January 14, 2010 / 5:45 PM / 9 years ago

Picasso show marks Zurich gallery's 100th birthday

ZURICH (Reuters Life!) - Kunsthaus Zurich, where Picasso had his first museum show in 1932, is celebrating its centenary with a special program including an exhibition showing how contemporaries received the Spanish artist’s work.

"Tete de femme," by artist Pablo Picasso, which will be sold at auction at an estimated price between $7-10 million on November 3, 2009 by Christie's during the Impressionist & Modern Art evening sale, is seen at a press preview in New York October 29, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East

The program kicks off on February 12 with a rare opportunity for the public to glimpse the world-renowned collection of controversial Zurich industrialist Emil Buehrle and culminates with a show marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Carl Moser, the Jugendstil building’s architect.

“We decided not to mark the centenary with just one big event, but a whole rolling program of top-class exhibitions,” Kunsthaus Director Christoph Becker said at a press conference Thursday.

The museum, which welcomed 228,000 visitors in 2009, aims to showcase its various strengths with art spanning the centuries — from the paintings of the Old Masters to films and installations by contemporary artists.

The Buehrle show will give the public a sneak preview of one of the world’s most significant private collections of European art before it moves residence in 2015 to a new wing of the Kunsthaus designed by British star architect David Chipperfield.

The collection, which contains around 180 pictures and sculptures including some of the world’s finest works of impressionism, was assembled by German-born industrialist Emil Buehrle and is currently housed in a villa adjoining his former home near the shores of Lake Zurich.

It hit the headlines in February 2008, when masked robbers made off with major works by Cezanne, Degas, Monet and Van Gogh worth around $160 million in Switzerland’s biggest-ever art heist. Only two of the four works were recovered.


Buehrle amassed his fortune from the Oerlikon tool and munitions works, which sold arms to both sides in World War II, and in the late 1940s he returned or repurchased several works found to have been looted by the Nazis from Jewish families.

“The exhibition will address the provenance and circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the works,” said Becker. “Buehrle bought the works in good faith and was one of the first collectors to address the issue.”

Over the summer, the Kunsthaus will focus on contemporary artists with shows by German photographer Thomas Struth, whose large-format pictures explore the boundaries between documentation and interpretation, and by Albanian multimedia artist Adrian Pacci, whose work addresses pressing themes like migration, globalization and cultural identity.

The museum revisits its landmark 1932 Picasso exhibition in the final months of its centenary year, allowing the 21st century public to view his groundbreaking art afresh with 70 works from the original show.

“The exhibition is the result of five years’ work,” said Kunsthaus Curator Tobia Bezzola. “In the first place we had to ascertain which works were in the original exhibition. Then we had to locate them all.”

Picasso curated the 1932 retrospective spanning the first three decades of his career from his blue and rose periods through cubism, in which he developed an entirely new pictorial language with French artist Georges Bracque, to his classical period.

“Picasso was already a star at the time. The whole celebrity thing had started even back then,” said Bezzola, adding Picasso’s prolonged presence in the city caused quite a stir in Zurich society while he was preparing the show.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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