Of the 10,000 or so works that make up Paul Klee’s oeuvre a good 40 per cent, that is to say around 4,000 paintings, watercolours and drawings as well as archives and biographical material, has been brought together at the Zentrum Paul Klee. The Centre’s collections are considered as the largest collection of a single artist of world renown.
The Zentrum Paul Klee is not an art museum in the traditional sense. It is to become the leading centre of competence worldwide for research into and the mediation and presentation of Paul Klee, his life and his work, as well as the way in which his art is received. Given the diversity of Paul Klee’s artistic activities the Centre therefore not limits itself merely to showcasing Klee’s pictorial work but acts as a platform for interdisciplinary forms of artistic expression.
For this centre of excellence on all matters relating to Paul Klee a traditional museum is not what the renowned, award-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano had in mind. Renzo Piano's in-depth involvement with the complex project commission and the terrain on the eastern outskirts of Bern gave him the idea of creating a spacious island of green from which the architecture would emerge in the form of three undulating waves. In its entirety the Landscape Sculpture created as a result becomes a cultural destination.
The three hills of steel and glass are divided up into a programmatic structure characterised by an interdisciplinary approach. Indeed besides generous exhibition space the premises also include a state-of-the-art music and performance venue for the Centre’s own programs and for guest ensembles, a children’s museum for anyone aged 4 and over keen to gain access to art through their own creative output, a multifunctional promenade with a multitude of communication installations, and plenary halls and seminar rooms with the very latest infrastructure for staging national and international conventions. The fine arts, music, theatre, dance, literature, art science and art mediation will therefore not merely co-exist side by side; they are to give rise to new forms of expression through a form of artistic cross-pollination – for the sole benefit of the public’s enjoyment.
This exceptional cultural centre costing some 110 million Swiss francs was made possible by a public private partnership. The private contributors are the Klee family, the family of the internationally renowned orthopaedic surgeon Prof. Dr. med. Maurice E. Müller, Dr. h. c. mult., and his wife Martha Müller-Lüthi, as well as private collectors and sponsors from business and industry.
In the first ever presentation of its collections the Zentrum Paul Klee is to show some 200 works by Paul Klee exclusively. Artistic themes are to be considered in a chronologically overlapping context, with selected groups of works illustrating phases of Klee’s artistic development. The aim of the first collection presentation is to highlight and express the different mood layers in the oeuvre of Paul Klee.
The spacious, open-plan design of the premises is intended as a platform for a dramatically staged presentation of Paul Klee’s artistic work and its context: The walls and the semi-transparent sails of the ceiling are integrated into the room like a backdrop. In the individual theme-related areas different lighting techniques are used to set the mood.
Closeted zones have been created and combined with dimmed, indirect lighting so that even highly light-sensitive works on paper can be showcased. Smaller zones are situated in the side areas and permit a more intimate presentation of Paul Klee’s drawings and graphic work. The collection presentation also incorporates the linguistic skills and literary work of Paul Klee. Text excerpts, aphorisms, phrases and poetic passages as well as contemporary views (Rémy Zaugg) will be featured on the side walls in the form of “wall paintings”, providing an additional incentive for a more in-depth look at Paul Klee.
Content-related considerations and restoration requirements are such that a new concept and variation of the presentation units are required on a six monthly basis. This rota principle will make it possible to show the public individual works and groups of works that are largely unknown. The overall character of the collection presentation will be constantly renewed as a result.
The Centre’s interdisciplinary approach is founded in the artist’s interdisciplinary way of working and his multifaceted personality. This is something the collection presentation wants to make visible and perceivable, giving the impetus in many ways for the Centre’s music and teaching programmes.The collection
Paul Klee is one of the most significant artists of the first half of the 20th century. His artistic lifework comprises some 10,000 works. Important groups of works were created in Berne and environs, and many of Klee’s works have remained here – with his direct descendants, at the Paul-Klee-Stiftung (Paul Klee Foundation, 1947–2004) or with private collectors. A large part of this oeuvre has been brought together at the Zentrum Paul Klee and made accessible to the general public.
With around 4,000 works the Zentrum Paul Klee boasts the world’s most important collection of paintings, watercolours and drawings by Paul Klee as well as a great deal of biographical material in text and picture form.
The collection is also noteworthy for the private exhibits it contains, such as the puppets Paul Klee made for his son Felix or the notes he used when teaching at the Bauhaus, which provide an insight into the artists’ workshop.
Klee’s collection of natural history objects (dried plants, sea shells, snail’s shells, stones, minerals) and his manuscripts provide the link between the art collection and the life of Paul Klee himself. Works by artists of Klee’s acquaintance, such as Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc and Alexei Jawlensky, which were given to Klee as personal gifts and which are also to be found at the Zentrum Paul Klee, serve to situate Paul Klee’s work within the artistic context of his day.
Klee’s pictorial ideas are closely linked with aspects of language, theatre and music. They address themes such as architecture, technology, contemporary history and the history of creation, and engage with concepts of natural science, philosophy and psychology. The findings Klee derived from his theoretical and didactic writings were later reflected in his works.
The ground floor of the Middle Hill, with a surface area of 1,750 square metres, is given over to the collection’s presentation at the Zentrum Paul Klee.Temporary exhibitions
The basement floor of the Middle Hill comprises the hall for temporary exhibitions, with a total dividable surface area of 830 square metres. Every year some four special exhibitions will be shown here; while inspired by Klee’s art, they will extend far beyond his own work, in some cases reaching into the present.
Main themes will include Paul Klee’s cultural, historical and artistic background as well as his vast influence and his work’s impact, right into the 21st century. All the temporary exhibitions refer back to Klee, either directly or indirectly, and constantly renew the dialogue with the main collection presentation.
The Zentrum Paul Klee will also be showing less extensive theme-based exhibitions in the Forum (North Hill), in the Museum Street or in the children’s museum Kindermuseum Creaviva.
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