Josef Helfenstein
Kunstmuseum Basel, Lucian Hunziker


The Kunstmuseum Basel has a new director. Effective today, Josef Helfenstein succeeds Bernhard Mendes Bürgi, who retires after fifteen years at the museum’s helm. Helfenstein (b. 1957) looks back on a brilliant career as a museum director, exhibition curator, and art historian. He obtained a doctorate from the University of Bern in 1991; starting in 1988, he was curator of the Graphics Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Bern and the Paul Klee Foundation before becoming the museum’s deputy director. He left in 2000 to direct the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois, where he also taught as a professor of art history; from 2004 until the end of 2015, he directed the Menil Collection and Foundation in Houston, Texas.

Posted 1 September 2016

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Helfenstein envisions the Kunstmuseum Basel as a public institution that welcomes all its visitors, the scene of a lively exchange of ideas that inspires innovative thinking and solicits discursive engagement. “As a museum with world-class treasures ranging from the Middle Ages to the present, we open a gate to the past, but we are always acutely aware of our present with all its contradictions, challenges, and opportunities,” Helfenstein notes. As he undertakes to write a new chapter in the history of a venerable institution, he looks forward to building on the Kunstmuseum Basel’s strength by working closely with its team: “The new building with its ample galleries has greatly enhanced our capacities, and I am confident it will add to the appeal of our presentations of works from our collections and our temporary exhibitions.”
If you would like to meet Josef Helfenstein in person, we invite you to join us in the underground foyer of the Kunstmuseum Basel | new building on
Thursday, September 15, 2016, at 6:30pm.
After opening remarks by Philippe Bischof, director, Office for Cultural Affairs, Presidential Department of the Canton of Basel-Stadt, Josef Helfenstein will introduce himself with a brief address. He will then take questions from the audience. The event will conclude with a reception hosted by the Kunstmuseum Basel. Admission is free.

Kunstmuseum Basel | Neubau 
St. Alban-Graben 20
CH-4010 Basel
+41 61 206 62 62
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