The vision: an international reputation, a higher rotation of works, and an appealing openness
Although it was renovated in the period from 2001 to 2005, the Kunsthaus Zürich cannot simply rest on its laurels if it is to ensure long-term access to exhibition projects involving other institutions, to the lending of art works, and to the general public. Mindful of its history, its surroundings, and the needs both of its visitors and of art itself, the Kunsthaus Zürich is in the process of re-defining itself for the 21st century. Its curatorial concept, which currently tends to favour a linear approach to art appreciation, is to become more investigative, and will seek to demonstrate links within individual periods and between various genres: thus a dynamic, networked use of its own collection of art from the 1960s is at the centre of the concept. The new galleries needed to implement this vision, with flexible, re-configurable suites of rooms, will be available for a wide range of uses, suitable equally for new media, prints, drawings and photography. This innovative approach to exhibiting art is to be excitingly juxtaposed with the classical scope of the Bührle Collection (also to be housed in the extension) as well as with presentations in the less flexible space of the existing building. The museum will be able to efficiently accommodate medium-sized travelling shows without affecting elements of the permanent exhibition. As soon as visitors enter the Kunsthaus foyer, its architecture will invite them to a direct experience of art while at the same time signalling the museum’s greater openness to the outside world.
More space for art, more attention to visitors
The Kunsthaus can at present show less than 10% of its total collection of paintings and sculptures (the international standard is 20%), with some 100 masterpieces permanently in storage. Many items and collection topics simply lack adequate space; the museum’s special focuses cannot be properly presented, nor can relevant information be communicated in accordance with contemporary expectations. The extension will make it possible to lead tour groups through all areas of the collection. The quality of the visitor’s experience, too, will be improved with recreation zones, explanatory literature, and additional restrooms. Other needs to be addressed include studios for art education and the re-integration of warehousing, whose current outsourcing incurs considerable expense.
As the E.G. Bührle Collection is integrated into the Kunsthaus Zürich, both spatially and organizationally, the museum has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take a great leap forward in terms of its own collection. Only Paris can boast a better exhibition of ever-popular French painting, which, along with the collection’s familiar highlights (Giacometti, Munch, Swiss painting, classical modernism, 17th-century Dutch painting and Italian Baroque), will join the exhibitions featured at the Kunsthaus Zürich, and thus secure its reputation.
More than an annex: two buildings, one museum
The extension, together with the renovated museum building itself, will constitute a New Kunsthaus on Heimplatz.
Only its present location will allow the Kunsthaus to position itself coherently as one museum in two buildings. What is more, efficient operation of the new entity will call for linking the two buildings closely.
The museum’s various functions are to be allocated to its two houses so as to take advantage of their particular features and capacities. The fair distribution of visitor volume will serve to underscore the equality of the two facilities.
Planned to contribute some 18,700 square metres of new space, the extension will be explicitly dedicated to serving visitors and presenting works of art. The Kunsthaus will marry generous proportions with operational efficiency.