From 2020: The Bührle Collection in the Kunsthaus Zurich
The Bührle Collection in the Kunsthaus Zurich
© David Chipperfield Architects
On 25 November 2012, voters in the City of Zurich approved a loan of CHF 88 million as the city’s contribution to the construction of an extension for the Kunsthaus on Heimplatz. This sum covers approximately half of the building costs, with a further CHF 88 million coming from private donors and CHF 30 million from the Canton of Zurich. The plans for the extension were drawn up by the British architect David Chipperfield. His project emerged as the winner of an international competition, not least because it fittingly complements both the original 1910 Kunsthaus building designed by Karl Moser and the exhibition gallery endowed by Emil Bührle, and inaugurated in 1958.

Construction work has now begun, and the new building is scheduled to open in 2020. Thereafter, the Foundation E.G. Bührle Collection and the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft have agreed to embark on a new and close cooperation. The works belonging to the Bührle Foundation will be on permanent display in specially designed galleries on the second floor of the extension, in an exhibition that showcases the essence and scope of the Bührle Collection.

Like every collection put together by an individual, the collection of Emil Bührle is partly shaped by the era in which it came into being. It owes its significance not only to the outstanding masterpieces it contains, but also to the choice of artists which is typical of the mid-20th century.

Pursuing directions guided by contemporary views, Emil Bührle selected his own personal art history from the history of art in general, and represented it in his private collection. This approach differs fundamentally from that of a public collection, which is of necessity broader based and built up over a long period and, for that reason, is shaped by the preferences of multiple parties.

In view of the compact and systematic structure of Emil Bührle’s collection, the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft and the Bührle Foundation have decided that, for at least 15 years after the opening of the extension, the Bührle works will not be integrated into the relevant departments of the Kunsthaus collection but instead exhibited as a separate entity. This will be accompanied by a presentation of the historical circumstances and economic conditions that led to the creation of the Bührle Collection.

At the end of this period, it will be possible to assess whether a presentation of this kind is still attractive and comprehensible for visitors to the Kunsthaus, or whether new ways of meaningfully grouping images in museums have since been developed that suggest different approaches to exhibiting the collection of Emil Bührle.