. Nineteen selected works from this ensemble will now be on display at the Kunstmuseum Basel for about six months, surrounded by treasures from the same periods from the museum’s own holdings.

The presentation’s focus is on the art of Surrealism, a movement that is a mainstay of the Grether Family Collection. The Kunstmuseum’s own examples are complemented by outstanding works such as Salvador Dalí’s «Cygnes se reflétant en éléphants» (1937), Max Ernst’s «Epiphanie» (1940), and Yves Tanguy’s «Les derniers jours» (1944). Broadening our survey of figurative Surrealism, a cabinet is dedicated to René Magritte: the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel, the public art collection of the City of Basel, does not have any works by the Belgian Surrealist. Enigmatic paintings that Magritte created between the 1930s and the 1960s, such as «La belle de nuit» (1932/33) and «L’Empire des lumières» (1948–1962), are shown together with Man Ray’s photographs «Le violon d’Ingres» (1924) and «La Prière» (1930/1970).

The dialogical interplay between the two collections continues with a still life by Paul Cézanne on the first floor; one painting each by František Kupka and Giacomo Balla, on view in our presentations of Cubist and Futurist art; and Francis Bacon’s «Four Studies for a Self-Portrait» (1967), which shines in the company of our late Picassos. Two sculptures and a painting by Alberto Giacometti from the Grether Collection will be temporary highlights in our redesigned Giacometti gallery. In 1965, the Grether family had made a decisive contribution to the establishment of the Alberto Giacometti Foundation, thus securing its existence in Switzerland.

In the presentation at the Kunstmuseum, the works of the Grether Collection are identified by special labels.