Past exhibitions

Farbe bekennen – Textile Eleganz in Teheran um 1900

2. November 2018 – 14 April 2019


When the St Gallen merchant Emil Alpiger returned to Zurich in 1896 after more than twenty years in Persia, his luggage included a wooden trunk full of Persian garments and fabrics. The family safeguarded this treasure trove for generations. Now, more than a hundred years later, the precious clothes, fabrics, wall hangings, and embroideries are focus of this exhibition.

Exhibition Website »


Next Stop Nirvana – Approaches to Buddhism

13 December 2018 – 31 March 2019


Who was the Buddha? What did he teach? What rituals do Buddhists perform in everyday life? These are just some of the questions that a major exhibition at the Museum Rietberg addresses.

Exhibition Website »


Family Ties – The indian painters Manaku and Nainsukh

4 October 2018 – 17 February 2019

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Among the Museum Rietberg’s many treasures, the collection of historical miniature paintings from India is of special significance. Now, for the first time, the exhibition 'Family Ties – The Indian Painters Manaku and Nainsukh' examines the oeuvre of two legendary artist brothers by way of comparison.

Exhibition Website »



ROSETSU – Ferocious Brush

6 September – 4 November 2018


For eight weeks, Japan’s most famous tiger will reside exclusively at Museum Rietberg in Zurich. Now the entire temple’s painted walls and a number of other, awe-inspiring masterpieces by Rosetsu are being shown for the first time outside of Japan.

Exhibition website »


Bead Art from Africa – The Mottas Collection

7 June – 21 October 2018

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With Bead Art from Africa the Museum Rietberg presents an exhibition on the aesthetics and significance of beadwork, thus, for the first time, allowing women artists to take centre stage.


Exhibition website »





Monsters, Devils and Demons

24 May – 30 September 2018


Monsters, devils and demons: every culture has them. Frightening and fascinating at the same time. The culture-bridging exhibition in the Park-Villa Rieter at the Museum Rietberg presents paintings, woodblock prints, drawings, textiles, netsuke (Japanese miniature sculptures), as well as a selection of Persian, Japanese, Indian and Swiss masks.

Exhibition website »



The Look of Love

Indian Painting from the Eva and Konrad Seitz Collection

16 January – 13 May 2018


The exhibition at Park-Villa Rieter features paintings created more than 200 years ago. They show a striking degree of quality, subtlety and elegance.

Exhibition website »


Wealth, Good Fortune and Longevity – Chinese New Year Prints

17 February - 6 May 2018


According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the New Year begins on 16 February 2018. To this day the event is celebrated in China with a large feast. Traditionally people cleansed their homes of all evil influences and sought the blessings of the gods. Colourful prints featuring tutelary deities and divinities of good fortune play an important part in these festivities.

Exhibition website »


NASCA. PERU – Searching for Traces in the Desert

24 Nov 2017 - 15 Apr 2018


In the southern Peruvian desert, one of the world’s greatest archaeological mysteries is waiting to be solved: the so-called Nasca Lines of the Nasca culture (ca. 200 BC–650 AD), a series of enormous drawings in the sand.
The probably most comprehensive exhibition on the fascinating as well as mysterious Nasca culture ever to be seen in Europe is at the Museum Rietberg Zurich. 'NASCA. PERU – Searching for Traces in the Desert' whisks visitors away to the southern part of the Andes where the Nasca culture (ca. ca. 200 BC – AD 650) once flourished. On the desert ground of this region in Peru the Nasca left behind one of the greatest puzzles ever encountered by archaeologists: large geoglyphs, better known as the Nasca Lines.

Exhibition website »


Alice Boner in India - A Life for Art

23 Sep 2017 - 14 Jan 2018


The exhibition presents one of the most unusual Swiss female artists of the twentieth century: Alice Boner (1889–1981) spent more than four decades of her life in the Indian city Varanasi, where she worked asan artist, patron of the arts and art historian. The exhibition provides a fascinating insight into the many facets of the life of a woman who was at home in two cultures.

Exhibition website »


Osiris – Egypt's sunken Mysteries

10 February - 13 August 2017


This spectacular exhibition shows 300 statues and ritual objects, sarcophagi and idols from sixteen centuries retrieved from the depths of the Mediterranean off the Egyptian coast. The exhibits originate from the legendary cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, which became submerged in the eighth century AD. They provide answers to many age-old questions.

Exhibition website »


The many Faces of an Ideal – Women in Indian Paintings

23. May – 17. September 2017


The exhibition at Park-Villa Rieter features around sixty miniatures on the theme of ‘Women in Indian Painting’. Dating from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, they originate from various workshops at locations ranging from the foothills of the Himalayas to the Deccan plateau.

