The past comes alive at Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

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Andreas Bechtler at the Firebird Unveiling at Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

This article is brought to you in partnership with the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is one of the most interesting, modern and recognizable buildings in Charlotte. But how much do you actually know about the bright orange museum or the family who opened it?

Before your next visit, get to know the history of the Bechtler.

Meet the Bechtler family

Hans Bechtler credited his brother Walter for leading the way to the family’s interest in modern art. In 1950 the brothers began to visit the Kunsthaus museum in Zurich. They frequented local galleries, purchased art and made friends with artists.

Those early forays into the art world led Hans and his wife Bessie on a journey of almost 70 years in which the couple amassed a collection of incredible depth and diversity. The couple preferred art that revealed the working methods of the artist. over the years, they acquired many drawings and other preparatory work, such as study drawings by famed Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti.

Hans Bechtler with Alberto Giacometti, 1962.

Andreas, the son of Hans and Bessie, grew up around artists, so its no surprise he also became an artist and an entrepreneur. Business holdings brought Andreas Bechtler to Charlotte, North Carolina in the early 1970s and he chose to make the city his permanent home. After inheriting a portion of his parents’ extensive collection, and augmenting it with his own acquisitions, Andreas decided to commit the collection to the city of Charlotte.

Bessie and Andreas Bechtler 1957

Thus, the Bechtler was born.

Discover the inspired building

Commissioned by Andreas Bechtler and designed by the eminent Swiss architect Mario Botta, the museum’s architecture displays a sculptural power that connects to the dynamic art inside it.

A key design element of the four-story structure is the soaring glass atrium that extends through the museum’s core and diffuses natural light throughout the building. The open atrium allows for visual interplay between spaces. Other notable features include a vaulted skylight system and an enveloping terra cotta exterior.

The building’s dominant feature is the fourth-floor gallery which makes a bold and dramatic statement as it flies out from the core of the building, cantilevered and supported by a swelling column rising from the plaza below.

Inside, Botta maintained a rigorous but elegant simplicity in the palette of materials which include steel, glass, terra cotta, black granite, polished concrete and wood. Botta also designed select pieces of furniture for the museum including the reception desk, café bar, gallery benches and hanging globe lights.

A memorable visit

As the Bechtler nears its 10th anniversary in January 2020, the museum still has not released a sizable portion of its collection to the public.

Until now.

On view now until March 17, 2019, the Bechtler is presenting Bechtler Unseen: Works from the 50s and 60s, an exhibition that presents more than 100 works from the Bechtler collection that have never been seen by the public. This unique collection includes works from well-known artists like Joan Miró, Georges Braque, Jean (Hans) Arp and Pablo Picasso, as well as from artists whose work is rarely seen in the United States.

For more information about the Bechtler family, history, building and current exhibits, visit bechtler.org.

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