Swiss art collection on show two years after heist

Wed Feb 10, 2010 9:17am EST
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By Jason Rhodes

ZURICH (Reuters Life!) - Zurich's Kunsthaus museum will offer the first public glimpse Friday of a Swiss art collection that has been under lock and key since thieves stole its most-prized painting in a $160 million heist two years ago.

The collection of German-born arms maker Emil Buehrle hit the headlines in February 2008 when masked robbers made off with major works by Cezanne, Degas, Monet and Van Gogh in Switzerland's biggest-ever art theft.

The show will give the public a sneak preview of the collection before it moves residence in 2015 to a new wing of the Kunsthaus designed by British architect David Chipperfield.

The magnate's collection, which contains around 180 paintings and sculptures including some of the world's finest works of Impressionism and post-Impressionism, is usually housed in a villa adjoining Buehrle's former home by Lake Zurich.

The special event, which runs until May 16, is one of the highlights in a series to mark the centenary of the Kunsthaus. The series culminates in a show revisiting Picasso's first museum retrospective, held in the Jugendstil building in 1932.

"The presentation here can be considered as a dress rehearsal of this potential move," Lukas Gloor, the collection's director and show's co-curator, said in an interview with Reuters, adding the new location was not just being considered on security grounds.

"The uniting of the Buehrle collection with the Kunsthaus collection is aimed at addressing a larger audience than the one we can draw to the current premises and placing it in the central location it rightfully belongs."

The new wing of the Kunsthaus promises to turn Zurich into Europe's leading center for French Impressionism outside Paris.   Continued...

<p>A TV camera woman takes pictures of the painting 'Monet's garden at Giverny' from 1895 by late French artist Claude Monet (1840-1926) during a media preview at the Kunsthaus Zurich in Zurich, February 9, 2010. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann</p>