Exhibition website »



18 march - 17 july 2016

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The exhibition Dada Africa is timed to coincide with this year’s Dada centenary. It will be the first anywhere in the world to be devoted to the Dadaists’ preoccupation with non-European art and culture. In the exotic quality of the foreign, Dada artists discovered a liberating alternative world through which they strove to renew their own societies and create a new kind of art. In this exhibition Dadaist works enter into a dialogue with art, music and literature from Africa, America, Asia and Oceania.

Exhibition website »

Gardens of the World

13 May - 9 October 2016


Gardens tell stories – stories of a yearning for paradise, stories of love, retreat, power and beauty. Museum Rietberg invites you to take a stroll through the world of gardens from Japan to England and from Ancient Egypt to the present day. Located in a historic garden – the Rieterpark – the museum itself will form part of a unique exhibition opening the eyes of all garden-lovers.

One highlight of the exhibition focuses on gardens in Indian painting. The variety of the gardens and the close relationship that people have with nature can be seen in over sixty pictures: sumptuous palace grounds with geometric gardens, terraces that host lively debates and snug garden pavilions where lovers meet. Indian Gardens »

Supported by the Parrotia Foundation, the Vontobel Foundation, Swiss Re and Novartis. In cooperation with Grün Stadt Zürich as part of the Swiss Year of the Garden 2016.

Exhibition website »

Itō Shinsui – Nostalgia and Modernity

17 september 2016 – 8 january 2017


Itō Shinsui (1898–1972) is considered one of Japan’s best-known twentieth-century graphic artists. His prints, whether of beautiful women in kimonos, or of picturesque landscapes, have a simultaneously exotic and familiar feel. The motifs evoke a sense of longing for a distant world, not yet touched by industrialisation. Yet, the strong graphic impact and the high realism of the designs testify to a familiarity with modern art imported from the West.

Exhibition website »

Indian Pahari painting

1 december 2016 - 21 may 2017

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The exhibition shows forty works of Indian Pahari painting from the magnificent Horst Metzger Collection.

Exhibition website »



6 october 2015 - 8 mai 2016

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Contemporaneous with the exhibition «Akbar's Golden Legacy» 60 Indian paintings exhibited in the Park-Villa Rieter provide insights into the artistic traditions of Malwa, Rajasthan and the Pahari region.

Exhibition website »


The magic of characters - 3000 years of Chinese calligraphy

20 november 2015 - 20 march 2016


The unique culture of writing that has shaped China for more than 3,000 years is an important reason for the cultural continuity and cohesion that accord China a special place in world history. The exhibition illuminated all aspects of this tradition, highlighting the many different functions ascribed to Chinese writing over the centuries. Works by contemporary Chinese artists entered into an intriguing dialogue with classical art. Their juxtaposition showed how the unique Chinese calligraphic tradition has retained its relevance until the present day.

Exhibition website »


Akbars goldenes Erbe

6 October 2015 - 14 February 2016


With its large collection of Indian paintings and numerous international exhibition projects, Museum Rietberg is one of the world’s leading institutions in this field. Thanks to a permanent loan of 22 superb works, the museum has acquired an extremely important addition to its holdings of paintings produced under the Muslim Mughal emperors. Mughal painting, which combines influences from Persia, Central Asia and India, formed the core of the exhibition. The images, painted in exquisite detail using brilliantly coloured pigments, are among the artistic highlights of Mughal rule and provide an impression of the splendour of the Mughal court.

Exhibition website »


Sepik - Art from Papua New Guinea

10 July - 4 October 2015


The first masks, drums, and carvings to make their way fromPapua New GuineatoEuropeover one hundred years ago caused a sensation. The ritual and everyday objects from the Sepik region, named after the island nation’s longest river, enthralled researchers and influenced Expressionists as well as Surrealists. For the first time ever, Museum Rietberg will showcase the area’s creative richness and cultural diversity in a major exhibition.

Exhibition website »



24 March - 4 October 2015


The pigments used in Indian art are still as bright as ever today, although centuries have elapsed since they were painted. However, applying colour, polishing, and adding contour lines and ornaments were only the last steps in a creation process consisting of many separate stages. Different kinds of drawings (sketches, tracings, workshop copies) not only document the process through which a given work of art was made, but also tell us more about the artists than we can learn from their finished works alone.

Exhibition website »



Colour Photography before 1915

8 May – 27 September 2015

The exhibition showed around eighty colour photographs from “Les Archives de la planète”, the majority of which date from 1913/14, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. Most of them were taken by the photographer Stéphane Passet (1875–?), who in 1913 set off on a journey to Asia that took him to Greece, Turkey, China, Mongolia and finally to India.
It also featured the first known colour photographs from Ireland. They were taken by the only woman photographer in Kahn’s team, the scholar of English literature Marguerite Mespoulet, who travelled through Ireland in 1913.

