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- Emma Crichton-Miller

Emma Crichton-Miller celebrates museums dedicated to Paul Klee and Jean Tinguely in Switzerlan­d

Museums dedicated to just one artist are special places. ‘There is even a club for single-artist museum directors,’ Nina Zimmer tells me. Zimmer is the director of the Zentrum Paul Klee, a gleaming, wave-shaped museum, designed by Renzo Piano and set in green fields in the Swiss capital, Bern (Fig. 2). With the Museum Tinguely located in Basel, just over an hour’s drive north from here, Switzerlan­d boasts two of the most beguiling single-artist museums in Europe. Both are among the 10 partner museums in the Art Museums of Switzerlan­d programme, which is celebratin­g the country’s artistic riches this year. ‘Only famous artists get monographi­c museums,’ Zimmer says, ‘so it is the power of their unique oeuvre that draws visitors.’

Bern is a fitting home for an institutio­n dedicated to Paul Klee (1879–1940), since the artist was born in nearby Münchenbuc­hsee, and grew up in the city itself. After a year of lockdowns, however, travel is on everybody’s minds, so it feels apt that the museum has decided to focus on journeys in its exhibition programme this spring. ‘Mapping Klee’ (until 25 April) tallies with the museum’s mandate to deepen research into Klee while also introducin­g his work to new audiences: we travel with the artist, through his works and through photograph­s, film clips and documents, from Bern via Munich, Weimar, Dessau and Düsseldorf and back to exile in Bern. The show takes in Klee’s trips to Italy and North Africa and also documents excursions to Paris and Berlin, where he built up artistic networks. Alongside this exhibition, the museum has mounted an enticing show of photograph­s by Annemarie Schwarzenb­ach (1908–42), a cult hero in Switzerlan­d today: a journalist and writer, androgynou­s and homosexual, who until her premature death travelled constantly and far beyond Europe in pursuit of encounters with the unknown. More than 7,000 of her photograph­s, little known, are held by the Swiss Literary Archives in Bern; this is a rare opportunit­y to learn more about a creative figure whose life overlapped with Klee’s (until 9 May).

People travel to the Zentrum Paul Klee from all over the world, wishing to view the artworks which have secured the artist’s reputation and to consult the extensive archives (over 4,000 – or more than a third – of Klee’s works are held here; Fig. 3). For many, a visit to the museum is a pilgrimage; single-artist museums must ensure that such effort is rewarded with a significan­t encounter with

the artist’s oeuvre. As Zimmer says, however, ‘We are not just a destinatio­n museum. We are also a local and national museum.’ The Zentrum Paul Klee’s Bernese and Swiss audiences want a new angle on Paul Klee every time they visit – and deserve to understand something more about themselves, and the city, through the lens of the artist who once lived there. The verdant surroundin­gs of the museum play their part: Renzo Piano insisted that the building be embedded in a working, agricultur­al landscape. ‘Klee drew on flowers as much as fine art,’ Zimmer says. ‘For him the creative process has to do with organic growth.’

More widely, the museum’s exhibition programme later this year demonstrat­es how its single-artist focus is no hindrance to variety: in late spring, an exhibition will open examining Klee’s relationsh­ip to prehistori­c, naive and outsider art (8 May–29 August); a parallel show will explore the work of the Art Brut artist Adolf Wölfli, who spent 35 years in the Waldau Clinic, a psychiatri­c hospital in Bern (21 May–15 August). The autumn brings an exhibition on Max Bill, the Swiss polymath who studied under Klee at the Bauhaus (16 September–9 January 2022).

The Museum Tinguely, which turns 25 this year, is ten years older than the Zentrum Paul Klee. It was establishe­d with a major donation of kinetic sculptures (Fig. 1) and other artworks by the Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely (1925–91), which were given by his widow, Niki de Saint Phalle. His friends, the patrons Paul and Maja Sacher, were able to persuade the pharmaceut­ical company Roche to create a private museum here in his name, as a gift to the people of Basel. Tinguely grew up here, the French-speaking son of a Catholic family in a predominan­tly Protestant, German-speaking city, before moving to Paris in 1953 – where he played a central part in the Parisian avant garde of the decades that followed. The architect of this striking, pink sandstone faced building was Mario Botta, a friend and collaborat­or of Tinguely’s, who designed vast exhibition spaces capable of displaying even Tinguely’s largest work, the all-moving, all-sounding Grosse Méta-Maxi-Maxi-Utopia (1987).

The museum’s director, Roland Wetzel, tells me he strives to guard the playfulnes­s at the heart of Tinguely’s work. For with playfulnes­s comes accessibil­ity: ‘People come to our museum for a very direct experience, through their ears, through movement, through touch and even smell.’ Half the exhibition space is dedicated to a chronologi­cal display of works by Tinguely, which changes every two years – ‘but we do not stop with Tinguely,’ Wetzel says. The museum stages exhibition­s about Tinguely’s contempora­ries and holds parts of the archive of the influentia­l curator and museum director Pontus Hultén, as well as important material relating to the Nouveau réalisme movement. A current exhibition recreates the layout of the Impasse Ronsin, an artists’ colony in Montparnas­se from the fin de siècle until 1971 (until 29 August).

But with the museum’s main purpose, Wetzel says, being to ‘bring Tinguely to a contempora­ry audience,’ also key are exhibition­s by contempora­ry artists who relate to the spirit of Tinguely – which in recent years includes Haroon Mirza, Wim Delvoye and (until 18 April) Katja Aufleger. There’s a fitting ingenuity, too, to how the museum is proposing to celebrate its 25th birthday this summer: by going on the road, or rather the water, in a boat freighted with Tinguely’s works, travelling from Paris to Amsterdam, then down the Rhine through Germany to Basel and stopping en route at 12 places where Tinguely exhibited or performed. The boat will berth in front of the Museum Tinguely on the institutio­n’s birthday. To understand an artist’s work, ultimately there is no better place than home.

To find out more about the Art Museums of Switzerlan­d, go to MySwitzerl­and.com/amos. Further informatio­n about city breaks in Switzerlan­d is available at MySwitzerl­and.com/cities.

 ??  ?? 1. Schwimmwas­serplastik (1980) by Jean Tinguely (1925–91) in the Solitude Park at the Museum Tinguely, Basel
1. Schwimmwas­serplastik (1980) by Jean Tinguely (1925–91) in the Solitude Park at the Museum Tinguely, Basel
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 ??  ?? 3. Individual­ised Altimetry of Layers, 1930,
Paul Klee (1879–1940), pastel on paper on cardboard, 46.8 × 34.8cm. Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
3. Individual­ised Altimetry of Layers, 1930, Paul Klee (1879–1940), pastel on paper on cardboard, 46.8 × 34.8cm. Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
 ??  ?? 2. The Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, designed by Renzo Piano and opened in 2005
2. The Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, designed by Renzo Piano and opened in 2005

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