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More than a museum


Just as Paul Klee was more than just a painter, so the centre named after him in Bern is more than just a museum.

It is also a place for researchers, music lovers and children. The name gives it away – it is the Paul Klee Centre, not Museum.

A traditional art gallery collects and displays works of art.

The Paul Klee Centre, on the other hand, has a broader conception of how the artist and his art should be presented to the public.

Through concerts, theatre productions, readings, summer schools and workshops, it aims to offer the public new insights into the artistic, musical, literary and educational works of Paul Klee.

The centre will also have its own research department.

Italian architect Renzo Piano incorporated these different ideas into his design for the building, which features three “hills”.

“The north hill is devoted to Paul Klee the musician and teacher, the central hill to the painter and poet and the south hill to the researcher and mathematician,” explained Piano.

A slightly raised passageway connects the three hills and links the different themes.

Artist, poet, researcher

The art collection that is the focal point of the Klee centre is housed in the central hill.

With over 4,000 works, it contains almost half of Klee’s total output.

In addition to many well-known pictures, it includes early works by the artist as well as private possessions and pictures given to Klee by his artist friends, such as Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc and Alexej von Jawlensky.

The permanent exhibition on the ground floor holds 200 works by Klee, which are changed twice a year.

On the lower floor, four special exhibitions will be held every year, dealing mainly with cultural-historical themes and other artists of Paul Klee’s day, as well as Klee’s influence on art up until the present day.

The south hill houses the research centre containing a wealth of materials from the former Paul Klee Foundation, for the past 50 years the leading centre for research into the artist.

The foundation with its team of researchers, databank, archive and world’s largest Klee collection moved to the centre last November from its previous location at the Bern Kunstmuseum.

Its aim is to increase knowledge about Klee and make him known to a wider audience.

Musician and teacher

The star attraction of the Klee centre’s music section is the large concert hall on the lower floors of the north hill.

This forms the link between Klee’s art and his music. Not only was Klee an excellent violinist, music was also crucial to his artistic thinking.

This section contains an extensive archive with over 250 music scores and around 170 recordings relating to Klee’s work or inspired by them.

An ensemble of seven musicians will bring out the musical dimension of Klee’s work. It will perform in the concert hall and will also stage spontaneous “20-minute concerts” in different parts of the centre.

On the floor above the concert hall is the children’s museum, Creaviva, which has its own foundation to run it and a separate budget.

The basic idea is to implement the teaching concepts, which Klee devised when he worked as a teacher.

Like other artists of his time, Klee saw children’s drawings as containing the essence of art which would be lost through artistic instruction.

Creaviva aims to reach “children aged four to 99”, who will be encouraged to express their creativity through pictures they produce in one of the three studios.

Native of Bern

Piano’s three hills lie in Klee’s part of Bern.

Nearby is the school he attended, as well as the Ostermundigen hill quarries where he produced important works.

And within walking distance is the Schosshalden cemetery where he is buried.

Visitors can also take the “Paths to Klee” theme route to learn more about Klee as they walk from the city centre to the Klee centre and Ostermundigen.

A network of paths radiating out from the Klee centre bear the names of works of Klee.

The address of the centre itself is taken from his watercolour “Monument im Fruchtland”.

To the north of the three-hill structure is the Schosshalden cemetery, where Klee is buried.

The “Luft-Station” and “Teppich der Erinnerung” paths run near his final resting place.

swissinfo, Nicole Aeby

Building the Paul Klee Centre cost SFr105 million.
The Maurice E. and Martha Müller Foundation was the financier.
The costs of running the centre should come from public funds.
Yearly running costs are estimated to be SFr7-10 million.
Annual infrastructure costs of SFr8 million will come from the lottery funds of canton Bern.
The centre is expecting 175,000 visitors during its first year in business.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR