The Museum of Drawers
Kunsthaus Zurich / SwitzerlandThe Museum of Drawers by Herbert Distel contains works from 501 different contemporary artists. This combined work of art was created between 1970 and 1977 and offers a unique overview of international post-war art.
Object artist Herbert Distel, born in Berne in 1942, had the idea of using a former cabinet for reels of sewing silk from an old haberdasher’s shop containing several hundred equally sized compartments (4.3 x 5.7 x 4.8 cm), each of which he allotted to an artist who could place a work of art in it. The wooden chest of drawers has 500 small "rooms" (which are housed in 20 drawers, each with 25 compartments). Every small room contains an original work of art, primarily by artists from the 1960s and 1970s – among others John Baldessari, Lucio Fontana, Duane Hanson, Andy Warhol and Richard Pettibone. The object itself stands on the 501st work of art, a metal base by Ed Kienholz.
The Museum of Drawers, also known as "Le Musée en Tiroirs" or "Das Schubladenmuseum", was originally given financial support by the Julius Baer Foundation. Since 1979, it has been part of the collection at the Kunsthaus, having been donated to that museum by the artist and the Julius Baer Foundation. Since then, it has achieved international renown and has been displayed in a number of museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1999).
Some of the 500 miniature objects were in poor condition due to the aging of their materials and/or mechanical damage (caused, for instance, during transport). Julius Baer supported the restoration effort on the occasion of the centenary of the Kunsthaus Zurich in 2010. From 13 May to 4 September 2011, this smallest of all museums of modern art was once again shown in the exhibition rooms of the Kunsthaus Zurich and will now be loaned out to other interested museums.