Art Dealer Ernst Beyeler Dies at 88

beyeler.jpgArt dealer turned collector Ernst Beyeler died late Thursday at his home near Basel, Switzerland. He was 88. His career in the art world began as a part-time job during college at an antiquarian book and print shop in Basel. By the early 1950s, he had taken over the place and was exhibiting Japanese woodcuts and modernism. But it was really a string of major purchases (100 Klees here, 80 Giacomettis there) from the collection of steel magnate David Thompson that set him on his way. In 1997, Beyeler opened the Fondation Beyeler, a publicly accessible home for the vast modern art collection he had assembled with his wife, Hildy, during their more than five decades as gallery owners. “Our motivation can be described in a few words,” said Beyeler at the opening press conference. “Firstly, we have always been deeply moved by great works of art, and their impact on us is such that we are often loathe to part with them; and secondly, we have a need to share these works with others and pass on the profit they bring.” Designed by Renzo Piano, the glass-roofed museum on the outskirts of Basel also mounts exhibitions linked to its permanent collection. But Beyeler wasn’t one to miss the forest for the trees. Notes the Telegraph:

In his last years, increasingly frail but still energetic, he set up a foundation to channel part of the profits of his museum to protecting tropical forests. “In view of the dramatic changes in the climate,” Beyeler wrote on his 80th birthday in 2001, “art should now protect nature.”