“Alain de Monbrison”

Barbier-Mueller: four generations of collectors

To celebrate the 40th birthday of the Musée Barbier-Mueller, the Biennale Paris is welcoming a selection of 130 works from this Swiss family’s personal collections. An opportunity to retrace a passion and a saga. For the Barbier-Muellers, collecting is part of the family history… It started off with the grandfather, Josef Mueller, then continued with the mother, Monique, the father, Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller, and today the three sons, Gabriel, Stéphane, Thierry, as well as Diane, one of the granddaughters. Four generations of collectors that the Biennale Paris has chosen to honour through a selection of works from their collection, some of which have never been unveiled to the public. “The idea was to set up a dialogue between major pieces from four generations of collectors with very different tastes by recreating the atmosphere of Josef Mueller’s apartment, where modern paintings stood alongside primitive-art objects,” is the way that Laurence Mattet, director of the Musée Barbier-Mueller in Geneva, puts it. Sculptures and contemporary paintings thus brush shoulders with Japanese weaponry and art objects from Africa, Oceania and Antiquity. This year’s event is also an opportunity to pay homage to Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller, who passed away last December at the age of 86 years, and whose name is associated with the largest private collection of primitive art – a collection which comprises 7000 objects, masks, ceramics, textiles, weapons, chairs… all originating from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania, as well as tribal and classical Antiquity pieces. The Barbier-Mueller collection took off in Switzerland a little over 110 years ago. First of all, via Josef Mueller, the son of a bourgeois family from Soleure, who became an orphan at the age of six years. Josef fell “in love” with a portrait of a woman from Picasso’s Pink Period, which he saw on...

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