Aargauer Kunsthaus

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Aargauer Kunsthaus (exterior view)
View of the spiral staircase and reference library with works by Thomas Huber (artist) in the basement of the Aargauer Kunsthaus (2008)

The Aargauer Kunsthaus is a Swiss art museum in Aarau . Due to its large collection of Swiss art from the 18th century to the present day and a nationally and internationally oriented exhibition program, it is one of the most important art museums. The Aargauer Kunsthaus is sponsored by the Canton of Aargau and the Aargau Art Association.


The history of the Aargauer Kunsthaus begins in 1860 with the founding of the Aargau Art Association, whose specific plans are primarily to organize exhibitions and to promote young, local artists through acquisitions. In 1861 the Kunstverein organized the “Swiss Art Exhibition” for the first time in the former Postremise (on the site of today's Kunsthaus). The Kunstverein and the canton of Aargau regularly acquire works from these exhibitions, which are now held every two years (including works by Albert Anker , Otto Frölicher , Rudolf Koller , Adolf Stäbli and Johann Gottfried Steffan ), thereby laying the foundation for the outstanding collection of Swiss art. In the absence of a public exhibition or storage location, the still small but high-quality collection will initially be exhibited or kept in the Schlössli Aarau , in government and grand council buildings as well as in private houses. In 1887 an application was submitted to the Aargau government for the establishment of a museum, which was opened in 1895 as the Aargau Industrial Museum (in a building by the Curjel and Moser architects ) and which, in addition to the Aargau Art Collection, houses other cantonal collections. From this point onwards, the collection will be looked after by a curator, with the exhibition activity also increasing steadily. Due to insufficient space, the Aargau government council announced a competition in 1937 for a new building that would combine the art house and the cantonal library under one roof. In 1944 the "Friends of the Aargau Art Collection" was founded to promote the Aargau Art Collection through special purchases. It was not until 1956 to 1959 that the new Kunsthaus was built according to a design by the Baden architects Loepfe, Hänni & Haenggli.

Under Heiny Widmer, who ran the Kunsthaus from 1974 to 1984, the museum received its characteristic profile and established itself as a nationally significant institute. With the new cultural law and the founding of the Aargau Board of Trustees in 1969, the Kunsthaus is released from the task of directly promoting local artists through acquisitions and can increasingly look for a link to contemporary art. B. in the form of the Ateliergemeinschaft Ziegelrain is in the immediate vicinity. In addition, important works from the 20th century that have been neglected due to the regional focus of the collection, including works of Expressionism and Surrealism, are being bought .

During Beat Wismer's time as director (1985 to 2007), further gaps in the 20th century collection were closed and, in particular, the collection of constructive and concrete art expanded. As a result of the expansion of the Kunsthaus, as of 2003, important parts of the collection can be permanently presented in addition to the temporary exhibitions. From 2007 to 2020, the Aargauer Kunsthaus was under the direction of Madeleine Schuppli , who, in addition to established Swiss art, gave a new focus on international contemporary art and, with the Caravan exhibition series launched in 2008, also made young Swiss art more visible.

The art historian Katharina Ammann has been heading the Aargauer Kunsthaus since July 1, 2020 .


The building by Baden architects Loepfe, Hänni & Haenggli, built from 1956 to 1959, reached the limits of its spatial capacities in the 1980s due to the growing collection. For this reason, an extension designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Rémy Zaugg was opened in 2003 . Striking architectural elements of the existing building, such as the spiral staircase, were incorporated so that the extension can be harmoniously integrated into the existing building. In addition to further exhibition rooms, space has also been created for, among other things, depots, art education and a reference library. The foyer with café and bookstore opens the museum with its transparent facade to the city.


History and focus

The holdings of the Aargauer Kunsthaus are made up of both the canton's collection and that of the Kunstverein. The collection activity of the Aargauer Kunstverein dates back to 1861 and began with purchases of works by Albert Anker , Rudolf Koller and Arnold Böcklin . The concept of the collection consisted of the maxim of buying works by contemporary artists who can be said to have long-term relevance to art history. This collection strategy resulted in the most comprehensive public collection of Swiss art from the end of the 18th century to the present day, with various accents being set over the course of history that shape the special face of the collection today.

The older part of the collection focuses on works by Caspar Wolf and Johann Heinrich Füssli . Early modernism is represented by works by Ferdinand Hodler , Giovanni Giacometti and Cuno Amiet . The collection also spans Ernst Ludwig Kirchner , Swiss Expressionists such as Albert Müller or Hermann Scherer , Zurich concretes such as Max Bill , Verena Loewensberg or Sophie Taeuber-Arp , the artistic awakening of the 1960s to contemporary art with John M. Armleder , Silvia Bächli , Eric Hattan , Fischli / Weiss , Mai-Thu Perret , Pipilotti Rist , Ugo Rondinone , Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler , Taiyo Onorato / Nico Krebs , Shirana Shahbazi , Christian Marclay , Silvie Defraoui , Vaclav Pozarek , Albrecht Schnider , Thomas Hirschhorn or Beni Bishop .

