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Munch exhibition in Basel attracts royalty

Queen Sonja of Norway next to Munch's "Asgardstrand" with Christoph Vitali, director of the Beyeler Foundation

(Keystone)

Queen Sonja of Norway has attended the opening of an exhibition at the Beyeler Foundation in Basel on Norwegian painter and graphic artist Edvard Munch.

Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin was also present at the private viewing of the largest Munch exhibitions ever held outside Norway.

The Beyeler Foundation devoted the first special exhibition in its jubilee year to Munch (1863-1944) and this retrospective review focuses on his significance as predecessor and founder of Expressionism. It also examines his essential contribution to the emergence of modern art.

Approximately 130 paintings, 80 drawings and prints from every phase of the artist's career are on view.

Queen Sonja, who had travelled to Switzerland especially for the private viewing, reacted very positively, saying the Beyeler Foundation was "a beautiful place for works of art" and that in such surroundings the pictures "would speak for themselves".

Couchepin was also impressed by his second exhibition within three days – on Wednesday he appeared at the Museum of Antiquities in Basel for the opening of the "Gold of the Thracians".

The Munch display, which runs from March 18 to July 15, brings together loans from almost 50 American and European museums, and in addition to Munch's major works, presents for the first time a large number of previously unavailable private loans.

Creation and destruction

Munch's concern with profound emotions and fears such as loneliness and love, and his facing of the reality of death, led to uncompromising and compelling imagery.

Growth and decay, creation and destruction were his themes, evoked in various ways. He continually overstepped the traditional boundaries between painting and printmaking, often employing photography as well.

His unconventional handling of motifs and materials anticipated advances in 20th-century art to come.

But art lovers in Basel hoping to catch a glimpse of Munch's most famous painting, The Scream, will have to be satisfied with a lithograph.

In August 2004 the version of The Scream at the Munch Museum in Oslo was stolen along with Munch's Madonna. Both paintings were recovered two years later, but The Scream had been damaged and is no longer given on loan.

Local success

The Beyeler Foundation, which houses the collection of Hildy and Ernst Beyeler, is celebrating ten years as a success story in the world of art.

After a decade in which 29 special exhibitions were staged, the art museum has become the most popular in Switzerland, now welcoming more than 340,000 visitors a year.

By setting up their private collection in a building designed by star Italian architect Renzo Piano, the Beyelers have offered a magnificent museum to their city. Major art of the 20th century is shown in 200 paintings and sculptures from 40 artists.

The works of such artists as Cézanne, Picasso, Rousseau, Mondrian, Klee, Ernst and Matisse are displayed alongside, and in direct interaction with, 25 objects from Africa, Alaska and Oceania.

The collection was put together over 50 years at the Beyeler Gallery in Basel.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Beyeler Foundation special exhibition on Edvard Munch, "Signs of Modern Art", runs from March 18 to July 15.
It comprises 140 paintings, drawings and engravings by the Norwegian artist (1863-1944).

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Beyeler Foundation

As well as owning a gallery, Hildy and Ernst Beyeler over half a century collected 200 works of 40 major 20th century artists.

In 1982 the collection was entrusted to a foundation and presented to the public in its entirety for the first time in 1989 in Madrid.

The Beyeler Foundation was inaugurated on October 18, 1997 in Riehen near Basel.

The new museum was designed by Genoa architect Renzo Piano, who was responsible for the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Paul Klee Centre in Bern.

Over the past ten years, the collection and 29 special exhibitions have attracted 2.5 million visitors.

Out of an annual budget of SFr14 million, SFr2 million comes from the commune and the canton, and SFr5 million comes from entrance tickets.

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