A short history of the museum

  • The Beginnings
    In 1949 the citizens of Zurich voted on turning the Villa Wesendonck into a museum for the collection of Baron Eduard von der Heydt which was to be donated to the city. In 1952 the Museum Rietberg of the City of Zurich opened its doors to the public.

  • The Museum today
    In 2002 the public works department of the Zurich City Council organised a competition among international architects for the design of a new museum extension. The winners were the architects Alfred Grazioli (Berlin) and Adolf Krischanitz (Vienna/Berlin). Their design convinced through its generous scale, clarity, and restrained elegance.

    The two architects have created an underground building which leaves the exterior of the villa and the park unaltered and at the same time provides spacious exhibition halls which are connected with the old building, the Villa Wesendonck.

  • The Extension
    On 18 February 2007, the new, large extension opened its doors to the public. The exhibition space increased by 125%. The visitors enter the new museum through a glass pavilion, the “Emerald”, and proceed on into the foyer. From here, they descend to the two underground levels which comprise 1,300 m2 each.

    On the first underground level, the permanent collection galleries are situated along a clearly defined circuit with works of art from East Asia and Africa. The core of the museum collection still comprises those works of art which Eduard von der Heydt had bestowed to the City of Zurich in the early 1950s. Counting among the most treasured of the museum's assets, for example, are the early Buddhist sculptures from China, with works dating from the 6th and 7th centuries, but also exquisite wood sculpture from West Africa: they substantiated the renommé which the museum enjoys throughout the world.

    The temporary exhibition gallery is located on the second underground level. With an attractive exhibition programme, the museum continues to assert its position as one of the leading European exhibition institutions in the world.