Switzerland: The museum Hallen für Neue Kunst in Schaffhausen closes its doors

Posted on: June 12, 2014 by

After more than 30 years, the museum Hallen für Neue Kunst in Schaffhausen closed its doors.

The decision to close was triggered by the judgment of the High Court of the Canton of Schaffhausen concerning the installation “Das Kapital Raum 1970-1990” by Joseph Beuys, the central piece of the collection. In January 2014, the court ruled that three art collectors were the rightful owners of the installation and that the installation had been merely on loan to the Museum. As a result, the foundation Stiftung für Neue Kunst, which initiated and operated the Museum, was ordered to return the installation to the three art collectors. In addition, the Foundation was ordered to bear the costs of the court proceedings of SF 180,000 as well as the claimants’ party costs of SF 210,000. This does not include the Foundation’s own attorney fees. (This judgment is the topic of an IAL blog contribution from 8th January 2014.)

Due to a lack of financial resources, the Foundation was not in a position to challenge the judgment of the High Court before the Swiss Federal Court of Justice. On top of that, the impecunious Foundation was forced to close its doors.

Together with the Canton of Schaffhausen and the City of Schaffhausen the Foundation had actively sought a solution to continue its activities. Both the Canton and the City had supported the Museum with an annual contribution of SF 400,000 and SF 60,000, respectively. Furthermore, the City had given the Foundation an old industrial building which the latter had transformed into the museum that ultimately held the collection. The parties involved came to the conclusion that a long-term viable solution for the Museum would require several measures: a one-time investment of several million Swiss Francs to bearing the museum’s facilities up to international standards, an increase in the annual budget beyond Swiss Francs 1 million and the conclusion of long-term contracts between the Foundation and the municipality to provide the necessary legal security. However, these additional measures would require a public referendum and take at least two years to implement.

The Foundation was not willing to take this risk and, as a result, decided to dissolve the agreement governing the use of the industrial building as a museum. All the artwork will be dismantled by the end of 2014 and moved to another location in Basel, which is operated by the same Foundation.

Sources: “Kanton und Stadt bedauern Schliessung der Hallen für Neue Kunst“, press release of the Canton and the City of Schaffhausen dated 6th June 2014; “Kommuniqué der Stiftung für neue Kunst, Schaffhausen“, press release of the foundation Stiftung für Neue Kunst, Schaffhausen, dated 5th February 2014; “Hallen für Neue Kunst: Prospects in Basel“, Press Release oft he Raussmüller Organisation dated 6th June 2014.