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Switzerland’s oldest arts museum marks 175th anniversary

The Rath museum was originally built to house the art collection of a Russian general Keystone

The Rath Museum in Geneva, the first Swiss museum dedicated to fine arts, is celebrating its 175th anniversary.

Built as a gift to the people of Geneva by two sisters, Jeanne-Françoise and Henriette Rath, the museum was conceived as a “temple for the Muses”, embodying both French taste and Italianate style.

Its next major exhibition, premiering on September 5, will unite about 100 Swiss works of art from the 20th century from collections of the Aarau Art Gallery.

The imposing, neo-classical structure opened its doors to the public on July 31, 1826, and originally was used to display the art collection of Simon Rath, brother of the founding sisters.

Situated in the heart of Geneva on the Place Neuve, the Rath Museum sits alongside two other great 19th century artistic institutions, the Grand-Théâtre and the Conservatory of Music.

“At the time, it was a museum for contemporary art,” says Claude Ritschard, the curator of the Museum of Art and History in Geneva, of the Rath’s earliest days. “Its collection was dedicated to living artists, and it was open only two afternoons a week.”

Over the years, its popularity grew. In the past decade, the museum housed more than 60 exhibitions and attractedan average 75, 000 visitors a year.

It now displays about two major temporary exhibitions per year, emphasizing archaeology and ancient art, as well as modern and contemporary art.

It recently concluded an exhibition on the ancient Roman port of Ostia.

No official events are planned to mark the museum’s anniversary.

Swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR