Justine Tyerman upsets the men in black at one of the world's finest art museums, the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland

The men in black suits get agitated when you get too close to a Monet, and if you accidentally bump a Rodin zooming in for a close-up, they have an apoplexy.

Even the walls are alarmed — they beep when your iPhone swoops in to photograph the name tag.

Founders of the museum Ernst and Hildy Beyeler.
Founders of the museum Ernst and Hildy Beyeler.

But after an hour of following me round, the museum minders realised I was no danger to their precious artworks. Just a clumsy ingénue over-excited at being in one of the finest art museums in the world. In fact, Melih became quite chatty and told me interesting facts about the museum.


It's a small miracle I got to the Fondation Beyeler at all. The trip to the museum near Basel in Switzerland was cancelled because our group was disbanding earlier than expected. There was a Monet I had always longed to see, and works by Picasso, Degas, Rodin, Matisse, van Gogh, Klee and Warhol.

Bust of a Woman with Hat, Buste de femme au chapeau (Dora), 1939, by Pablo Picasso.
Bust of a Woman with Hat, Buste de femme au chapeau (Dora), 1939, by Pablo Picasso.

I jumped on the tram across the road and, 15 minutes later, I was at the Beyeler.

The gallery, modern architecture set in lovely gardens, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and has mounted three special exhibitions.

Fifty Claude Monet masterpieces from private collections and renowned museums including the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the Art Institute in Chicago were on display from January to May.

Wolfgang Tillman's studio pictures, still lifes and portraits were exhibited from May to October, and from October to January 2018, 100 pieces of Paul Klee's work dating from 1913 — including some rarely-exhibited works.

I was sad to have missed the Monet but there were still two of his works hanging, including the luminous six-metre-long Le bassin aux nymphéas.

However, it did mean I paid more attention to the exhibition of the moment and learned all about Klee and his contribution to the development of abstract art in Europe.

I also learned about the founders of the museum, celebrated art dealers Ernst and Hildy Beyeler, who assembled a collection of fine works of classical modernism over a period of 50 years.


Looking for a suitable place to build a museum to house the works, Beyeler found it in his hometown of Riehen near Basel, the art and culture capital of Switzerland. He commissioned Renzo Piano to design the Fondation Beyeler museum which was opened in October, 1997. It is now one of the most important and beautiful art museums in the world.

Attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year from all over the world, the Fondation Beyeler aims to encourage young people to learn about modern art.

I was mightily impressed to see many family groups at the gallery and children showing animated interest in the artworks. There were workshops going on too, involving hundreds of very young children.

The Fondation Beyeler is one of 40 museums in Basel within 37sq km making the city an absolute paradise for art and history aficionados. A compact metropolis dissected by the beautiful Rhine River in the north-west corner of Switzerland, Basel (population 200,000) is the country's third most populous city.

Justine travelled to Switzerland with Switzerland Tourism: myswitzerland.com
* Fondation Beyeler www.fondationbeyeler.ch/en
* Les Trois Rois, Basel www.lestroisrois.com
* Swiss Travel Pass: www.MySwitzerland.com/rail
* Swiss International Air Lines: www.swiss.com/ch/en