The Cosmos – An Enduring Mystery

12 December 2014 - 31 May 2015

The exhibition showed human conceptions of the cosmos since time immemorial using examples from seventeen different cultures from all over the world. It showed how they have investigated the world around them and what kinds of creation myths they have thought up to explain its origins. In some cases the focus was more on myths, in others on the cosmologies, the exploration and observation of space. We also looked at the findings of modern astrophysics and ascertained the current state of research.

Exhibition website »

Sculpted Sound - Stringed instruments from India

5 September - 19 April 2015

This exhibition features approximately eighty of the most beautiful instruments from the Fosshag collection: intricately made wooden lutes roughly one hundred years old and in some cases even somewhat older. The exhibition also includes selected examples of music and songs with lute accompaniment as well as background information on the use of these instruments.

Exhibition website »


Christ in India

11 November - 22 March 2015

Christian motifs are very much the exception in Indian painting. This makes them all the more striking as evidence of Indo-European exchange.

The Jesuit delegation that journeyed to the court of Emperor Akbar in 1580 presented the Mughal ruler with an illustrated Bible. Following the usual trade routes, European prints and paintings also found their way to India and there met with great interest among local artists.  

Exhibition website »


Gastspiel. Contemporary Swiss Art at Museum Rietberg

12 July - 9 November 2014

Never before has so much information been available to us all, and only gradually are we starting to grasp the magnitude of the effects. In art, too, globalisation has been shaping current discourse. Is a museum a model for the future – an ideal place – where our debates and dialogues will not only be made visible but also put in a further, and in this case non-European, historical context?

Exhibition website »


Trees - in the Park and at the Museum

15 June - 9 November 2014

Alongside native trees like beech and yew, the Rieterpark also boasts some exotic species such as gingkos and a Chinese handkerchief tree. Trees also play an important role inside the museum with its holdings of “exotic” art. In China, for example, the pine tree symbolizes longevity, while according to an Indian legend, Krishna hid in a tree after stealing the clothes of some female bathers.

Exhibition website »



Zen Master Sengai (1750-1837)

18 May - 10 August 2014

2014 Switzerland and Japan celebrate 150 years of diplomatic relations. To honour this occasion, we showed a solo exhibition devoted to the work of the Zen master and painter Gibon Sengai (1750–1837). His sketch-like images, which are accompanied by texts that combine humour with profundity, still seem startlingly contemporary.

Exhibition website »


A Secret Garden - Indian Painting from a Private Collection

18 March - 29 June 2014

The Museum Rietberg displayed the most important works from a private collection – A Secret Garden – in a temporary show in the Park-Villa Rieter. The approximately sixty works illustrated important traditions and regional styles of Indian painting. 

Exhibition website »


African Masters - Art from the Ivory Coast

14 February - 1 June 2014

Spanning two centuries of African art and featuring some 200 masterpieces by more than 40 artists, this exhibition is the first to present individual artists from different generations and different parts of West Africa together with the works attributed to them.

Exhibition website »


Canopies for the Goddess - Indian Textile Art

19 November 2013 - 16 March 2014

The exhibition showed a selection of these extraordinary textiles from the important collection which the former director of the museum, Dr Eberhard Fischer, recently gave to the museum. It offered a glimpse into the techniques and production processes, their religious iconography and ritual use.

Exhibition website »

Indian Painting - Bequests and Acquisitions in Recent Years

19 November 2013 - 16 March 2014

Thanks to the generosity of private patrons and donors, the collection has continued to expand, year by year. This exhibition brought together some 60 of the most important new arrivals in recent years and offered an insight into the development of the museum’s collection.

Exhibition website »


Alfred Flechtheim.com - Art Dealer of the Avant-Garde

10 October 2013 – 9 February 2014

The gallery owner Alfred Flechtheim (1878-1937) was a major protagonist in the art scene at the beginning of the 20th century. His commitment to the “Rheinische Expressionisten” group of artists, the French avant-garde and German Modernism, and his support of great artists such as Max Beckmann, Georg Grosz and Paul Klee, made him internationally famous even during his lifetime.

Exhibition website »

The Fascination of Persia - The Persian-European Dialogue in Seventeenth-Century Art & Contemporary Art from Teheran

27 September 2013 – 12 January 2014

Baroque Europe’s artistic engagement with Persia, Safavid Persia’s reception of European paintings and prints, and contemporary works from Tehran, some of them produced specifically for this show, are the three supporting pillars of this exhibition. The past that they reveal sheds a fascinating light on the present.

Exhibition website »

Courtly Elegance: Scenes from Indian Princely States

November 2012 – 17 November 2013

The exhibition Courtly Elegance: Scenes from Indian Princely States highlights various aspects of life at court; be it at the pompous and important Mughal court in Agra and Delhi or in the states of Rajasthan, for example in Mewar (Udaipur), Jaipur or Kishangarh.

Exhibition website »

Yaks, Yetis, Yogis - Tibet in Comics

14 July – 10 November 2013

Levitating monks and mystical masters, gentle yaks and fearsome yetis, mighty monasteries and lonely mountain peaks – these western stereotypes of Tibet can be found in scores of comic books.

Exhibition website »

From Buddha to Picasso — The Collector Eduard von der Heydt

20 April – 18 August 2013

The special exhibition about Eduard von der Heydt, the founding collector of the Museum Rietberg, showcased the publication of the first extensive biography. The show traced the origins of von der Heydt´s world art collection and presented it in the context of his life and various homes.

Exhibition website »


Mao's Golden Mangoes and the Cultural Revolution

15 February – 16 June 2013

Why would anyone have the idea of preserving a half-rotten mango in formaldehyde and cherish it as a great treasure? Why would wax imitations of mangoes be carried in processions, and venerated like religious relics? How could an innocuous fruit become the bearer of a powerful political message? This exhibition tells the story of a most unusual propaganda symbol in China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–1976).

Exhibition website »


Chavìn - Peru's mysterious temple in the Andes

23 November 2012 until 10 March 2013

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The exhibition was conceived in collaboration with leading archaeologists in the field and the Peruvian Ministry of Culture. It presented the first overview of the art and culture of Chavín and equally importantly – for the protection of the world cultural heritage of Chavín – it initiated international cooperation between Peru and Switzerland: with the latest technology and the use of laser-scanners and aerial photogrammetry, the state of the whole temple and its sculptures was measured and documented in spring 2012. Together with the Swiss Federal Office for Culture, Museum Rietberg funded the creation of a restoration workshop for stone sculptures in which from August 2012 Swiss specialists in close collaboration with local apprentices had been sharing knowledge to preserve the endangered cultural artefacts.

Exhibition Website »

Streetparade of the Gods - Bronze Works of Art from the villages of India

20 July until 11 November 2012

Several years had passed since the Museum Rietberg last dealt with the subject of Indian “tribal art”. The last few exhibitions had been dedicated to Indian court art. “Streetparade of the gods” illuminated a region in Central India about the size of Switzerland, which is to this day inhabited mainly by tribal societies, or adivasi (“native inhabitants”). The exhibition staged an impressive parade of some 300 fascinating metal figurines made for ritual purposes by metal casters during the first half of the 20th century.

Exhibition Website »

Platform Multimedia - An archive exhibition

20 March 2012 until 17 June 2012

The small archive exhibition showed some selected productions by this department which were created to accompany the previous exhibitions. But it also showed that films, photographs and sound recordings had been used in the museum for a very long time, in fact ever since its foundation in 1952, to bring to life the contexts of artworks.

Exhibition Website »

Heroes – A new perspective on the art of Africa

26 February 2012 until 3 June 2012

"Heroes" was the first comprehensive exhibition of unparalleled sculptures which illuminated early African history. The artworks came from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musée du quai Branly in Paris, the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium and many other museums and international private collections.

Exhibition Website »


Mysticism - Yearning for the Absolute

23 September 2011 until 15 January 2012

This elusive religious phenomenon was illustrated by the example of forty male and female mystics: their lives and writings demonstrated just how richly varied spiritual experience can be. The mystics chosen for the exhibition came from the great religions of the world – Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity – and spaned the period from the 6th century BC until the 19th century.

Among these remarkable mystics were a Tibetan ascetic, an immortal from China, an unconventional Zen master, an abbot from the monastery of Sinai, an uncompromising social revolutionary, an ecstatic female poet from India, a Swiss hermit who used a stone as his pillow, a Jewish scholar who searched for the hidden names of God, and a Sufi poet intoxicated by love whose poems are among the pearls of world literature.

These people yearned for the absolute, for union with the divine. They tried to grasp God's energy or endeavoured to harmonise the forces that move the world. They practised the art of self-annihilation and letting go, they explored emptiness and strove to find the Dao. Holy writings, intimate prayers, day-long meditations, ecstatic dance, chants, or strict ascesis inspired them and helped them on their way to the absolute.

Many artworks and original documents, together with more than thirty multimedia installations and visualisations, explained the world of mysticism: a world of spiritual experiences and secrets.

