Donations of the families Klee and Müller and the location question

Livia Klee-Meyer, Alexander Klee and the Paul-Klee-Foundation

In 1997 Livia Meyer-Klee, the daughter of Bauhaus director Hannes Meyer and since 1980 the wife of Felix Klee, made a proposal for a gift to the City and Canton Berne. With the acceptance of the gift, the local government became owners of around 700 works by Paul Klee and pledged to build and maintain in the long term a museum dedicated to Paul Klee at the latest by the end of 2006.

In 1998 Alexander Klee, the son of Felix Klee, promised contractually to loan the future institution around 850 works and the gift of documents from the ownership of the family.

In the same year the Paul-Klee-Foundation announced its intention of giving its entire collection (of around 2600 works) and extensive archive material to the Zentrum Paul Klee.

Through the unification of the collections mentioned and the acquisition of a further 150 works on permanent loan from several private collections, the largest collection worldwide of an artist of global significance was created.

The location question

As location for the new Klee-Museum a former school building Paul Klee had also attended opposite the Museum of Fine Arts in Berne was initially the favourite. Under one administrative organisation with the Museum of Fine Arts numerous synergies could have been made use of. Also a Museum for Contemporary Art was planned for this site at the time by the overall project management as well as the creation of an Academy to integrate the Institute for Art History of the University of Berne. On the initiative of Bernese architects the search for an alternative location was started, which should have allowed the construction of a new building in the inner city.

The donation proposal by the Müller family

With the donation proposal declared in 1998 by Prof. Dr. Maurice E. Müller and his wife Martha Müller-Lüthi the question of the location of the Klee museum attained a new dimension: Suddenly a new building in Schöngrün on the edge of the City of Berne became a plausible reality. The proposal comprised the capital for the building for the Zentrum Paul Kee and the donation of two plots of land upon which the Zentrum Paul Klee could be realised. For this purpose a private civil foundation, the Maurice E. and Martha Müller Foundation was set up for the construction of the Zentrum Paul Klee.

The donations of the Müller family were and are still bound to three essential conditions: The location is the Bernese Schöngrün, that means the district, which also contains Paul Klee’s last place of rest; with the building the world-famous architect and friend of the Müller family, Renzo Piano will be commissioned; the new home of all the collections of works by Paul Klee and his artist friends, which are owned by the government of Berne, will not be a traditional museum, but become a cultural centre for people of all ages.

With their generous donation to the government Prof. Maurice E. and Martha Müller-Lüthi made both the extension of the planned Paul Klee-Museum into a cultural, scientific and research centre, as well as making possible a new building in the Schöngrün district of the City of Berne. In order that their vision of a place of manifold artistic, scientific and pedagogic critical examination of Paul Klee could become reality, the founder family Müller supported the project with exemplary generosity and great personal engagement.

The Müller founder family

That a new cultural institution of the calibre of the Zentrum Paul Klee could be created in Bern in the first place is largely the merit of two people: the internationally acclaimed surgeon an pioneer of orthopaedic surgery, Prof. Dr Maurice E. Müller, Dr h. c. mult., who was honoured in San Diego in August 2002 by SICOT (Société internationale de chirurgie orthopédique et de traumatologie) as Surgeon of the Century for his achievements and success in surgery, and his wife Martha Müller-Lüthi.

«My vision is of a Paul Klee Centre at Schöngrün. Here the museum would benefit from the open spaces and the unique country atmosphere. Paul Klee himself was a great teacher. My greatest wish is that the Paul Klee Museum at Schöngrün should also have a research centre attached, with classrooms. Investing in knowledge and the arts is a cultural asset.»
Prof. Maurice E. Müller at the press conference on 13 July 1998.