The collection of the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst owes its existence to the supportive gesture of an entrepreneur: Gottlieb Duttweiler, the founder of the largest Swiss retailer, Migros, began to purchase works of art in the mid-1950s. Today, the collection of artworks amassed over the years for the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst has an impact that goes far beyond its initial significance as a company collection designed to foster the careers of local and national artists. As a museum collection it has been distinguished in particular since 1996 by the interaction and intermingling of collecting and exhibiting activities. That was the founding year of the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, which proceeded with ease to set itself apart from its large and venerable colleagues. The museum’s programmatic orientation has been characterized from the start by a swiftness and flexibility in engaging with new artists and artworks, an approach that at the time of its founding was more the province of galleries and art associations. The museum relies on the production of works in close collaboration with the artists rather than on pieces that are already known quantities. Exhibition and collection practices are closely interlocked, working according to the zipper principle: a large portion of the acquisitions for the collection come from the exhibitions. Apart from this telling entanglement of exhibiting and collecting, the collection of the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst is shaped by the different signature tastes and interests of those responsible, in other words by the various museum boards over the years, and has grown continuously under the guidance of Urs Raussmüller in 1976–1985, Jacqueline Burckhardt in 1986–1990, Rein Wolfs in 1991–2001 and from 2001 under the direction of Heike Munder. Their different interests and priorities have engendered a subjective, personal viewpoint on contemporary art and art history, one that looks at art from various perspectives but always ties into that which is already known. While acquisition in the 1970s concentrated on Minimal Art, German painting and important Swiss positions, the focus in the last two decades has been on contemporary art (e.g. Maurizio Cattelan, Spartacus Chetwynd, Christoph Büchel, Urs Fischer, Douglas Gordon, Rachel Harrison, Mark Leckey, Henrik Olesen, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Tatiana Trouvé, Christoph Schlingensief, Cathy Wilkes, amongst others) and their important predecessors (e.g. Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Stephen Willats, Katharina Sieverding, Paul Thek etc.). Installative works as well as works involved with spatial construction, performativity and socio-political questions take a particularly significant role here.
With the renovation of the Löwenbräukunst-Areal, the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst finally has a permanent framework for the presentation of its collection: a spacious exhibition floor will host temporary shows offering insight into different aspects of the museum’s holdings.