Exhibition Website »

The way of the Master - The Great Artists of India, 1100-1900

1 May until 21 August 2011

800 years of Indian painting, some 240 masterpieces by more than 40 artists – and all this at a glance. Never before in the West has an exhibition offered such a comprehensive overview of the entire history of Indian painting.

Although Indian painters were celebrated as “wonders of their age” by their contemporaries, for a long time very little was known about their lives. There are no Indian equivalents of sources such as Vasari's biographies of European Renaissance artists. The fact that artistic traditions were shaped within a family, a workshop, or a court, adds to the difficulty of attributing works to individual artists.

Thanks to many years of painstaking research, the deciphering of microscopically small signatures, analyses of pilgrim registers, and, especially, stylistic comparisons, more is now known. For example, about Farrukh Beg, who painted in Iran, in Kabul, Lahore, Bijapur, and Agra, or the brothers Manaku and Nainsukh who, despite their joint training in their father's workshop, differ significantly in style.

As exotic as further names such as Abd al-Samad, Kripal and Sahibdin may sound, they all share a great technical refinement, compositional inventiveness and sense of colour. It is not surprising that Rembrandt possessed a collection of Indian miniatures. The great Indian masters are unquestionably the equals of Dürer, Michelangelo or Vermeer. The artworks shown in the Museum Rietberg come from such outstanding collections as the Royal Collection of Windsor Castle, the Golestan Palace in Tehran or the Institute for Oriental Manuscripts in St Petersburg.

With the support of Novartis and the G+B Schwyzer Foundation


Ivories from Ceylon – Globalisation in the 16th Century

28 November 2010 until 13 March 2011

It is the year 1506. The Portuguese land on the legendary island of Ceylon, today's Sri Lanka. They make treaties with the king of Kotte and secure for themselves direct access to precious stones, to spices like cinnamon, and to exotic precious woods. Portugal thus plays a key role as supplier for European collections of art and treasures – the Kunstkammern and Schatzkammern, predecessors of today's museums.

The focus of this exhibition was the collection of Catherine of Habsburg (1507–1578), who as queen of Portugal was one of the most important rulers of her time. Enter a world of enchantment full of wafer-thin ivory fans or exquisite ivory caskets, gold and gemstones. The tiny details of these artworks are startling and mysterious: the Ceylonese carvers also used models from European engravings, such as Dürer's “Bagpiper”.

Catherine of Habsburg also imported animals such as parrots and rhinoceroses for her menageries – quasi the first zoological gardens. Find out more about the little elephant Suleiman, a gift to Catherine in 1542, and his three-year journey from Ceylon to Lisbon and Vienna. Listen to festive music or watch actresses in period costumes tell tales of Catherine's court.

With the support of the Parrotia Foundation and the Instituto Camões, Portugal

Falcons, Cats, and Crocodiles

Animals in Ancient Egypt

24 June until 14 November 2010

Animals enjoyed considerable status in Ancient Egypt: admired for their elegance and beauty and feared for their strength, they were above all worshipped, since many beasts were considered vehicles of divine power. The godhead Horus, for example, was thought to be manifest in falcons, while cats and crocodiles were avatars of Bastet and Sobek, respectively. The exhibition presents the fauna extant at the time in the vast expanses of the Egyptian desert, in the water of the Nile, and in the fertile marsh lands.

Some 100 images of animals from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, as well as from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo – created over a period of 4,000 years –, were on display: artifacts of breathtaking quality and sophisticated manufacture.

Supported by Andermatt Swiss Alps AG

Bhutan - Sacred art from the Himalaya

4 July until 17 October 2010

The small Kingdom of Bhutan, situated at the edge of the Himalayas and flanked by some of the tallest mountains in the world, is a remote country in which ancient traditions survive and Buddhism still shapes cultural, political and religious life. Almost 6,000 officially registered monks inhabit more than 2,000 monasteries and temples. Art, music and dance serve religious purposes; indeed, Bhutan's very political system is founded on Buddhist tenets.

In order to showcase the Buddhist culture of this little-known land, 117 of Bhutan's most beautiful artworks, most of them never before seen outside Bhutan, were selected in close collaboration with local monks, scientists and authorities. The artefacts were on loan from temples and monasteries, where they are used in religious ceremonies and venerated as sacred objects to this day. Shining gilt bronze sculptures and picture scrolls painted in bright mineral pigments depicted Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, great masters and other spiritual figures. Their charm and numinous eloquence are evidence not only of their creators' great skill, but also of their spiritual devotion. Meticulously detailed and full of vitality, the works on show offered remarkable insight into a religious experience anchored firmly in everyday life.

The exhibition was organized by the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Department of Culture, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs of the Royal Government of Bhutan.

