On June 20th 2005 the Zentrum Paul Klee opened its doors to visitors interested in art and to art lovers from all over the world. At the heart of this new cultural institution is the artist Paul Klee (1879–1940), his life and his work. Today Paul Klee, who was also a musician, teacher and poet, ranks as one of the 20th century’s most significant artists. The Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, where the artist spent a half of his life, is a monument of international renown and a personal tribute to Paul Klee himself.
Of the 10,000 or so works that make up Paul Klee’s oeuvre a good 40 per cent, that is to say around 4,000 paintings, watercolours and drawings as well as archives and biographical material, has been brought together at the Zentrum Paul Klee. The Centre’s collections are considered as the largest collection of a single artist of world renown.
According to the "vision" of it's founder, Prof. Dr. med. Maurice E. Müller, the Zentrum Paul Klee is not to be an art museum in the traditional sense. It is to become the leading centre of competence worldwide for research into and the mediation and presentation of Paul Klee, his life and his work, as well as the way in which his art is received. Given the diversity of Paul Klee’s artistic activities the Centre therefore not limits itself merely to showcasing Klee’s pictorial work but acts as a platform for interdisciplinary forms of artistic expression.
For this centre of excellence on all matters relating to Paul Klee a traditional museum is not what the renowned, award-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano had in mind. Renzo Piano's in-depth involvement with the complex project commission and the terrain on the eastern outskirts of Bern gave him the idea of creating a spacious island of green from which the architecture would emerge in the form of three undulating waves. In its entirety the Landscape Sculpture created as a result becomes a cultural destination.
The three hills of steel and glass are divided up into a programmatic structure characterised by an interdisciplinary approach. Indeed besides generous exhibition space the premises also include a state-of-the-art music and performance venue for the Centre’s own programs and for guest ensembles, a children’s museum for anyone aged 4 and over keen to gain access to art through their own creative output, a multifunctional promenade with a multitude of communication installations, and plenary halls and seminar rooms with the very latest infrastructure for staging national and international conventions. The fine arts, music, theatre, dance, literature, art science and art mediation therefore not merely co-exist side by side; they give rise to new forms of expression through a form of artistic cross-pollination – for the sole benefit of the public’s enjoyment.
This exceptional cultural centre costing some 125 million Swiss francs was made possible by a public private partnership. The private contributors are the Klee family, the family of the internationally renowned orthopaedic surgeon Prof. Dr. med. Maurice E. Müller, Dr. h. c. mult., and his wife Martha Müller-Lüthi, as well as private collectors and sponsors from business and industry. The idea to create not a museum for Paul Klee, but a cultural center, which does justice to the interdisciplinary work of the artist, originated from Prof. Dr. med. Maurice E. Müller.