The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is named after the family of Andreas Bechtler, a Charlotte resident and native of Switzerland who assembled and inherited a collection of more than 1,400 artworks created by major figures of 20th-century modernism. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art opened to the public on January 2, 2010, with former mayor of Charlotte Anthony Foxx and Andreas Bechtler in attendance.
The museum is only the second in the country designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, who also designed the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The design features a soaring glass atrium that allows natural light to illuminate the building. Aside from the open atrium, other key design elements include a vaulted skylight system and terra cotta exterior. However, the dominant feature of the building by far is the fourth floor gallery that flies out from the core of the building in a dramatic, yet unsupported, fashion. Botta's interior design consists of an elegant simplicity using materials such as steel, glass, terra cotta, black granite, and wood. You can see Botta's design reflected in certain furniture items including the reception desk, cafe bar, and gallery benches.
The Bechtler collection reflects most of the important art movements and schools from the 20th century with a deep holding of the School of Paris after World War II. The collection comprises mid-century modern art in various media by artists such as Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Andy Warhol, Jean Tinguely, Barbara Hepworth and Pablo Picasso. Many of the artists are represented by their exploration of a particular theme or subject matter through a variety of media and approaches.
The Firebird or Le Grand Oiseau de Feu sur l'Arche, a sculpture by Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, was completed in 1991. The Firebird is 17 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 1,433 pounds. It is composed of an estimated 7,500 mirror mosaics over polyester on steel armature. In 2006 the piece was purchased by Andreas Bechtler. The sculpture was installed on the plaza of the museum in October 2009. The sculpture underwent conservation for four days, and was unveiled to the public on November 3, 2009. It is now a permanent part of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art collection.
Hans Bechtler credited his brother Walter for leading the way to the family's interest in modern art. In 1950 the brothers began to visit the Kunsthaus Zürich where they frequented local galleries, purchased art, and made friends with the artists. Hans later continued this journey with his wife Bessie for almost 70 years. They amassed a large collection focused on art that revealed the working methods of the artist. Their son, Andreas, grew up surrounded by artists, and it's no surprise he became and artist and an entrepreneur himself. Andreas eventually made Charlotte his permanent home, and decided to commit his collection to the city. The collection is made up of the inheritance from his parents, as well as his own acquired pieces.
Cover image by Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Information courtesy of Wikipedia.