The art conservation, dance preservation, and educational programs were made possible through the lead support of The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation.

With the support of Novartis

Teotihuacan - The Mysterious City of Pyramids

21 February until 30 May 2010

Teotihuacan was once the largest city in Pre-Columbian America – a cosmopolitan metropolis with unique monumental buildings. Between 100 and 650 AD – that is, about one thousand years before the Aztecs – the city was a powerful economic and cultural centre which influenced the whole of Mesoamerica.

Teotihuacan flourished for more than five hundred years until a devastating fire in the 7th century marked the beginning of the pyramid city's decline.

At the time of the Aztecs in the 15th and 16th centuries, the city had been lying in ruins for almost a thousand years. It was the Aztecs who gave this mysterious place its name: Teotihuacan, 'where men become gods'. According to their myth of origin it was here that the world was created.

The exhibition presented some 450 artefacts from Mexico: colourful murals, precious clay vessels, stone sculptures, figures cut from obsidian, and wonderful jewellery. Also, visitors were among the first to see some recently discovered, spectacular finds, including the magnificent sacrificial offerings from the Sun and Moon Pyramids and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent.

Even now, only a small fraction of Teotihuacan has been explored and excavated. An air of mystery still hangs over these extraordinary ruins.

The exhibition was conceived by the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico, with the support of the Fundación Televisa A.C.

A co-production of the musée du quai Branly, Paris, with the Museum Rietberg Zürich and the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin.



Buddha's Paradise

Treasures from Ancient Gandhara, Pakistan

6 September 2009 - 3 January 2010

Gandhara, at the foot of the Hindu Kush, was once the intersection of important trade routes. Along these trails a lively cultural exchange took place: Western antique culture reached Gandhara with the Asian campaign of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC). From India came Buddhism, and from central Asia nomadic peoples such as the Kushans. All these different influences merged into a unique Buddhist culture which flourished from the 1st to the 5th centuries.

The art of Gandhara radiates calm and solemnity. The once splendid monasteries were adorned with reliefs of artistic brilliance, rich in narrative detail: nowhere in Buddhist art have sculptures represented so many episodes from Buddha's life. Here archaeologists have discovered sculptures which are among the earliest figurative representations of the Buddha.

Today the region that was home to this formerly flourishing culture has become a focus of political conflict. In 2001 the monumental statues of the Buddha at Bamiyan in Afghanistan – once proud witnesses of Gandharan culture – were dynamited and destroyed. But this exhibition, for which Pakistani museums loaned their treasures to the West for the first time, showed another side of this region: Gandhara's past is full of riches, tolerance and cultural diversity.

An exhibition of the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn.

Supported by Novartis and the Parrotia Foundation. Under the patronage of UNESCO

When masks dance

Bronze art from Southern India

17 May - 18 October 2009

In Tulunadu, a rural coastal region in southern India which encompasses parts of the states of Karnataka and Kerala, people have been worshipping Butas, local gods, protective spirits and heroes for many centuries. In 2007 the Museum Rietberg received a gift of more than fifty Buta masks and sculptures from Heidi and Hans Kaufmann.

These Buta masks belong to the Hindu folk religion which differs from Brahmin Hinduism in its gods and practices. Particularly spectacular are the large Buta animal masks such as the mask of the buffalo demon Maisandaye, the tiger Pillichamundi or the wild boar Panjurli.

The exhibition also showed the complete “costume” of a performer: the huge, elaborate headgear, often several metres in height, attached to the performer's back, the symbols of the god such as a bell or sword, and the beautiful decorations on the head and arms. Fascinating field photos and a documentary film traced the production and use of the masks and conveyed a powerful impression of this ritual theatre tradition which has remained alive in southern India to this day.

Luo Ping (1733–1799) - Eccentric visions

9 April - 12 July 2009


Luo Ping's life began with loss and sadness. His father died when Luo was just one year old, and his mother soon after. But from an early age the young orphan was recognised as a talented poet and gained admission to the exclusive artistic circles of his home town, Yangzhou. At nineteen he married - for love - the poet and painter Fang Wanyi (1732–1779). Their daughter and two sons also went on to become artists. All painted plum blossoms, the family trademark.

Five years after his marriage Luo met the man who would change his life. This was the nationally renowned poet, artist and bon viveur, Jin Nong (1687–1763). The thickset, 70-year-old master took a great liking to the talented young man, who was in turn inspired by the emotional and expressive art of his mentor. Luo also painted pictures for Jin Nong, who signed them with his own name and sold them. When, after six years of this close collaboration, Jin Nong died, Luo buried his teacher with as much reverence as if it were the funeral of his own father.

