One of the largest museum libraries in Switzerland


Did you know that the Kunsthaus Library in Zurich, Switzerland is a specialist academic library for modern and contemporary art. It contains literature on fine art from the 19th to the 21st century. The collection consists of more than 200,000 volumes and over 370 subscription journals. 


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The Kunsthaus Zurich library originated in the 19th century as part of the Zurich Artists' Society. Although it was not yet mentioned in the first printed 'Statutes of the Künstlergesellschaft Zürich: Established on 6 October 1831',3 the 'Statutes of the Künstlergesellschaft', which were added to the 'Statutes of the Künstlergesellschaft Zürich: Revised 1850',4 contain provisions for the first time on the library. Several paragraphs define the profile of the collection and the rules of use. In 1847 the Künstlergesellschaft completed the construction of a new building by adding a gallery wing to the Künstlergut on what is now Künstlergasse in Zurich, which had been acquired as a clubhouse in 1813. This new building also housed a "study room" - a library. By 1875 the library had developed to the point where the first 'Catalogue of Libraries published by Künstler Gesellschaft in Zurich' was printed by Orell Füssli & Co5.


In the newly opened Heimplatz Museum in 1910 the library was located on the ground floor right next to the lobby. When the Kunsthaus was first extended in 1925, the library and graphics collection could be moved to a very spacious reading room with galleries, which rose above all floors up to the glass roof and was accessible from the axis of the main entrance and the ground floor foyer. Subsequent expansions in 1958 and 1976 were accompanied by moves of the library until it moved to Rämistrasse 45 in 2006. The library will remain at its current location even after the extension to the museum is completed in 2021.


From the beginning the library was supposed to be accessible to members of the Society. In 1850 they were already entitled to borrow books from home. As the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft grew to more than 20,000 members in the 20th century, they still constitute the largest user group today. However, the library is available to everyone free of charge and without registration. Schoolchildren and students can borrow media free of charge.


The library is up to date and therefore digitised publications and archive materials, which are only available in the Kunsthaus library or are very rare, are available online in the form of digital reproductions. The first phase involved the publication of an extensive collection of original documents from the Dadaist period, starting in 1916. From the letters that artists wrote to the Kunsthaus during the tenure of its first director, Wilhelm Wartmann, from 1910 to 1950, a selection of more than 2,000 letters has already been made available online.


Finally, all the exhibition catalogues published by the Künstler-Gesellschaft Zürich and the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft before 1929 are also available in digital format.

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