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Learn How a Family from Switzerland Influenced the Arts Community of Charlotte

By Elisha Neubauer

The story behind the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is quite impressive. The now-public collection held by the museum has long been hidden away, a private jewel of mid-20th Century artwork collected and coveted by the Bechtler family of Switzerland. The family spent great money and time collecting and cultivating the perfect collection of Modern Art, amassing a collection unseen by public eyes before.

"Hans and Bessie Bechtler, the patriarchs of the Bechtler family, lived in Zurich, Switzerland when Hans' brother, Walter, helped spark an interest in collecting and appreciating fine works of art," explains Andy Goh, Digital Communications Specialist for The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.

"Together, they began frequenting galleries, exhibitions, and receptions all over Europe, with the Künsthaus in Zurich being a particularly strong influence." In addition to collecting art, the Bechtlers became mentors and friends to many of the same artists they were collecting, such as Joan Mirò, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Tinguely and others.

"By having these artists over to their house for dinner, taking the time to develop personal relationships while also providing financial support to make their art possible, the Bechtlers were able to not only amass an impressive collection of modern art, but also create a bond between artist and collector that defined the family's approach to art and collecting."

This approach shows in the sheer awe of the collection.

In 1975, Andreas Bechtler, Hans and Bessie's son, moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. "He continued on the path that his parents had paved, becoming a board member of the Mint Museum and starting his own collection of modern art," says Goh. Upon the passing of his parents, Andreas inherited a portion of their extraordinary art collection. This was a defining moment in the history of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art as he opted to donate the collection to the city of Charlotte instead of holding onto it for himself.

"The need to build a museum to display these treasures was apparent," states Goh. He continues, telling us that Andreas originally planned to open the museum in Mount Holly, NC, near his artist-in-residency center. Luckily, City officials were able to change his mind, convincing him to relocate the museum in Uptown.

"Famed Swiss architect Mario Botta was brought on board to design the building," Goh tells us. "On January 2, 2010, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art opened to great acclaim, becoming the only museum in the south east to have modern art be the sole focus of its permanent collection."

Since first opening, the Museum has gone on to do impressive things?all while maintaining the devotion to mid-century modernism. "The museum has hosted more than 25 world-class exhibitions, expanded programming to include jazz concerts, film screenings, and classical music performances," details Goh. "This September, the museum will exhibit The Bechtler Collection: Relaunched and Rediscovered, which will feature the bulk of the permanent collection on view at one time."

"Arts and culture are what defines a city's personality," Goh affirms. "Without a strong representation from the cultural sector, municipalities run the risk of not being able to attract diverse corporate talent." He insists that The Bechtler's role in the Charlotte arts scene is a crucial one. "Because of a public/private partnership with the city of Charlotte, the Bechtler building and its roughly 1,500 pieces of art are owned by the city, and therefore, its citizens."

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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