In the second half of his life Luo often visited the capital, Beijing, where he caused a sensation in the fashionable cultural scene. On to a long painting scroll which he showed to everyone, he had painted ghosts and claimed to have seen such creatures with his own eyes: “Some expose teeth like melon seeds, and have fingers large as thighs.” Luo died, highly esteemed, at the age of sixty-six. Throughout his life he saw himself as an austere Buddhist and signed his work with the name “the Monk of the Flower Temple”.

The two most important museums in China, the Palace Museum in Beijing and the Shanghai Museum, along with The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York came together under the direction of the Museum Rietberg to assemble the first ever comprehensive presentation of the work of this outstanding eighteenth-century artist.

Supported by Swiss Re and the Rietberg-Gesellschaft


Surimono – The Art of Poetic and Pictorial Allusion

7 December 2008 - 13 April 2009

Surimono literally means “printed things”. This simple designation is somewhat misleading, for what distinguishes surimono are the particularly lavish printing techniques and rich palette of coulors, including metallic pigments. The most marked difference between surimono and other Japanese woodcuts, however, is the way poem and image complement each other. Individual poets and poetry clubs commissioned renowned woodcut artists to create visual interpretations of their poems. This imaginative interplay of text and image resulted in works of art that encourage viewers, often in a witty or humorous way, to puzzle over meaning. It was customary to print surimono in small numbers for the New Year, and to present them to friends as greeting cards.

The Lusy Collection of surimono, including many previously unknown prints, was presented and published for the first time in a comprehensive manner in this exhibition. Marino Lusy (1880–1954), himself a graphic artist, bequeathed his valuable collection of over 300 prints to the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich; today these works are on permanent loan to the Museum Rietberg.

With support from Japan Concierge AG

Shiva Nataraja – The cosmic dancer

16 November 2008 - 1 March 2009

Shiva is the driving force in the cycle of creation and decay, of life and death. Nearly all Hindu gods dance: the shepherd god Krishna, portly, elephant-headed Ganesha, the goddess Kali and the divine nymphs. But it is Shiva as the Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance, who creates, sustains and destroys the universe in his cosmic dance.

The exhibition offered visitors a sensory experience of its exquisite objects and their fascinating significance, as images, films, tableaux and spectacles invited them to step into the world of ancient cosmologies, myth, poetry and ritual as it exists to this day in the temples of Southern India. The exhibition featureed some 100 works of art, selected from among the prized possessions of leading museums in Europe, North America and India as well as from the Museum Rietberg's own collection. At the centre of the show were Southern Indian bronzes and stone sculptures from the Chola dynasty (9th – 13th century), as well as precious paintings and wooden sculptures created in later periods.

With the support of HSBC Guyerzeller Bank AG.

Rama and Sita – The Ramayana in Indian Painting

29 June - 5 October 2008

The Ramayana is recognised as one of the oldest and greatest epics in world literature. This masterpiece of Sanskrit poetry forms an important basis for many Hindu religious texts. Over the centuries, the story of the divine crown prince Rama, his wife Sita and the monkey lord Hanuman, his loyal companion, became one of the most popular folk tales in the whole of Asia.

This exhibition allowed visitors to experience all the main episodes of the Ramayana through a series of dramatic multimedia installations. A selection of about one hundred paintings from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century also helped visitors to appreciate the many different genres and styles of Indian art.

The starting point was the city of Ayodhya, from where the crown prince Rama is sent into exile by his father, because of a jealous intrigue. Visitors walked through the city, pausing at a series of special stands where individual paintings were displayed and explained, and followed Rama, Sita and Lakshmana into exile. They witnessed the kidnapping of Sita by the demon king Ravana. Together with the army of monkeys visitors crossed the ocean to the island of Lanka. There, they watched the battles between the demons and the armies of the forest people as well as the freeing of Sita.

With the support of Parrotia Foundation

Cameroon – Art of the Kings

29 June until 5 October 2008

In the fertile, hilly landscape of northwest Cameroon, the grassland region, numerous kingdoms were to form over the course of centuries. The sculptors at such royal courts achieved something exceptional in the area of figurative art: in addition to statues and masks they created a wealth of architectural reliefs, palace pillars and door frames decorated with figures, enormous drums, bowls, tobacco pipes, jewellery and other such symbols of royalty. Counting among some of their most impressive works are the magnificent thrones which, in the African art of the time as well as that of today, occupy a unique position. These works of art played an important role at royal rituals and their power can still be felt today.

Over 150 artistically executed, in part monumental works fashioned in wood, ivory, clay and bronze were presented. The prestigious royal accoutrements are frequently decorated with precious glass pearls. For the most part, the exhibits stemmed from German and French museums and testified to the display of splendour at the royal courts in pre-colonial times. Historical photographs conveyed something of these splendid royal houses, rapturously described by the first European visitors in the outgoing 19th century.