In 2018, the collection comprised over 18,000 works of various genres, with graphics in the form of drawings and prints being prominently represented alongside painting.

Collection mediation

The Aargauer Kunsthaus attaches great importance to its collection and its communication. Regularly changing presentations of the holdings as well as thematic and genre-specific special exhibitions with works from the collection provide a deeper insight into the holdings. In the event format Picture of the Month , a selected work from the collection takes center stage at regular intervals and is presented in more detail at weekly art viewing.

With the collection online project launched in 2015, the Aargauer Kunsthaus provides information on selected works from the collection in digital form.


The Aargauer Kunsthaus presents around ten changing exhibitions every year, with thematic group shows alternating with retrospectives and individual presentations. It is in the tradition of the Aargauer Kunsthaus to also pay attention to individual artistic positions that operate far away from the avant-garde or the art market, including Karl Ballmer , Otto Meyer-Amden , René Auberjonois , Louis Soutter , Emma Kunz and Ilse Weber . With past thematic group exhibitions such as “Hidden Reserves. Swiss Painting 1850–1950 ”(2013),“ Swiss Pop Art ”(2017) or“ Surrealism Switzerland ”(2018) were also neglected chapters of Swiss art history and made accessible to a wide audience. At the same time, the exhibition program is shaped by selected international positions in contemporary art, which have often never been exhibited in Switzerland before. A CARAVAN exhibition series for young art , launched in 2008, offers encounters with young Swiss art and the opportunity to discover and promote positions that have not yet been established.

At the end of each year, the selection offers regional artists a platform to present their latest works.

Every two years, the Aargauer Kunsthaus shows the winner of the Manor Art Prize Aarau, one of the most important national sponsorship awards for contemporary art.

The annual exhibition format Flowers for Art , which has been taking place since 2014, has established itself as a success with the public . Together with the “Flowers to Arts” association, the Aargauer Kunsthaus has master florists interpret works from the collection with floral designs, thus opening up an interdisciplinary dialogue.


The Aargauer Kunsthaus served in summer 2016 as the location of the crime series The undertaker of the Swiss Radio and Television and was in four of the six episodes of the fifth season to see as a show place. The painting The Children's Burial (1863) by Albert Anker played a key role .


  • Stephan Kunz, Gerhard Mack, Beat Wismer (eds.): An art house. Collecting and exhibiting at the Aargauer Kunsthaus. Aarau 2007, ISBN 978-3-905004-30-4 .
  • BNP Paribas Switzerland (Ed.): Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau. Museums in Switzerland. Swiss Institute for Art Research, Zurich 2003.
  • Stephan Kunz: The secret national gallery. In: Swiss monthly books . Journal for politics, economy, culture. Issue 07/08, July / August 2007, p. 26.
  • Stephan Kunz, Madeleine Schuppli, Mara Züst (eds.): Memorizer. The collector Andreas Züst. Scheidegger & Spiess Verlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-85881-249-0 .
  • Madeleine Schuppli, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau (ed.): Swiss Pop Art. Forms and Tendencies 1962–1972. Scheidegger & Spiess Verlag, 2017, ISBN 978-3-85881-536-1 .
  • Thomas Schmutz (Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau), Tayfun Belgin (Osthaus Museum Hagen), Wolf Eiermann (Museum Georg Schäfer, Schweinfurt), Otto Letze (Institute for Cultural Exchange, Tübingen) (ed.): Back to Paradise. Expressionist masterpieces from the Aargauer Kunsthaus and the Osthaus Museum Hagen. Hirmer Verlag, Munich, 2017, ISBN 978-3-7774-2949-6 .

Web links

Commons : Kunsthaus Aarau  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 47 ° 23 '24 "  N , 8 ° 2' 40.2"  E ; CH1903:  six hundred and forty-five thousand seven hundred and forty-six  /  248974

Individual evidence

  1. New director for the Aargauer Kunsthaus: Madeleine Schuppli is followed by Katharina Ammann. In: Aargauer Zeitung. January 10, 2020, accessed July 18, 2020 .
  2. picture of the month | Aargauer Kunsthaus. Accessed May 1, 2019 .
  3. ^ Aargauer Kunsthaus - Online Collection. Accessed May 1, 2019 .
  4. Exhibitions | Aargauer Kunsthaus. Accessed May 1, 2019 .
  5. ^ «Exhibition series for young art» - Caravan, Aargauer Kunsthaus. Accessed May 1, 2019 .
  6. FLOWERS TO ARTS. Retrieved on May 1, 2019 (German).