The exhibition was the first large show on the traditional artistic work of the Cameroon grassland region. It was shown exclusively at the Museum Rietberg, in Zurich.

Supported by Novartis

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and the Art of Cameroon

3 February - 25 May 2008

The small cabinet exhibition showed the influence of traditional art of the Cameroon grassland regions on the work of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938). Inspired by visits to the ethnographic museums in Berlin and Dresden, the members of the expressionist artists' group “Brücke” turned to African and Oceanic art forms. Besides finding a new formal language, Kirchner also sought to integrate the so-called “Wild Ones” into his every-day life, as vitally linked with nature and as a unique formulation of the original.

The loans – drawings, sculptures and graphic arts by Kirchner as well as sculptures from Cameroon –came predominantly from Swiss museums and private collections as well as from German ethnological museums.

Guest curator: Lucius Grisebach, Director Neues Museum Nürnberg
In cooperation with the Museum der Weltkulturen, Frankfurt am Main


Angkor – Cambodia’s Divine Legacy

19 August - 2 December 2007

For the first time in Germany and Switzerland, a major exhibition was dedicated to the art of the Khmer, the ancient kingdoms of Cambodia. The Khmer culture is world-famous for its magnificent temples (Angkor Wat being the most renowned) and for the monumentality and artistic sensitivity of its sculptural art.

The exhibition comprised 140 masterpieces of Khmer art. Of central importance were the large stone sculptures from the Hindu and Buddhist temples of the ancient kingdoms of Cambodia. The visitors were able to discover exquisite bronzes as well as wooden figures and ceramics. The loans came mostly from museums in Cambodia, the main lender being the National Museum of Phnom Penh. A number of outstanding loans came from the Musée Guimet in Paris which owns the most important Khmer collection outside Cambodia.

An exhibition of the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, in cooperation with the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, and the Museum Rietberg.

Under the patronage of UNESCO
Supported by Swiss Re

Treasures of China's Liao Empire

13 May - 15 July 2007

This exhibition organized by the Asia Society in New York was the first major exhibition to explore one of China's most influential yet little known dynasties.

Around 1000 AD, the greatest power in East Asia was the Liao empire. Established at the beginning of the tenth century by a confederation of nomads from the Eurasian steppes, the Liao empire expanded rapidly. At its height, it comprised the greater part of Manchuria, eastern Mongolia and north China. But despite its power and influence, the Liao empire crumbled almost as quickly as it arose, falling in 1125 to another wave of nomads.

The exhibition presented spectacular artefacts from the most important archaeological discoveries. The centrepiece of the show was the complete funerary outfit of the Princess of Chen, grand-daughter of the Liao Emperor Jing Zong (r. 969–982).

An exhibition of the Asia Society, New York.
Supported by the Vontobel Foundation

Threads of Life – Textiles from Ancient Peru

1 April - 24 June 2007

In ancient Peru, clothes were rather like today's business cards: the choice of colours and designs, the ways in which garments were made, and the fineness of the cloth all gave information about the geographical origins, cultural identity and social class of the wearer. Thus textiles played an important role in social and diplomatic relations. The sovereign would reward aristocrats for loyal and praiseworthy behaviour by bestowing on them the very finest fabrics. But the gods too enjoyed gifts of beautiful garments, in the form of sacrificial offerings.

The textiles displayed in this exhibition came from all regions of Peru and originated from the time between the first millennium B.C. and the seventeenth century A.D. They can be attributed to variety of cultures which through the millennia flourished in the highlands of the Andes as well as in the oasis valleys of coastal areas. Thanks to the dry climate in the desert areas of the Peruvian coast they were not only very well preserved, but have retained their original brightness to this day.

In collaboration with the Abegg Foundation, Riggisberg

Kannon. Divine Compassion – Early Buddhist Art from Japan

18 February - 9 April 2007

Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, is probably Japan's most popular Buddhist deity. In many Japanese temples, representations of Kannon are the focus of worship. When Buddhism spread across Japan in the 7th century, Kannon quickly became popular, and as a result he is the subject of some of the oldest and most beautiful works of Buddhist art. The Museum Rietberg presented an exceptional selection of the most beautiful sculptures and paintings from the 7th to the 14th century, some of which were never seen outside Japan before or which are rarely accessible even to the Japanese public.

Complementing the exhibition there was a display of a group of photographs by the contemporary artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, which took sculptures of Kannon Bosatsu as their subject.

In collaboration with the Nara National Museum.
Supported by Novartis and the G + B Schwyzer Foundation
With contributions from Japan Airlines and the Japan Foundation